We didn’t have any wines we disliked here, nor did we have any that excited us. I see Sannino Bella Vita’s wines as safe choices. My husband’s word was “tame.” I will say that everyone around us certainly seemed to be enjoying their tastings, and the Sanninos do a great job of engaging with visitors and helping them choose the best options for their personal preferences from the list of twelve wines. A standard tasting is six tastes for $18, all presented to you on a tray, which you label with the numbers of your wines from the menu. Most of the wines are quite reasonably priced. They also offer some snacks, like a cheese tray.
They give an interesting piece of advice to their guests as to how to do a tasting, suggesting that you leave a tiny bit in each glass so you can go back and do comparisons and so that you remember what you liked. I indicated my notebook and said, “I don’t forget anything!”
Though the bar area is cozy, they also now have a back room with tables, plus an outdoor area. In addition to the winery, the Sanninos also run a bed and breakfast and offer various wine education classes.
- 2016 Sauvignon Blanc $20
We decided to begin with their sauvignon blanc, which is steel fermented. The aroma includes something floral and a hint of green, like asparagus—which should soon be available at the farm stands. As we sipped, I decided that we needed to try asparagus on the grill with sauvignon blanc. The taste is light and refreshing, and might also go well with barbequed chicken. Well, it is spring.
- 2016 Chilly Day Chardonnay $20
Although this is also steel fermented, it comes on a bit sweet, though the finish is quite dry. My tasting buddy and I had some disagreements about this one, since I said it tasted like unripe pear and he said cotton candy. It is a bit tart for those who like sweet wines, but if you like a touch of sweetness in an un-oaked chardonnay you’ll like this. The aroma is characteristically of honeysuckle.
- 2016 Viognier $20
I thought I detected a bit of a basement smell in this one, as well as some minerality, but fortunately it tasted better than it smelled. It is again a bit sweet at the beginning, but nicely dry at the end. I’m thinking it tastes a bit of peaches or apricots. It would be nice to sip chilled, with some charcuterie and hard cheeses. And just as I’m saying that, the couple next to us get the cheese board with some sliced sausage and cheeses including parmigiana and a smoked gouda about which there was much enthusiasm.
- 2013 Syrah $30
Now we switch to the reds. However, there’s a caveat here. Most of the 2014s have not yet been bottled, but will be soon, so there may very well be some differences from my notes if you go later in the season. Based on our experience, though, you’ll not find any wines to dislike if you do. Again, we had some disagreement, this time on the smell. I said red candy, and he said motor oil. Really? Anyway, we agreed on the taste—not much fruit, a bit of spice (like nutmeg), and very dry. The menu says “soft tannins” and “jammy,” and we agree with the former but not the latter.
- 2013 “Spotlight” Petit Verdot $50
Mr. Sannino and I got into a bit of a discussion over our mutual affection for petit verdot, which is more often used as part of a blend than on its own: hence the name he gave it. He wanted to put petit verdot in the “spotlight” for a change. The aroma is lovely, of berries and bramble, and the taste is nice too. Fruity and again quite dry, with blackberry and some promising tannins. If I bought a bottle I’d want to cellar it for a couple of years. On the other hand, at $50 I wasn’t ready to spring for a bottle.
- 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon $38
This wine and the previous one have, according to the menu, won various silver medals. And it is very drinkable, with an aroma of black cherry and nice fruit tastes. My husband and I turn to each other and discover that I have written “not challenging” just as he says “tame.” Again, a safe choice.
- 2014 Francesco $45
Wait, you only get six tastes, right? Well, when it is clear you are appreciative of and thoughtful about wine sometimes you get something a little extra. As they say in New Orleans, a “lagniappe.” Mr. Sannino offers us this taste of his blend of five grape types, heavy on the petit verdot, which is not exactly a Bordeaux blend because it includes at least one variety they don’t use there. It is named for his father. I smell tobacco and chocolate, and the taste is the most interesting of the day, with some depth. Speaking of family, we learn that of his four children, three are interested in wine making, including a daughter studying viticulture at Cornell, and one may be interested in oysters. I opine that those oysters would go well with his sauvignon blanc!
Reasons to visit: personal attention from the owners; a cozy bar setting; the Francesco ’14, the Sauvignon Blanc, the 2013 Petit Verdot.