1. Refosco: One of my very favorite varieties. Mostly grown in Friuli & Slovenia. For many yrs, it was available in Calif as simply Refosco, but that variety distributed by FPS was later found to actually be MondeuseNoir. The recognized superior Refosco is called Refosco dal PeduncolaRosso (Refosco w/ the red pedicale).
According to Pietro's blog (www.rosadorowine.blogspot.com/), which contains a wealth of information, they have planted Refosco Nostrano (FPS Refosco 03), another recognized clone of Refosco. The Matthiasson's, which was the first Calif Refosco I've tried, supposedly have the Refosco dPR clone.
The Rosa d'Oro Refosco was easily the best of these three. It spoke strongly of Refosco and was nicely structured. I found the Venicia was a bit soft & unstructured, though there were some who claimed it to be much more tannic than the Rosa d'Oro. I simply didn't get that, though.
The Vivac was a big disappointment. I had it on release and thought it quite nice, one of the better Vivac reds I've had. But it has not evolved well in the btl. The grapes come from Paolo d'Andrea's vnyd down in the MimbresVlly near Deming. Quite a hot growing area. In addition, the sagebrush and chamisa plants in the area throw off an oil into the air, much like eucalyptus, that gives the reds from here a distinct musky taint. I am not sure of the authenticity of Paola's Refosco and he's not responded to my inqueries. The grapes from here are generally underacid and this wine was probably acidified, overly so, that gives it a rather screechy/ citric quality now with age. Not a good showing.
2. Montepulciano: Neither of these two Montepulcianos did much for me. They both had a pleasant simple grapiness to them, but not much in the way of really distinctive character. Preferred the Rosa d'Oro because of its higher acidity gave more liveliness on the palate. I've only had 4-5 Calif Montepulcianos, with the Mahoney Estate probably the best of the bunch. The wines seem mostly like "Oakland" wines....there's no there there. The Italian ones are not a whole lot better and often marred by unclean winemaking.
3. Aglianico: I've only had a few of these from Calif, but I've been, across the board, rather impressed. They seem to resemble Syrah somewhat, but w/ a more pungent, bt more brooding character w/o the high-toned notes that Syrah sometimes displays. The best I've had was the Ryme from KunaMataVnyd in Paso. This Rosa d'Ora, however, is right up there w/ Ryan & Magan's version. Not yet tried the Giornatta version. OTOH, I've never been impressed w/ those from Italy. They often show too much hot-climate/goat pen character and are often marred by unclean winemaking. But I hope to see more Aglianicos come from Calif. Would think it would make good wine in Lodi.
4. Sagrantino: I've only had a few Sagrantinos from Italy (Caprai, Coltrepone). They struck as pretty big/extracted reds, mostly in an international style designed to appeal to Monktown attourneys. This was my first Pertacaia. and seemed to be along those same lines.
This was my first Calif Sagrantino aand quite different from what I was expecting; not at all big & extracted. I was quite taken by Pietro's rendition of Sagrantino; very perfumed and fragrant and rather light and quite like a Pinot in character. It seemed to transcend the LakeCnty terroir. Quite a pretty wine.
The only other Calif Sagrantino I know of is the KevinHamel/AliceFeiring cooperative effort. However, I shan't be trying that wine. Alice watered back the must on that wine to keep the alcohol down and I refuse to drink any unnatural wines that have been spoofalated and manipulated like that. Plus she priced it at $60+. Uncalled for.