2007 Flora Springs Poggio Del Papa ‘Super Tuscan’
Mission Codename: Vinea crepidinem montis Papa
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Infiltrate Flora Springs Winery, a picturesque winery set at the base of the Mayacamas Mountains in St. Helena, in the Napa Valley’s northern end. Procure a limited-production winery-only wine for our exacting Operatives.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Flora Springs Winery & Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2007 Poggio Del Papa Napa Valley Red Wine
Winemaker: Paul Steinauer
Backgrounder: Red blends are a favorite of many a Wine Spies Operative. Perhaps this is because a great blend is like a great All-star sports team, where the coach gets to choose the best players. In the case of today’s wine, Flora Springs’ winemaker, Paul Steinauer, was able to hand-select grapes (78% Sangiovese, 13% Merlot, 6% Malbec, and 3% Petit Verdot) from the winery’s own Cypress Ranch estate vineyard in the Pope Valley, to craft a Supertuscan blend that rivals the best Italian blends. Today’s 2007 Poggio Del Papa a great example of how a fantastic wine can be born of great blending – from the best vineyard sources.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Ultra-deep ruby hues, with solid color through the darker core of the wine. Concentrated of color, out to its edges, a fine edge of light ruby rings the glass. Swirl the wine, and marvel at the color-stained legs that move slowly down the glass, giving clues to the texture of the wine.
Smell – Bold and aromatic, the wine bursts with an initial rush of black cherry, blackberry and a delightful smoky orange-spice. These sit just above plum, brown spice, crushed dried violets, cedar and a subtle hint cigar ash.
Feel – Medium weight across the entry, then the wine seems to hover across the mid-palate. At the rear, the wine becomes softly grippy. Plush tannins go to work, spreading this dryness all around the palate, introducing a delightful peppery feel as it gradually drys lips, cheeks and tongue.
Taste – Delicious and complex, balanced black stonefruit and black cherry play with dark red cherry, smoky unsweetened cranberry, dried dark flower petals, ripe blackberry, unsweetened black licorice and bramble. Just below these, plum, spice and warm pepper emerge – as the crushed velvet dryness spreads throughout the palate.
Finish – Dark, long and lingering, with black and red fruit that gently yield to spice, oak and pepper that show up as flavors gradually fade away.
Conclusion – This wine is as delicious as it is intriguing, beguiling and just plain fun to drink. While the wine possesses weight and complexity, it is also filled with balanced flavors. These run the gamut, from dark and rich, to bright and cheerful. This wine really does rival a great Supertuscan blend and our tasting panel found itself sipping and discussing the finer points of the wine for hours – during which grilled pizzas with Gorgonzola, arugula and prosciutto were also enjoyed. The acidity and balanced flavors of the wine helped to accentuate the hearty pizzas. This wine gets my hearty recommendation!
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Paul Steinauer
WINE EDUCATION: Finance/Marketing – University of Oregon, Winemaking UC Davis ext.
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Production Joseph Phelps Vineyards, Assistant Winemaker Flora Springs, and Winemaker Flora Springs.
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: When you are dealing with premium grapes, it’s really made in the vineyard. You just allow the wine to evolve and work at maintaining the characteristics of the terroir.
WINEMAKER QUOTE: There is nothing quite like enjoying the fruits of your labor with friends and family.
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: I guess since taking over the head winemaking position in ’08, it would have been June, ’08.
AGENT RED: Greetings, Paul. We are thrilled to be showing your 2007 Poggio Del Papa today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
PAUL STEINAUER: You are more than welcome, I’m glad to participate.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
PAUL: It may have started before I was even aware of it. I guess when I was a small child, my family would gather around the dinner table and my grandmother would give me a thimble full of wine – Evidently, I would taste it and say “dood wine” which meant “good wine”. I just remember wine being an important part of family gatherings, and when I was older, I could actually have a real glass – and really learned to appreciate it.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
PAUL: Long before I started at Flora Springs or even thought I would ever be in the wine business for that matter – I was attending the University of Oregon. When I returned to school after summer break, I would bring quite a lot of wine from St. Helena back up to school. One evening I was just doing some homework in my apartment and decided to crack open a random bottle. I happened to grab a bottle of ’82 Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet. I had had a lot of great Bordeaux’s and other great California cabernets, but that wine, that night was just really memorable, so much so, that I wrote it down in a journal – Big, rich, lush etc…It was just unfortunate that there was nobody else there to enjoy it with. After I finished school, and started working at Flora Springs, I realized that I did not have to go too far to find what I had remembered from that random bottle doing my homework – The big, rich, lush, aromatic, fruit forward wines were here to be made. Since the family is one of the largest vineyard owners in Napa County, I get to select the best blocks most suitable for this style of wine.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
PAUL: I have the luxury of working for a dedicated family owned and operated winery. That being said, the family motto has always been “Let’s make wines that we enjoy drinking ourselves, and hope others will agree” Well, that premise has worked for over 30 years now. We still enjoy them, and since we sell 50K cases per year, I guess others must enjoy them as well.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
PAUL: The 2007 Poggio Del Pappa “Which translated – means “The Popes Hillside” is a blend of four varietals. It is comprised of 78% Sangiovese, 13% Merlot, 6% Malbec, and 3% Petite Verdot. The Sangiovese is from a hillside vineyard on our Cypress Ranch property in Pope Valley – It brings that big, bright fruit that Sangiovese can be known for. It is then married with Merlot, Malbec and Petite Verdot from our Rutherford and Oakville vineyards – bringing that rich, dark fruit character to the blend. It is then aged in French oak for 15 months.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
PAUL: For our company Christmas party last month, we had both ham and lobster – (Quite a combo I know) At any rate, When asked what wine we should serve, the first thing that came to my mind was the Poggio. I have to tell you, it worked quite well. Beyond that unusual pairing however; I think it goes well with any of your pasta dishes, and meat dishes. I think it’s really one of the most versatile red wines, and very food friendly.
RED: In your opinion, what makes the Pope Valley so special?
PAUL: The majority of the blend is Sangiovese, and it hails from Pope Valley – (Hence, the name Pappa or Pope as a play on words) The Pope Valley district’s growing season can be dramatic with periods of very cold nights and very warm days. However, the mild breezes that rush down the face of the Palisade mountain range temper the extremities of temperature, helping this region produce some incredible wines.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
PAUL: Right now, we are assembling our 2009 Sangiovese blend to bottle in February. We are also making some preliminary 2010 blends of our Bordeaux varieties. We are also working with the vineyard team to determine – based on the past harvest, what protocols, and strategies if any – might be implemented going into the 2011 growing season. We have had some back to back to back unusual harvests from a climate perspective here in the Napa Valley, so we don’t use the terms “normal harvest” … much any more. In addition, and on an ongoing basis – the normal cellar activities – racking, topping barrels etc….
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
PAUL: I would say first and foremost, that you should never let anyone else tell you what you are supposed to like. Unfortunately, wine in some circles, has become an intimidating subject. At the end of the day however, you are the only one that should determine your likes and dislikes.
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
PAUL: The day I was hired at Flora Springs – John Komes (The owner) was showing me around the winery, as the tour ended, he stopped, looked me straight in the eyes and said “If I don’t look like I’m having fun in this business, promise you will let me know so I can find something else to do.” After that, I knew I had landed in a special place, and I’m happy to report that that was over 20 years ago, and John and I are still having fun doing what we love.
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:
The approximate location of the Flora Spring Winery & Vineyards can be seen in this satellite photo.