Archive for April, 2012

2008 Starry Night Winery Alexander Valley Zinfandel ‘The Caboose’

Posted in California, Zinfandel with tags , , , on April 30, 2012 by thewinespies

Mission Codename: The Night Caboose

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: After more than a one year absence from our pages, return to Operative favorite, Starry Night Winery. Operatives have been clamoring for a big, juicy and delicious Alexander Valley Zinfandel, worthy of their exacting tastes. Secure the maximum allotment of their newest Caboose Zinfandel.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Starry Night Winery

Wine Subject: 2008 The Caboose Zinfandel

Winemaker: Todd Graff

Winery Backgrounder: Zinfandel is related to the Italian Primitivo grape, tracing its origin to the Croatian grape Crljenak Kastelanski. Zinfandel is one of the most versatile varietals with the ability to make wines, both rich to fruity, dark to light, and dry to sweet. Napa Valley Zinfandels, which are characterized by their big, extracted flavors, are gaining in popularity with our Operatives. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes and mission report below.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Deep ruby hues, with solid coloration from core to the edge of the glass. After swirling this pretty wine, two levels of thin, wine-colored tears move slowly down the glass. After this first unique round of tears falls, a third round appears higher up on the glass wall, before crawling slowly downward.

Smell – Dark and lush with a heady rush of spiced black cherry candy, blackberry, raspberry and sweet red plum. When the wine opens up, after some hearty swirling, it brings forth dried fall leaves, cracked light leather, blueberry, Bing cherry, soft spice and black pepper.

Feel – Initially light and soft, the wine gains a little weight and complexity as it settles onto the palate. Ripe tannins and a medium bright acidity frame the fruit beautifully. Gradually, the wine gains some texture and takes on a softly dry, softly chewy texture.

Taste – Dark and super delicious with bold dark mixed berries. Blackberry, spiced cherry take the lead. These are followed by dark strawberry, bramble, dried green tobacco leaf, dusty earth, dried fall leaves, brown spice and a hint of black pepper at the end.

Finish – Black and red fruit flavors linger for a very long time, gradually giving way to complex earthy notes with lovely hints of spice and pepper that punctuate the ending. A softly dry and softly chewy feel persist after the fruit and spice have faded.

Conclusion – Oh, how we’ve missed Starry Night Winery. Our Operatives went absolutely bonkers for the 2007 vintage of this wine, but today’s 2008 The Caboose Zinfandel is so much better. On first sniff, we could tell we’d love this wine, and as it opened up, it really began to shine. Aromas became far fuller and more rich, with a more authentic quality to the fruit. On the palate, ripe tannins and the balanced acids drive lush fruit to the far corners of the mouth. This juicy wine is balanced, delicious and just plain fun to drink. Starry Night continues to impresses us. Known particularly for their Zinfandels, today’s wine is a shining example of their winemaking prowess.

2010 Makia Estate Torrontés

Posted in Argentina, Torrontes with tags , , on April 29, 2012 by thewinespies

Mission Codename: Wholly Argentinian

Operative: Agent White

Objective: Secure a delicious and value Torrontés for our operatives

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Makia Estate

Wine Subject: 2010 Mendoza Torrontés

Winemaker: Luke Branzanti

BackgrounderTorrontés, the white wine of Argentina is both distinctive and delicious. Known specifically for its aromatic profile it is similar in aroma and flavors to Viognier. Its balanced acidity and good weight makes it a great food wine to pair with spicy dishes.

Mendoza, is well known among lovers of Argentinian wine and is considered to be one of the nine cities worldwide as a Great Capitals of Wine. Located in the foothills and high plains of the Andes mountains, the regions unique soil and climate make it ideal for cultivating both wine and olive oil.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look: – Very pale straw yellow, with a soft greenish and golden hues in its core. A thin ring of nearly clear pale rings the edges. Randomly spaced medium legs ring the glass and then fall descend to the wine below.

Smell: – Bright and fresh in intensity but very pretty and aromatic with notes of yellow and white peach, honeydew melon and a touch of sweet and tart nectarine and Clementine citrus. Floral notes of orange blossom and honey suckle adds depth. A soft orange blossom honey hint and a very subtle green herbal note adds to the fresh and approachable nose of this wine.

Feel: – Smooth and dry, this white is soft at the edges of the palate and of moderate weight, lively but balanced acidity provides a supple and balanced feel with lingering soft textured minerality.

Taste: – Fresh stone fruit including peach and apricot lead off along with soft citrus, melon, green plantain. The floral orange blossom and honey suckle meld with soft minerality with a slightly tart citrus hint on the back of the palate.

Finish: – Bright and focused at first, leading to a long and soft and clean conclusion, with gentle citrus, apricot and other stone fruit lingering on the palate.

Conclusion – The 2010 Makia Estate Mendoza Torrontés is a delicious white (at a great price), reminiscent of the best qualities of Viognier. Nice balance of freshness and texture on the palate with a nose that is pretty and approachable. Fresh and vibrant fruit on the palate and a long clean finish. A lovely food wine that is perfect for spring and summertime enjoyment.

Mission Report:

WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER

SUBJECT: Luke Branzanti

WINE EDUCATION: I practically grew up in the wine world, my family makes wines for four generations, and almost a hundred years.

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: A great wine is produced in the vineyard!

FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: Saracen fortress Sangiovese – Cantina Bartolini 2001


WINEMAKER INTERVIEWAGENT WHITE: Greetings, Luke. We are thrilled to be showing your 2010 Torrontés today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

LUKE: You’re welcome, we are pleased to have you show our delicious Torrontés.

WHITE: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

LUKE: I was born with a passion for wine,

WHITE: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

LUKE: Tachis

WHITE: Who do you make wine for?

LUKE: First of all the wine they produce to please myself, then I hope that my taste is shared by many wine lovers.

WHITE: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.

LUKE: Makia Torrontes 2010, Mendoza (Argentina). And ‘the only true indigenous variety from Argentina. The wine produced from this grape is spicy, extremely seeking nose with floral and fruity, the palate is warm and enveloping, with hints of peach and yellow fruit with a long mineral finish.

WHITE: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

LUKE: With a beautiful woman aboard a large swimming pool.

WHITE: In your opinion, what makes the Mendoza so special?

LUKE: Argentina is an extraordinary land that unites all the characteristics necessary to produce great wines. The sun, earth, water and air are vital elements that reach, in the Rioja, their highest expression and untouched, characteristics that are found in our wines.

WHITE: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?

LUKE: The wine reflects who produces it and is an experience that everyone plays according to his mood.

WHITE: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

LUKE: I think we share a lot already: a passion for good wine.

WHITE: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The approximate location of the Makia Estate just west of Vista Flores can be seen in this satellite photo.

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2008 Vitus Napa Valley Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted in Uncategorized on April 28, 2012 by thewinespies

Mission Codename: Saint of Good Fortune

Operative: Agent White

Objective: Revisit or friends at Vitus and secure a limited allocation of there delicious Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Vitus Napa Valley

Wine Subject: 2008 Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon

Winemaker: John Gilpin

Backgrounder: The Oakville AVA, centrally located and adjacent to Napa Valley’s famous Rutherford AVA, was established in July 1993. Oakville is considered on of the most diverse AVA’s in the Napa area and grows some of the best Merlot in California. Napa Valley is revered worldwide as the ultimate area in which to produce Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2006 vintage, in particular, has produced some of the finest wines of the recent vintages.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Dark and dense purple and almost black with a dense but clear heart. Along the edges, the color becomes deep garnet and when swirled medium thick and color stained legs ring the glass and hang for several moments before descending to the wine below.

Smell – Fruit forward with rich and spiced black fruit including blackberry, plum, dark cherry and other dark berries are framed by sturdy spiced and toasted oak aromas. A touch of fennel, toasted vanilla, spice, floral violets and a subtle herbal component round out the complex nose of this wine.

Feel – Initially smooth and dry, this full-bodied wine becomes immediately chewy and expansive on the palate with firm and youthfully textured tannins. This wine’s lively acidity, spice and dark textured minerality provides an etched feeling on the palate that frames the rich fruit and lasts long into the finish

Taste – Ripe blackberry, plum, dark cherry and red currants and lead the way and blend with the spiced and toasted oak found on the nose. Tremendous depth of youthful flavors including toasted vanilla, anise or perhaps black licorice, herbal, spice and floral notes linger with savory and mineral flavors emerging as the fruit slowly fades.

Finish – Extremely long with the dark fruit lingering on as the other complex flavors found on the palate make their appearances in succession. This wine’s chewy and nearly rustic texture invites another sip.

Conclusion – The 2008 Vitus Napa Valley Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon is a delicious and youth Cabernet that is drinking well now but will continue to evolve as it ages. Great dark black fruit and other complex flavors on the nose, a chewy and full mouth-feel, generous on the palate with fantastic fruit and other flavors that just last and last. Enjoy this wine right away giving it time to open up (or decant) cellar for five to ten years. This is definitely a grilled steak wine.

Mission Report:

WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER

SUBJECT: John Gilpin

WINE EDUCATION: Cal Poly B.S U.C Davis – Oenology

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Winemaker for three labels

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Blending will always produce a better wine!

WINEMAKER QUOTE: ” Be Patient”

FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: 6-1-04


We were unable to secure an interview with winemaker John Gilpin so here is the interview that Agent Red conducted when we featured the previous vintage of this wine.

WINEMAKER INTERVIEW

AGENT RED: Greetings, John. We are thrilled to be showing your 2007 Oakville Cabernet today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

JOHN: Thanks, Agent Red, we are excited to be sharing our wine with your operatives.

RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

JOHN: My very first taste.

RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

JOHN: Helen Turley – she really got what Napa really was all about: Big, ripe wines.

RED: Who do you make wine for?

JOHN: I make the wine first for myself, because if I don’t like the wines I am making why bother.

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.

JOHN: Within all my years of winemaking the this is by far my favorite vintage. The 2007 Cabernet from the Oakville area of Napa Valley is truly the best vintage I’ve ever tasted.

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

JOHN: Beef short Rib Bourguignon.

RED: In your opinion, what makes Oakville so special?

JOHN: The cool foggy mornings that preserve the acidity then warm afternoons that ripen the grapes.

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

JOHN: Getting ready to bottle the 2009 vintage.

RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?

JOHN: With an open mind and with no preconceived ideas about the wine. Let the wine speak for itself!

RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

JOHN: I hope you enjoy the wine because there is a part of myself that goes into each bottle! Cheers!

RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

Vitus Napa Valley can be tasted at the tasting room of our friends at Napa’s Bourassa Vineyards, the location of which can be seen in this satellite photo. Be sure to mention you are a wine spy when visiting.

2009 Marimar Estate Vineyards & Winery ‘Acero’ Chardonnay

Posted in California, Chardonnay with tags , , , , on April 27, 2012 by thewinespies

Mission Codename: Galleon de Don Miguel

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Send Agent Red back to Marimar Estate Winery, a new Operative favorite, to acquire their delicious, no-oak, stainless steel fermented, Don Miguel Vineyard “Acero” Chardonnay.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Marimar Estate

Wine Subject: 2009 Don Miguel Vineyard – “Acero” Chardonnay – Russian River Valley

Winemaker: Marimar Torres

Backgrounder: Chardonnay is arguably the greatest of all white grape varietals, showing its influence in the legendary sparkling wines of Champagne, the great whites of Burgundy and of course its expression as’the’ white wine of California. Chardonnay represents over 50% of the planted white grapes in California with nearly 100,000 acres planted. With such a great number of wines made from this grape, it stands to reason that finding wines of great quality would be hard, but look no further. In this wine, we have found perhaps the ideal expression of the California Chardonnay.

The Russian River Valley AVA was officially designated in 1983, but many of the wines in the region used the designation as early as the 1970s (early in California’s wine history) with the many of the vines having been first planted in the early 1900s. The Green Valley sub-appellation, where today’s wine is carefully grown, is ideally suited to Chardonnay. Read Agent Red’s mission report and tasting notes below for the full intel on this exciting wine.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Lightest golden straw from heart to edge, this wine leave behind tall, branching legs that meander downward from high up on the glass wall.

Smell – Bright and light, with fresh with soft, sweet citrus, green apple, Asian pear and soft white flower. As the wine warms slightly (let it!), it really opens up and reveals aromas of soft pineapple, half-dried hay, honey and a hint of white spice.

Feel – Light-weight and cool, up front, with a soft and supple roundness at the mid-palate. Bright and fresh, with a soft acidity that telegraphs bright fruit flavors out to the corners of the palate.

Taste – Delicious and fresh with citrus, apple, pear and tropical notes. Flavors are sweet, light and authentic, reminding us of the actual fruits that we are tasting in this wine. Again, allow the wine to warm a bit and you will be rewarded with better, fuller and more realistic fruit flavors. As the wine approached something a little cooler than room-temperature, we detected hints of vanilla, honeysuckle, soft slate and a hint of creamed honey.

Finish – Long, bright and sweet, flavors are driven to the far reaches of the palate before they fade off, slowly. As the fruit fade, a soft slate minerality remains.

Conclusion – The 2009 Don Miguel Vineyard ‘Acero’ Chardonnay is a sweet, elegant, soft, approachable –fun wine. It is so easy to drink that we found ourselves refilling our glasses frequently. Fruit, on the nose as on the palate, are authentic, delivering aromas and flavors that were very similar to the actual fruits that we were reminded of as we sniffed and sipped. Today’s wine is a perfect summertime sipper that won’t overpower the palate with oak or heavy handed fruit. Instead, this wine is elegant, fun and easy to keep on sipping and sipping and sipping…

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The approximate location of the Marimar Estatee can be seen in this satellite photo.

2009 Cornerstone Cellars Stepping Stone Cabernet Franc

Posted in Cabernet Franc, California with tags , , , , on April 26, 2012 by thewinespies

Mission Codename: One Giant Leap

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: With the introduction of its Stepping Stone label, Cornerstone Cellars, itself a producer of high-end Napa Valley wines, has created a budget-minded Cabernet Franc that truly lives up to the Cornerstone name.

We missed out on the previous vintage of Cornerstone Cellars’ excellent Stepping Stone Cabernet Franc. While the 2009 vintage is still in barrel, infiltrate the winery and secure an ample quantity for our Franc-loving Operatives.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Cornerstone Cellars, Napa Valley, California

Wine Subject: 2009 Stepping Stone Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley

Winemaker: Jeff Keene

Backgrounder:

Cornerstone Cellars, a Wine Spies favorite winery, recently introduced today’s 2009 Stepping Stone Cabernet Franc, a delicious and elegant high-valuewine that he recommends wholeheartedly. As you know by now, Cabernet Franc is one of Agent Red’s favorite red varietals. Perhaps this is because its flavors are often rich, layered, complex and elegant. Or, perhaps he loves Cabernet Franc so much because it pairs so exceptionally with many different foods. One of the most notable things about Cabernet Franc is the fact that finding excellent examples can be very difficult. Read Red’s tasting notes and mission report below for the full intel on today’s superb wine

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Darkest ruby red hues, with a clear, dark heart of black cherry juice. At the edge of the wine, a pink ring cuts a fine circle around the glass.After a swirl, the wine leaves behind tight clusters of crooked legs that descend very slowly down the glass wall.

Smell – Lush and clean, with black cherry, blackberry and sweet black plum in the lead. As the wine breathes, it opens up and reveals additional aromas of dried violets, soft spice, dried meats, sweetwood, and a savory hint of dried herbs.

Feel – Crushed velvet and medium bodied, this wine quickly settle onto the palate. Flavors coat the palate and the wine takes on a softly textured, softly chewy feel. A gradual, pronounced flinty dryness spreads all around he palate as flavors remain.

Taste – Bold spiced blackberry and juicy cherry lead the way, closely followed by black currant, dried cranberry, red plum skin, raspberry, dried violets and soft spice. At the very end, an intriguing flinty flavor mixes with a hint of fine black pepper and very subtle pencil shavings.

Finish – Very intriguing, with fruit that is sustained for a very long time. Even after the palate is dried, slightly, by the wine, fruit sticks around for a long time. Then, at the tail end of the finish, a very interesting (and tasty) and very subtle hint of pencil shavings appears.

Conclusion – This young buck is a keeper! A little shy at first, we decanted the wine to see if it would open up. We were generously rewarded with more fruit on the nose and on the palate. I recommend that you spin the wine in your glass and continue to taste it as it opens up for you. We have always had great love for all of Cornerstone’s wines and today’s 2009 Stepping Stone Cabernet Franc Napa Valley lives up to the reputation. Cabernet Franc is one of the most food-friendly wines I know, but if you are looking for a pairing suggestion, I’d recommend a delicious pulled pork sandwich! Enjoy now, but be sure to buy enough to cellar for the next few years.

Mission Report:

WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER

SUBJECT: Jeff Keene

DATE OF BIRTH: 04/71

PLACE OF BIRTH: Waiouru, New Zealand

WINE EDUCATION: Postgraduate degree in Oenolgy and Viticulture from Lincoln University in New Zealand, with an undergraduate in Chemistry, because there needs to be a little science with this art.

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Havens Wine Cellars, Peter Franus Wine Company and Cornerstone Cellars.

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: To produce wines that reflect site & appellation, respecting traditions and to make wines we like to drink.

SIGNATURE VARIETAL: Come back to me in 2 to 3 years time with this question, but I have to say that I have had the most challenges and rewards with Cabernet Franc.

CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Every day is a highlight, but honestly, the friends I have made and the wines I have drunk while in this industry are the highlights…and its not over yet!

WINEMAKER QUOTE: If it ain’t broke don’t fix it…I think you can apply this to most occupations


WINEMAKER INTERVIEW

AGENT RED: Greetings, Jeff. We are thrilled to be showing your 2009 Steppingstone Cabernet Franc today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

JEFF: Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity. It’s an honor to be given this mission.

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today

JEFF: My favorite grape variety to work with in the Napa Valley…Cabernet Franc.

The 2009 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Cabernet Franc comes from 2 outstanding vineyard sites, the cool climate Carneros region and the warmth of Oakville, each adding a unique personality to the wine. This wine is a beautiful example of this variety and showcases how spectacular Cabernet Franc can be from the Napa Valley.

This is a very fragrant and elegant wine which balances its satisfying acidity and brightness with a full well structured palate. Long and firm on the finish this wine has the mouth filling texture to be enjoyed now, but will also benefit and become more delicious with some age.

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

JEFF: Our 2009 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Cabernet Franc has the right amount of acidity and brightness to be a ready companion for most meals, but my favorite pairing is a perfectly roasted leg of lamb with all the fixing’s.

RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

JEFF: Well, growing up in a house where there was nothing but the ‘bag in the box’ wine on offer, I can tell you this inspired me to find better wine…

RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?

JEFF: I can point to my education in New Zealand, but for all aspects of winegrowing, physically, mentally, spiritually I have to say the majority of my experience came from my time at Havens Wine Cellars where I had the opportunity to work with 2 great, but stylistically different winemakers, Peter Franus and Michael Havens.

RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?

JEFF: I aspire to make wines that reflect the site and appellation they come from and also to make wines we love to drink, very challenging, but the rewards are a great bottle of wine.

RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

JEFF: All wines I try influence me in one way or another, but in terms of winemakers, once again, Peter Franus and Michael Havens…2 different winemaking heads. I have learnt a lot from these guys and I am still learning from them…

RED: How long have you been making wine?

JEFF: 11 years now…time flies when you are having fun, but then there is bottling…

RED: Who do you make wine for?

JEFF: You, me and all the consumers out there who enjoy great wines

RED: Tell me, what makes the Carneros and Oakville regions so special?

JEFF: Showcasing the authentic varietal character of Cabernet Franc is a very important goal in crafting this Stepping Stone selection. I feel the long growing season of the Carneros appellation which offers mouth filling, silky, textural tannins with slightly more acidity and refreshing fruitiness is balanced by the bold earthy aromatics and tannic structure offered by the Oakville appellation. Cabernet Franc can be a cantankerous variety, but find the right locations and as you can see something very special emerges.

RED: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?

JEFF: Listen, learn, travel and have fun. What an amazing industry to be in. Wine is made in some of the worlds most beautiful regions. So many different styles, traditions and personalities. It’s a fascinating experience and one that you are always continually learning.

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

JEFF: This is my favorite time of year in the winery, we are currently finalizing our 2010 red blends ready for bottling. It is amazing to see the evolution of a wine, how the aromas and flavors have developed over the past 2 years. Tannins, texture, richness, balance. Over and over again different red varieties are blended in different proportions to carefully piece together our vision of the perfectly balanced wine.

RED: Please share one thing about yourself that few people know

WINEMAKER: My wife and 2 kids keep me sane in this profession.

RED: What is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?

JEFF: Being in this industry I count myself very lucky that I am surrounded by many great wines that I can enjoy everyday. So… many favorites, but I am always on the look out for new wines from new producers and regions.

RED: How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?

JEFF: I would recommend people approach these wines with great enthusiasm and don’t hold back…sorry that was the sales person in me…With wine in general…don’t be afraid to try new wines, new winemakers, new regions / new experiences. Let your own intuition guide you.

RED: If you could choose any one wine to drink (regardless of price or availability), what would it be?

JEFF: Not this question please…my answer to this question is always based on who, what, where and how…Who I am with, friends, family…What am doing, something, nothing…Where I am, inside, outside, hot, cold and how I am feeling…party or reflective…

RED: What is the one question that I should have asked you, and what is your answer to that question?

JEFF: Where and what is Waiouru…middle of the North Island of New Zealand, close to Lake Taupo…and not a vineyard to be seen in any direction.

RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and about your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

JEFF: Thank you so much for this amazing opportunity to showcase our 2009 Stepping Stone by Cornerstone Cabernet Franc. Once again its a real pleasure to work with you guys.

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the vineyards where today’s wine was born can be seen in this satellite photo.

2008 Burgess Cellars Napa Valley Merlot

Posted in California, Merlot with tags , , , on April 25, 2012 by thewinespies

Mission Codename: Spring Forward

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: With Howell Mountain’s Burgess Cellars under extended surveillance, rush to procure their newest Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Burgess Cellars

Wine Subject: 2008 Estate Merlot

Winemaker: Steve Burgess

Backgrounder: Our Operatives love Burgess Cellars’ Napa Valley wines. The 2005 vintage that we featured previously became a best-seller and we have been unable to procure any of the subsequent vintages – until today, when we were given a special preview allocation of the Steve Burgess’ stellar 2008 Estate Merlot, a delicious wine that is sure to please fans of fantastic Merlot.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Deep ruby red, with darker see-through core. Even coloration runs from the heart of the wine all the way out to the meniscus. When swirled, tall, skinny, wine-colored tears run from high up on the glass wall, thinning as they move very slowly downward.

Smell – Sweet and fresh with young blackberry, red currant, black currant, brambly raspberry and softly toasted oak. Swirl the wine and it really springs to life, exuding additional aromas of sweet black licorice, soft leather, Bing cherry, dark minerals and cocoa.

Feel – Light-weight and soft on the attack. Then, as the wine settles onto the palate, it gains texture, weight and complexity. Moderate, integrated tannins provide structure, while bright acids support the delicious fruit.

Taste – Blackberry, black currant, black cherry and brambly raspberry take the lead. When the wine really opens up (keep swirling and witness a wonderful transformation), it reveals sweet plum, sweet black licorice, smoky cherrywood and a hint of spice.

Finish – Long and flavorful, with bright red fruit that lingers for a long time, gradually tailing off you dark berry, spice and sweetwood flavors. At the very end, a soft minerality enhances the easy dryness.

Conclusion – The 2008 Burgess Celllars Estate Merlot is a true delight to drink! This wine is a juicy, delicious, balanced Merlot and any lover of the varietal will go bonkers for it. Sweet, juicy fruit is beautifully balanced against earthy, savory aromas and flavors and the feel is initially soft – and then complex. Textured and mouthcoating, but still soft, juicy and elegant, this wine is as intriguing as it is delicious. This wine is a perfect food companion, and it provides a tasty cleanse of the palate between bites. Pair with a juicy porterhouse or a fatty prime rib. Enjoy this wine, now, or cellar for the next several years.

Mission Report:

WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER

SUBJECT: Steve Burgess

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: We are into terroir and brilliance.

FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: 1972


WINEMAKER INTERVIEW

AGENT WHITE: Greetings, Steve. We are thrilled to be showing your 2008 Napa Valley Estate Merlot today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

STEVE BURGESS: You are welcome. We always love sharing our wines with you network of spies,”terroirists,” and foodie operatives.

WHITE: Excellent! Tell me, was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

STEVE: Europe in the 1960s. I could tell you more, but, you know…

WHITE: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

STEVE: Europe in the 1960s.

WHITE: ‘Nuff said. Who do you make wine for?

STEVE: We make wine for ourselves – in a style that isLOVED by chefs, foodies, and serious-wine people.

WHITE: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.

STEVE: This is an incredible wine. It has focus, purity and is packed with flavor.

WHITE: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

STEVE: A wine of incredible focus, purity, and packed with flavor!

WHITE: In your opinion, what makes your Napa Valley vineyards so special?

STEVE: The well-drained bench land soils, cool nights and hot days.

WHITE: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

STEVE: Fine-tuning. Lots of fine tuning…

WHITE: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?

STEVE: With an open mind, mouth, and a curiosity as to “Wow, why is this so different and great? Where have you been all my life!”

WHITE: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

STEVE: Please visit Burgess, we have the best view of the Napa Valley to enjoy while trying our estate-only wines. We are a part of Napa’s history, come see why!

WHITE: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the Burgess Cellars can be seen in thissatellite photo.

2007 Olabisi Wines Suisun Valley Petite Sirah

Posted in California, Petite Sirah with tags , , , on April 24, 2012 by thewinespies

Mission Codename: Le Roi de Cœur

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Return to Olabisi Wine Cellars, in the town of Napa, and procure their the new release of their Petite Sirah, a 2007 that is one of their most popular wines.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Olabisi Wine Cellars

Wine Subject: 2007 Suisun Valley Petite Sirah, King Vineyard

Winemaker: Ted Osborne

Backgrounder: Petite Sirah’s California roots dates back to when it was believed to be a close relative of the Syrah grape. Later it would be found to be genetically identical to the Durif, named for its after French discoverer François Durif who found that the varietal was a Syrah grape pollinated with Peloursin flowers. Its smaller berries with higher skin to pulp ratio leads to more intense flavors. Another benefit of the smaller berries are tighter clusters that are more resistant to mildew. Currently Petite Sirah is less popular in France and increasingly popular in the United States

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Dark burgundy, with a very dark heart. The wine is clear, not opaque, but you really need strain your eyes to see through it. At the glass wall, a thick ring of beautiful magenta encircles the wine. After a swirl, tall, skinny, colored tears move very slowly down the glass.

Smell – Very aromatic, with bold fruit, spice and earthen scents leaping from the glass. Rich, ripe blackberry, blueberry and dark cherry are way out in front. Just behind these, dark chocolate, brown spice, dried leaves, leather and green tobacco leaf provide the perfect balance to all of the up-front fruit.

Feel – Full and mouth-coating almost immediately. Firm, well-integrated tannins provide a very plush, crushed-velvet feel. As soon as the wine passes the palate, a grippy dryness spreads all around the mouth, drying cheeks, tongue and lips.

Taste – Bold and dark with ripe blackberry, seared plum, darkest blueberry, currant and black cherry. As the wine opens up, additional flavors emerge, including cocoa powder, soft spice, chalky minerals and hints of star anise, black pepper and dried violets.

Finish – Extremely long, drying and packed with dark fruit flavors, that gradually yield to spice, minerals, dried dark flowers and black pepper at the tail end.

Conclusion – Thank you, Ted Osborne! We loved Ted’s fantastic 2006 Petite, but today’s 2007 King Vineyard Petite Sirah is simply remarkable. After about 20 minutes of decanting, we set about to review this wine. In that time, it really opened up on the nose and the palate, revealing far greater dimension and character. Where the wine had been a little tight, before, it now delivered a rush of aromas that could be sensed before even lifting the glass. Aromas and flavors, while bold and big, are very balanced. This wine does not slap you around like those from rival regions. We paired ours with a perfect, seared, rare New York strip steak, rubbed with Himalayan pink salt, cracked pepper and garlic. The combination was perfection! Be sure to stock up on this ready to drink, age worthy Petite Sirah.

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the King Vineyard can be seen in thissatellite photo.

2006 Estancia Estates Reserve Chardonnay

Posted in California, Chardonnay with tags , , , on April 23, 2012 by thewinespies

Mission Codename: The Essence of Soledad

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Return to Estancia Estates and secure an allocation of their Reserve Chardonnay – before they run out.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Estancia Estates

Wine Subject: 2006 Reserve Chardonnay

Winemaker: Scott Kelley

Backgrounder: Monterey County is home to some of the finest Chardonnay in the country. The Wine Spies have featured several Monterey County Chardonnays and, every time, our Operatives have scooped them up enthusiastically. Today we mark our return to Estancia – and return, with the final cases of their stellar 2006 Reserve Chardonnay, a wine that is in perfect form and still approaching its peak.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Light golden yellow, with perfect clarity ad perfectly even coloration, from core to edge. Swirl the wine wine and marvel at round after round of tall, skinny tears that fall slowly down the glass.

Smell – Bold and full on the nose, lush fruit and dried flowers jump from the glass. Bright, zesty lemon, pineapple and Anjou pear take the lead. As it warms a little, dried white flower petals, flinty minerals and toasted oak round out the nose.

Feel – Soft, smooth and velvety on the tip of the tongue. As it settles onto the palate, this wine takes on a more medium-bodied feel. Soft minerals and a bright acidity add complexity.

Taste – Bright and zesty, with fresh lemon, acacia flowers, flint, toasty oak and a hint of Asian pear. As the wine opens up (allow it to warm slightly), it reveals darker citrus flavors and hints of softest spice, toasted vanilla bean and a subtle earthiness.

Finish – Long and complex, but clean and refreshing, with fruit and soft spice that last a very long time.

Conclusion – The 22006 Estancia Reserve Chardonnay is a delicious wine that is fresh, intriguing and just a little complex. Bold aromatics greet the nose before you even lift your glass for a sniff. Flavors are of authentic fruit, minerals, soft oak, white flowers, complex darker toasty vanilla and subtle spice. While this wine is a 2006, it was built for a little bit of aging. The wine is approaching its peak, and it probably has another year or two left in it, for optimal enjoyment. Quantities are very limited, as we got out hands on every last case that the winery had. Act quickly, as this wine will certainly sell out!

Mission Report:

Below is a recap of Agent Red’s recent interview with winemaker Scott Kelly when we featured another of his fantastic wines:

SUBJECT: Scott Kelley, Estancia

PLACE OF BIRTH: Salinas, CA

WINE EDUCATION: UC Davis

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: General Manager and Director of Wine Making-Estancia

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Estancia’s winemaking philosophy continues to be firmly rooted in terroir, with the goal of producing wines that reflect the unique vineyards and appellations in which they are cultivated.

SIGNATURE VARIETAL: Pinot Noir

CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Becoming GM and Director of Winemaking at Estancia.

WINEMAKER QUOTE: “It begins and ends in the Vineyard.”

WINEMAKER INTERVIEW

AGENT RED: Greetings, Scott. We are thrilled to be showing your 2006 Estancia Reserve Meritage today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

SCOTT: Thank you very much. Always happy to chat with the Wine Spies!

RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

SCOTT: I knew I wanted to do this since I was seventeen. I grew up in agriculture family and had an early interest in chemistry while in high school. I really found winemaking to be the perfect blend of agriculture and chemistry. My older brother was into viticulture as well, so that probably influenced my career direction a bit.

RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?

SCOTT: Growing up I had a lot of varied interests, not just in oenology but also in food science, so I pursued studies in Fermentation Science at the University of California at Davis. In addition to winemaking, I also explored the principles and science behind distillation, food engineering and even a little cheese-making. Since my brother and I were experimenting with home brewing during the summers, I took the opportunity to study at Davis’ Institute of Brewing Studies, eventually earning a Master Brewers Certificate. After Davis, I joined the Carmel Brewing Company, and eventually assembled a brewpub in Monterey from the ground up, formulating the recipes and brewing all the beer that we would serve on tap. I had always enjoyed the engineering side of things such as fluid dynamics and heat transfer, and working in a small brewpub allowed me to be hands-on throughout the brewing process and use some of the mechanical skills I learned growing up.
Ultimately though, I found that brewing didn’t really fulfill my creative side, and I found myself gravitating back toward winemaking. In 2000, I joined the Robert Mondavi family of wines working on a variety of brands that took me from Australia to Italy. These experiences abroad really shaped my philosophy about wine and winemaking, my travels to Italy clarified the synergy between wine and food, while making wine in Australia introduced me to a new approach with a focus on the details and the idea that you only get one chance to make a wine great.

RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?

SCOTT: Winemaking fulfills my artistic side without giving up the innovative hands-on experience that keeps me in touch with my family’s roots in agriculture. I enjoy all of the challenges that each vintage presents in order to shape the style of wines we make at Estancia.. Our winemaking style is one that fully embraces the coastal terroir.

RED: Tell me, what makes the Monterey and the Central Coast region so special?

SCOTT: Born and raised in Monterey County, I have tremendous respect for the climate – the wind and fog and the impact it has on the fruit and wine. Whether it is using less oak in the Chardonnay to protect the tropical characters or fermenting Pinot Noir only in open-top fermenters to respect the silky tannins, I am really passionate about making estate-based wines that have truly have a reason for being.

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today

SCOTT: Estancia Meritage is a sophisticated, rich, complex and luscious wine harvested from the distinctive terroir of our Keyes Canyon Ranch and the Paso Robles AVA.. The 2006 Meritage was a blend of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 8% Petite Verdot. This wine has vibrant, dark black cherries with hints of anise, rosemary and sage. Accents of chocolate powder and soft oak. Intense flavors of chocolate dipped black fruit, accompanied by notes of sweet oak. Wonderfully structured ripe tannins lead to a nice long, fruit driven finish.

In 1999, Estancia planted its Keyes Canyon Ranch, covering nearly 700 acres of vineyards in appellation of Paso Robles. This unique appellation is home to more extreme temperature swings than any other wine-growing region in California. During the day, the vines bask in the warm sunshine and at night they are soothed by a cool marine layer from the Pacific Ocean. In addition, the infertile soils and rugged terrain of Keyes Canyon, encourages the vines to yield small fruit clusters with tiny berries packed full of rich berry tones.

The 2006 harvest was compact due to a wet spring, cooler than average summer, and then a record blast of heat at veraison. September 26th marked the beginning of harvest which continued through October 26th.

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

SCOTT: I think this wine is very versatile, but it would marry particularly well with steak or nicely grilled rack of lamb.

RED: Please share one thing about yourself that few people know

SCOTT: When I am not making wine, my fiancée Dena and I try to find time to pursue one of our many hobbies. We golf, cook, hunt, scuba diving and we go fly fishing for Steelhead in Oregon.

RED: What is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?

SCOTT: It’s tough to pick a “favorite” as it really depends on what time of year it is or what we might be enjoying for dinner. Pinot Noir is always a favorite, and I have to say that that the more we play around with the Grenache fruit that we have on some of our Estate properties the more excited I am getting about that varietal.

RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and about your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

SCOTT: Thanks, this has been a lot of fun. I hope everyone enjoys the Meritage…it’s one of my favorite wines to make each year.

Wine Spies Winery Check:
The location of the Estancia Winery can be seen in this satellite photo.

Ruggeri Prosecco di Valdobbiadene ‘Gold Label’ DOCG

Posted in Italy, Prosecco with tags , , , on April 22, 2012 by thewinespies

Mission Codename: The Gold Standard

Operative: Agent Sparkle

Objective: Secure an exclusive Italian sparkler for our operatives

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Ruggeri Valdobbiadene

Wine Subject: Prosecco di Valdobbiadene ‘Gold Label’DOCG

Backgrounder:

Prosecco, a native white grape of northeastern Italy originating in the village of the same same, shines as the preferred spumante, its favorite sparking wine and in Venice, at just about every cafe in the late afternoon it is served as the favorite aperitif and obrette for Venetians.

Some of the best Prosecco comes from around the villages of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene as is the case of today’s selection in the hills just north of Venice. Many Prosecco are slightly sweeter and less fizzy than its cousin Champagne, however, today’s selection is a fully dry Brut. Also, Prosecco is made differently from Champagne with its secondary fermentation taking place in pressurized tanks (a method called Charmat) as opposed to a secondary fermentation in the bottle (methode champenoise).

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Very pale straw yellow in color with a brilliant clear core, fine bubbles and vibrant effervescence that leaves a medium mouse. When swirled, slow medium thick legs ring and descend at varying speeds along the side of the glass.

Smell – Fresh, bright and youthful on the nose with aromas of citrus and orchard fruit, pleasantly perfumed floral notes, and a touch of orange blossom honey and a hints of minerality.

Feel – This demi-sec to dry Prosecco is both effervescent and smooth in its attack with its vibrant acidity and minerality that lingers long into this sparkler’s finish. Medium-bodied, clean and crisp with its spumante lingering on and on.

Taste – Fresh, sweet and tart flavors of citrus and orchard fruit including Meyers lemon, green apple and Clementine orange are framed and backed by a limestone minerality and the floral notes found on the nose. A touch of light honey, very subtle toasty and creaminess rounds out the bright fresh and clean flavors of this wine.

Finish – Crisp and clean with a lingering minerality that supports its fresh orchard and citrus and other flavors of this delicious sparkler.

Conclusion – The Ruggeri Prosecco di Valdobbiadene ‘Gold Label’ DOCG is fresh, bright and very clean with a dry crisp spamante mouth feel. A lovely wine to celebrate any of your spring festivities. Pair this wine with brunch, a light lunch, seafood or salad, or if you must, you can always make a perfect Bellini. Enjoy this wine right now as there is no reason to cellar this lovely fresh sparkler.

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the village of Valdobbiadene in Italy can be seen in this satellite photo.

2006 Hendry Ranch Wines Napa Valley Red Wine

Posted in California, Red Blend with tags , , , on April 21, 2012 by thewinespies

Mission Codename: Pretty in Purple

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Infiltrate Hendry Ranch, and procure their vaunted 2007 Block 28 Zinfandel. Before the winery sells out, procure an exclusive allotment for our Operatives.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Hendry Ranch

Wine Subject: 2006 Napa Valley Red Wine – Bordeaux Blend

Winemaker: George Hendry

Backgrounder: Bordeaux wines are usually a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet France, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carmenere. In France, perfection is achieved with the perfect balance of these grapes. Today’s 2006 Hendry Ranch Red Wine is a masterful blend of 42% Malbec (from Hendry’s Estate Block 14 vineyard), 26% Petit Verdot (Block 15) 21% Cabernet Sauvignon (Block 8), 7% Merlot (Block 13) and 4% Cabernet Franc (Block 26).

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Darkest Bordeaux purple, when viewed side on. The wine is inky and darker, at its core, and it lightens to garnet at the edge. Spin the wine and take note of how it stains the glass before it coalesces into tight clusters of skinny tears.

Smell – Dark and spiced, with generous blackberry, burnt raisin and dark oak. As the wine airs out, black cherry, leather, dried violets and subtle pencil shavings.

Feel – Clean and light on entry. Then, immediately grippy and weighty as the wine settles onto the mid palate. A mineral-driven dryness spreads from the center of the palate, outward, drying the lips. Plush tannins give the wine a chewy feel.

Taste – Darkest cherry, overripe blackberry, grilled mission fig, dark plum, spice, oak and black licorice all work in equal proportion, driving big flavor from beginning to end.

Finish – Very long and flavor-filled, with black fruit and oak sustaining beyond the spice and licorice components. As the wine dries the palate, and the wine takes on a chewy feel, flavors tail off slowly, leaving behind oak and flinty minerals.

Conclusion – The 2006 Napa Valley Red Wine, from our great friends at Hendry, is a big, bold, delicious, flavor-packed Bordeaux Blend. Sourced from the winery’s own lovingly tended estate vineyards, this wine really impressed our tasting panel. Give the wine time to breath, after opening, and you’ll have a softer and more elegant experience with the wine. On opening, edges are a bit hard, but the wine really opens up and softens as it breaths. We had fun, spinning the wine in our glasses, and sipping every few minutes. The more we spun, the more we loved this wine. Pair with bolder dishes. Drink now, or cellar for up to ten more years!

Mission Report:


WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER

SUBJECT: George Hendry

WINE EDUCATION: 1963, I received my undergraduate and graduate degrees from UCCalifornia at Berkeley in engineering. My years of experience in the vineyard and the laboratory are the resources I call upon in my search to achieve the delicate balance of terroir, clone, viticulture and enology.

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: I aim to make wines that reflect the unique terroir of our ranch: wines with refinement, elegance and balance.

WINEMAKER QUOTE: “Wines should be good dinner guests: they should participate in the conversation, interact with the other guests (the food), but they should never dominate.”

FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: 1995


WINEMAKER INTERVIEW

AGENT RED: Greetings, George. We are thrilled to be showing your 2006 Napa Valley Red Wine today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

GEORGE: Thank you, Agent Red! We are thrilled to be back with The Wine Spies.

RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

GEORGE: Not a specific experience but a keen interest in wine and food pairing contributed substantially.

RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

GEORGE: The winemaking style of Tim Mondavi in the 80’s and 90’s.

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.

GEORGE: This wine is a Bordeaux blend. In the blend we use a lot of petite Verdot and Malbec. These grapes are not widely grown in Napa, but they do very well in our vineyard. Together they produce incredible color and contribute to the richness and complexity in this wine.

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

GEORGE: This wine pairs well with rich foods and meats of all kinds. I love it with lamb.

RED: In your opinion, what makes your estate vineyard so special?

GEORGE: The Hendry vineyard is in the foothills north west of the city of Napa. We have been growing grapes here since my grandparents purchased the property in 1939. This latitude in the valley provides enough marine influence for a long growing season, but enough heat to ripen Cabernet in a cool year. It is a great spot.

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

GEORGE: This harvest was one of our latest. We have finished picking, but will be draining and pressing tanks for a few more weeks.

RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?

GEORGE: If you know us for our Cabernet Sauvignon, try one of our Chardonnays. If you know us for our Pinot Noir, try our Red Wine (a blend of our Bordeaux varietals). You may discover a new favorite. Most certainly you’ll discover another reason why Hendry is such a special place to grow grapes

RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

GEORGE: Taste a lot of different wines, always with food.

RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!

GEORGE: Thank you…

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the Hendry Ranch Winery can be seen in this satellite photo.

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