we tooled around to a number of wineries close to the coast.
We loved the California coastal wines. The climate by the Pacific is considerably cooler than in the rest of Sonoma County, partly because of elevation and the various microclimates there. The resulting "mountain fruit" wines were more subtle and less fruit-forward -- and we ran into many more cool weather grapes like Pinot Noir than the Zinfandels and Cabernets grown elsewhere in Sonoma. We liked those wines a great deal.
When I was offered the chance to try to Le Focaie 2016 Maremma Toscana, and I read a little about the wine, my palate perked right up. "Focaie" translates from Italian as "Flint" -- a reference to the mineral rich soil found in the coastal area of Maremma. The producers, Rocca di Montemassi, grow grapes not far from the ocean, where the Sangiovese grapes catch the sea breezes. I was thinking, "Hey, flinty and coastal. Sign me up!"
When the time came for me to crack this wine -- I thought that a roasted chicken dish with lemon and bread would be a good match. I have to admit that I did not see this wine's flavors coming. Instead of a Chianti-ish Sangiovese, with its attendant light cherry flavors, what I found was something considerably more muscular. There's cherry flavor there, but it's quite deep -- backed with an aroma of smoked meats as well as some darker fruits. "Rustic" would be an apt description of this wine. The finish is fruity and smoky -- it reminded me a little of a pinotage, to be honest.
My chicken idea turned out to be a little on the light side for this wine. It really calls for some bigger flavors -- some big red sauced pasta, or something like osso bucco would be better alongside.
Now, this said -- if you're looking for a big Italian red that's a little rough around the edges, you could do a lot worse than this, and at $15 -- it's could be a great winter dinner wine. Keep it on your radar.