Italians have made limitless contributions to America’s cultural fabric. Some, like Alphonse Capone and Charles Ponzi, are notorious while others, like Martin Scorsese and Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra, are iconic. Italians have also contributed greatly to winemaking in the United States, and California in particular. Look at the list of California’s wine pioneers, and it’s astonishing: Gallo, Martinelli, Pedroncelli, Mondavi, Simi, Sebastiani, Martini . . . the list goes on and on—which brings us to Seghesio, one of the oldest Italian wineries in California, established in 1895.
Seghesio is unique for several reasons. It is one of approximately 100 wineries in the United States to have survived prohibition. It is also one of the few Italian pioneers in California still committed to making wines of primarily Italian grape varieties (in sort of a head-scratcher, the majority of California’s earliest Italian winemakers specialized in French varieties). One such grape variety is Aglianico, which is most prevalently grown in the southern region of Italy and is considered one of Italy’s noble grapes. Seghesio’s current vintage of Aglianico is the 2008; to the winery’s credit, they hold back the release of a vintage because the massive tannins of an Aglianico require time to settle. As it is, we recommend decanting this wine for two hours before indulging, and what is revealed with patience is a rare beauty.
The darkest crimson in color, this is Aglianico that is powerful and decadent, with a strong presence of dark fruit (blackberry, prune, concord grape), an undercurrent of earthiness, and finishing on a note of ash and tobacco. The wine’s texture is exquisitely smooth, the oak is well-infused, and the finish is lengthy. When discussing the New York Yankees, Yogi Berra once quipped, “We have deep depth.” That Yogi-ism aptly describes this homegrown Aglianico, as it is a wine that exemplifies an exceptional depth of Italian-American character.
Let’s face it, a winery in America doesn’t make Aglianico because it plans to make a whole lot of money on it. You make it because you believe in it. You do it because it’s a part of you and your heritage—because it’s in your blood. Seghesio has been making wine for over 120 years, and it’s a rare treat to taste a uniquely American wine whose heart is purely Italian. –R.K.