2007 Optima Wine Cellars Dry Creek Valley Petite Sirah
Mission Codename: Nothing Petite about it…
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Optima Winery, a winery that we first placed under surveillance in 2009. Today, we are pleased to feature our first Optima Petite Sirah, a wine that hails from the stellar 2007 vintage! Sample the wine and, if it lives up to our exacting standards, procure an ample allocation for our Operatives.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Optima Winery
Wine Subject: 2009 Dry Creek Valley Petite Sirah
Winemaker: Mike Duffy
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 – Deep and dark, with inky Burgundy hues. The finest ring of glinting ruby circles the glass. When swirled, the wine leaves behind chubby, wine-stained tears.
Smell – Fragrant and lush, with massive blackberry and blueberry leaping from the glass. These are soon joined by black plum, Black cherry, blueberry preserve and soft brown spice. At the tail end, intriguing aromas of pine, crush violets, toasty caramel and cedar round out the nose.
Feel – Soft, cool and wet on initial entry. Then, plush tannins introduce a soft dryness that gradually spreads to the corners of the palate as the drying effect increases.
Taste – Beautifully balanced, the wine leads with blackberry, blueberry, black cherry and black plum. These are balanced against sweet red cherry, soft cigar box, and crushed black flower petals. At the very end, a hint of sweet brown spice, black licorice and black pepper appear – and then fade slowly.
Finish – Very long and very flavorful, with fruit flavors that sustain for a long time. As the plush dryness increases, some earthen flavors seem to increase, before slowly tailing off.
Conclusion – 2007 was a great year for California Red wines, and today’s special Petite Sirah reinforces our love for the vintage. Also reinforced is our love for Optima – and for great Petite Sirah! Optima Winery is one of our most beloved Dry Creek Valley producers, and every wine that we sample from them pleases us with its balance and authentic fruit. In this wine, flavors and aromatics are through the roof, but the wine holds it all in check. It never overpowers, as some Petite Sirah may tend to do. Instead, this big and boldly flavorful wine shows an elegant side. And, for a wine with such big character, it makes a surprisingly good companion for complex food pairings. We enjoyed ours with a spicy brick oven pizza with pepperoni and jalapeno peppers. Drinking beautifully, now, this wine will likely continue to improve for up to a decade. Enjoy!
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Mike Duffy
DATE OF BIRTH: May 1959
PLACE OF BIRTH: Oregon
WINE EDUCATION: Graduate of UC Davis in Enology
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: When I finished my Enology degree from UCD in 1981, I was already employed as the Assistant Winemaker at Trefethen Vineyards in Napa Valley. “I was very motivated to earn my degree and start working after being a broke college student for so long. I moved to Field Stone as winemaker in 1988, studying under the legendary Andre Tchelistcheff. For nine years, I worked full-time at Field Stone, saving weekends to tend to my own fledgling winery, Optima.
SIGNATURE VARIETAL: Cabernet Sauvignon
Below is Agent Red’s recent interview with winemaker Mike Duffy.
AGENT RED: Greetings, Mike. I know how busy you are with harvest right now, so I really appreciate the opportunity to talk with you – if even for a few scant minutes, today.
MIKE: Yeah, we have been plenty busy. We crushed thirty tons of grapes today!
RED: Wow. Again, thanks. Tell me, was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
MIKE: Yes, I was raised around wine. My first job in High School was helping my parents, Bill and Della, at their wine shop, that is what sparked my interest. Later I played with making wine out of anything I could get out of my parents garden. I would take flats of strawberries, peaches and blackberries and craft them into wine. One time I even raided the rose bushes in the neighborhood so I could make a rose petal champagne
RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?
MIKE: UC Davis gave me an excellent technical background. It was the basis for my ability to solve problems when they arise. The experience of making wine came from getting in and getting dirty at my internship at Trefethen in 1980. That’s where it all came together for me. I have a unique work ethic and a strong mechanical background, both of which I have my father to thank for. Both those qualities served me well when I left the academic world and helped distinguish me from other classmates and co-workers.
RED: Great places to get your footing! What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
MIKE: Andre Tchelistcheff was the biggest influence on how I make Cabernet, and the greatest source of perspective, history and wine knowledge that I have been fortunate enough to have enjoyed. He approached the entire winemaking endeavor, from the vineyard in the spring, to harvest, and through barrel aging, as one integrated whole. I learned to take Alexander Valley Cabernet and to use its brilliant fruit as the basis for my wines. “Don’t bother making one of those huge Cabernets like many do in Napa, Mike. Anyone can make wines like those.” Andre would say. He inspired me to make a Cabernet that spoke to the virtues of Alexander Valley. A wine with an intense core of fruit and coco, balanced with vanilla and oak. Complex and powerful, yet subtle and soft. He also impressed on me the critical concept of not manipulating the wine, rather helping it become its best.
RED: You don’t know how many winemakers mention Andre as an influence! How long have you been making wine?
MIKE: Well one could say since I was a child, but 2009 was my 30th harvest in Napa and Sonoma. I still enjoy the “seasonality” of winemaking.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
MIKE: I began making wine for my own creative satisfaction. I worked for several top wineries that produced Cabernet, and there was always some step in the process when I said to myself, “If this were my wine I would do this differently”. That need to satisfy my own creativity from beginning to end is why I started my own winery when I was 25. My approach to winemaking combines art and practicality. “I always liked the honesty and hard work of agriculture and to me, winemaking is the ultimate fusion of agriculture and art.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
MIKE: Bottling and more bottling!
RED: Please share one thing about yourself that few people know
MIKE: I enjoy cooking; to me this is another form of taking an ingredient and using your creativity to make something incredible. My wife thinks I cook so well that she refuses to cook anymore. I love watching all of the cooking shows on TV, especially Iron Chef. I just can’t get enough, they are very inspiring.
RED:What is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?
MIKE: I enjoy drinking a dry Gewurztraminer from Sonoma County, Anderson Valley, or from the Alsace region of France. It’s a wonderful wine that you can drink alone or with Thai, Asian or Mexican food all of which I enjoy cooking and eating. The best examples have a depth and a perfume that is unbelievable.
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. Your Alexander Valley Cab is stupendous!
MIKE: Thanks, very much, Red. Now, back to the grapes!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of Optima Winery in Healdsburg can be seen in this satellite photo.