2007 White Cottage Ranch Winery ‘Risa’ Cabernet Sauvignon

Mission Codename: Good Wine Leads to Good Laughter

Operative: Agent White

Objective: Revisit our friends at White Cottage Ranch Winery and secure their latest release of the delicious Risa Cabernet Sauvignon

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: White Cottage Ranch Winery

Wine Subject: 2007 ‘Risa’ Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Winemaker: Rudy Zuidema


Napa County’s Howell Mountain AVA, established in 1984 is known for its wines of deep concentration and intensity. The higher elevation and relatively flat aspect make the location great for vineyards, and specifically Cabernet Sauvignon. The first vines in the Howell Mountain area were planted in the 1880s. The Howell Mountain region in the Napa Valley is the birthplace of some of our very favorite wines. We fell in love early on with Rudy Zuidema’s wines and we have not been disappointed by one of this high-elevation Howell Mountain wines yet. Today’s wine is a made from a blend of mountain fruit and fruit from the floor of the valley, imbuing the wine with a balanced best of both worlds flair.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Deep and dark garnet with a dense heart that shows burgundy hues throughout its dark clear core. Along the edges the color remains garnet and when swirled, medium legs ring the glass before descending to the wine below.

Smell – Rich and ripe with this wine’s black-fruit including blackberry and black cherry melding with a heady mocha and cocoa component. A touch of black licorice, earth and spice rounds out the inviting nose of this wine.

Feel – Smooth and dry, this full-bodied wine has firm but very fine tannins that are very well developed for a relatively youthful wine. Well balanced with good acidity and focused mountain minerality.

Taste – Concentrated black fruit and especially blackberry and black cherry as found on the nose blend with rich cocoa and mocha coffee. Soft earthy and mineral notes, black licorice, oak and a hint of balsam adds depth and complexity.

Finish – Persistent in its finish with ripe and rich fruit linger with the cocoa and other flavors lingering on the palate and fading gently as they beg for another sip.

Conclusion – The 2007 White Cottage Ranch Winery ‘Risa’ Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is a delicious Cabernet that is both expressive in its flavorful but balanced in its mouth-feel. While still youthful, this wine is well developed in its aromas and flavors and is structured enough to grab a hold of you. Enjoy this wine tonight or cellar for 5-10 years.
Mission Report:


SUBJECT: Rudy Zuidema

WINE EDUCATION: BS Ag Science Management UCD 1991

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: St. Clement 91-93, 93-94 Cuvaison, Honig/Patz and Hall 94-96, Robert Craig 96-02, Ehlers Estate 02-07, White Cottage Ranch 07-present WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Make authentic, natural wines that tell the story of the vintage.

WINEMAKER QUOTE: Good enough just isn’t.

FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: (DATE) As head winemaker, the 1996 Robert Craig Mt. Veeder Cabernet came out in February of 1999.


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

RUDY ZUIDEMA: Thank you for having me. I am so excited about this….I feel like I’m in “The Borne Wine Blend” movie

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

RUDY: Of course, and they continue to happen regularly. Initially it was when I was in the south of France working in a small cooperative winery in a village of 180 people. Everyone in this village had anywhere from a few vines to a few acres of vines, all of which were brought to the co-op. Regardless of variety or ripeness, the whites got dumped in one vat and the reds in another. The farmers would then take their weightage over to the warehouse and trade in the ticket for their cased wine for the year. The wines were absolutely horrible!! However, the pride each and every person had for this wine was amazing. The quality meant nothing, but the fact that this was an effort that all 180 people were part of made the wine taste like liquid gold.

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

RUDY: Ben Riggs, from Australia, is a big part of who I am now. His winemaking was driven by texture, not flavor. He allowed the vintages to change in flavor profiles but all of them felt the same in acidity, viscosity, and weight. I love that feel.

RED: Who do you make wine for?

RUDY: Behind every good winemaker is a great spouse. My wife is the only one who I need to make sure can get through half a bottle and love every sip. If I can accomplish that, I’m sure there will be some others who jump on the bandwagon.

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

RUDY: The 2007 “Risa” Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of Howell Mountain Cab, Merlot, Cab Franc, and Napa Valley Cab. The word “Risa” means to laugh or smile in Spanish and Italian so the wine is built to be more playful and a bit softer than our other wines. The fruit profile is clean and bright showing off more red fruit notes such as raspberry, cherry, and rhubarb. The wine is a serious Cabernet but very easy to drink.

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

RUDY: A great friend and a great movie……but if a piece of grilled salmon or a savory meatloaf with sautéed mushrooms happens to be close, give it a try.

RED: In your opinion, what makes the Howell Mountain so special?

RUDY: Although Howell Mountain is only 10 minutes from the Napa Valley floor, it seems like a planet away for our vines. The elevation and exposure are rough for a grapevine. The fact that we are above the fog line and we get direct sun in the late afternoons makes it hot and dry. The vines struggle early and throughout the growing season making for low vigor, small yields and very intense fruit.

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

RUDY: We farm organically and bio-dynamically and follow a pretty strict calendar for our tea applications, compost preparation, and tilling regiment. It takes a lot of time to stay on top of all of these practices.

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

RUDY: Trust your own tastes. Try not to let anyone else tell you what wine you should like or why you should like it. If you think the really special and expensive wine on the table sucks…..it sucks!

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

RUDY: Here at White Cottage Ranch we take our farming and winemaking pretty seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Come on up and get to know us and ask a bunch of silly wine questions. We’ll love to talk about them with you.

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! RUDY: Cheers, and thanks again!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

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

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