Archive for Pinot Noir

2007 Domenico Wines Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

Posted in California, Pinot Noir with tags , , , on August 19, 2011 by thewinespies

Mission Codename: Patrimonio e la Tradizione Italiani

Operative: Agent White

Objective: Return to the Santa Cruz Mountains and secure a Pinot Noir that characterizes the unique Terroir of the region.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Domenico Wines

Wine Subject: 2007 Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir

Winemaker: Dominick Chirichillo

Backgrounder:

The Santa Cruz mountains, just North of Monterey (another great Pinot-producing region), are home to a small handful of lucky growers and producers. Pinot Noir grown in the region tend to be more concentrated and robust, with character that is more Burgundian than a traditional California Pinot. Today’s wine showcases the fresh and unique Santa Cruz wine region very well.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Bright and clear ruby red with a clear dark ruby red heart. Along the edges the color lightens slightly to a ruby-pink hue and when swirled widely spaced medium thick legs of randomly speeds slowly descend to the wine below.

Smell – Rich and aromatic with earthy and smokey red fruit including red cherry, strawberry and raspberry are framed by a forest scented earthy undertone. Notes of smokey oak along with exotic and brown spice invite a sip.

Feel – Smooth and dry, this medium bodied wine has soft supple tannins supported my bright but not aggressive acidity and earthy minerality.

Taste – Fresh and sweet in the initial attack with earthy red fruit including red cherry, raspberry and strawberry and are followed by tart and tangy red fruit including cranberry and cherry pit. The same earthy forest undertones, brown and exotic spice and soft vanilla toasted and smokey oak round out the nicely balanced flavor profile.

Finish – Medium in length and very clean with lingering sweet red fruit components that fades as the tart and tangy cherry pit fruit lingers with the other complex flavors.

Conclusion – The 2007 Domenico Wines Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir showcases the unique earthy red fruit and lighter bodied character of Santa Cruz Mountain Pinot fruit very well. Bright, fresh and sweet red fruit greet you on the nose, pleases the palate and lingers into the finish. Earthy notes, spice and soft wood adds complexity and a structure that is not overbearing, but sturdy enough, this wine is perfect to serve your your appetizer course, salad or with lighter grilled meats such as pork and chicken. Enjoy tonight or cellar for three to five years.

Mission Report:

WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER

SUBJECT: Dominick Chirichillo

WINE EDUCATION: Self taught winemaker, I started making wine with my Italian Grandfather Domenico Giovinazzo in a basement in Staten Island New York when I was probably 2 years old, and continued until college. He made wine with California grapes shipped into the produce dealers. I then picked up wine making in 1987 making 2 barrels with my Brother Patrick in a 1000 sg ft basement in Seaside Heights New Jersey; using my Grandfathers press and hand crusher.
I shared the wine and the excitement of winemaking with family and friends and invited everyone I talked about it, and come make wine with us, we went from 2 to 20 barrels the next year and expanded to 67 barrels over the next few years then moved to a 3000 sg ft facility and got up to 300 barrels and launched the Bacchus School of Wine. I kept that going for a number of years then Franchised the concept in 1997 sold 4 franchises in NJ until 2001.
In 1998 I moved my wife Gloria and our 2 sons Nick and Matt to Half Moon Bay California, I commuted to NJ till 9/11 happened and our first Franchisee died in the World Trade Center Bombing. At that point my wife and I rethought our dream and decided it was time to pursue our dream in California. We then decided it was time to stop the franchising and start something in California.
We unraveled our franchise business, kept our New Jersey, Bacchus operation and in late 2001 planted a 8 acre vineyard in Amador County 5 acres of Syrah and 3 acres of Primitivo. In June of 2004 we opened our Urban winery on the Peninsula in San Carlos, CA. and became members of the Santa Cruz Mountain Winegrowers Association, we source Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from that viticultural region. Since we opened Domenico Winery named in honor of my Grandfather I have received 300 winemaking awards.

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Owner and wine maker.

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Less is better! Let the vineyard and the grapes make good wine.

WINEMAKER QUOTE: I enjoy making in your face red wines.

FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: (DATE) June 2004


WINEMAKER INTERVIEW

AGENT RED: Greetings, Dominick. We are thrilled to be showing your 2007 Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

DOMINICK CHIRICHILLO: Thanks agent red, I’m excited to have The showcase my Santa Cruz Pinot Noir, I think that the Santa Cruz Mountain growing region is one of California’s hidden wine treasures, I love sharing the wine and the long winemaking history of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

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

DOMINICK: YES my experience growing up in an Italian family and the many times I was lucky to learn the basics of winemaking from my grandfather, Domenico Giovinazzo.

RED: Who do you make wine for?
.

DOMINICK: I first make wine to satisfy my selfish love of food and wine, and more specifically make wines to pair with food

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

DOMINICK: The Vineyard is small family vineyard located on a hilltop close to Mount Madonna, not far from Corallites. The vineyard has a spectacular view of the Monterey Bay, and gets those foggy mornings and sunny afternoons that Pinot Noir loves. Medium-bodied with aromas and flavors of strawberry, cherry and smoky oak.

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

DOMINICK: Pairs with roasted chicken, lamb filet mignon, pate, goat cheese, Brie , walnuts, strawberries and cream or white chocolate.

RED: In your opinion, what makes the Santa Cruz Mountains such a special place for Pinot Noir?

DOMINICK: The soils, the weather conditions; cool nights, foggy mornings, and sunny afternoons.

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

DOMINICK: Bottling, and preparing the winery for crush!

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

DOMINICK: with an open wine, and willing to try new wines.

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

DOMINICK: I love what I do and I love sharing my wine and spending time with our winery wine club members and especially new customer that find their way into the winery.

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 Domenico Wines Tasting Room can be seen in this satellite photo.

2010 Martin Ray Winery Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir

Posted in California, Pinot Noir with tags , , , on August 12, 2011 by thewinespies

Mission Codename: Intensive

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Return to Martin Ray Winery, and procure their newest Santa Barbara Pinot Noir, a wine reputed to be a perfect example of Pinot from the region. If the wine is as good as reported, procure an ample cache for our Operatives

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Martin Ray Winery

Wine Subject: 2010 Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County

Winemaker: Bill Batchelor

Backgrounder:

Santa Barbara County’s Pinot Noir may have become famous by the movie Sideways, but the tradition of wine growing and winemaking dates back to the Spanish missionaries but after prohibition many of the vines disappeared. In the early 1970s vines began to reappear and in just a few years, however unlikely, the region began to develop a reputation for producing exceptional Burgundian varietals rivaling Oregon and New Zealand in the production of exceptional Pinot Noir.

Santa Barbara County’s climate is influenced and tempered by the Pacific Ocean. The county’s soils of sand and clay loam suits Pinot Noir exceptionally well.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Deep magenta hues give this wine a beautifully unique look. Color is deeply concentrated, from core to edge. After swirling, slow, wine-stained tears start high up on the glass.

Smell – Earthy raspberry leaps from the glass, followed by black cherry, young strawberry, softly smoky red plum and cranberry. Underneath, notes of soft spice, cedar and bramble peek out.

Feel – Vibrant and soft, this wine starts of cool and light across the front-palate. Then, very gradually, the wine take on a medium weight as it settles onto the mid-palate. Plush tannins make a gradual appearance, giving the wine depth and structure.

Taste – Bright red fruit leads the charge. Young strawberry, Bing cherry, raspberry and cranberry give way to follow-on flavors of bramble, cigar box, subtle black tea leaf and a hint of black pepper.

Finish – Long and evolving, this wine starts red and then goes decidedly more earthen with fruit flavors gently yielding to bramble and a hint of black pepper – at the very end.

Conclusion – On opening, this wine was somewhat shy on the nose and palate. We decanted for 30 minutes, and were rewarded with quite a different wine! After decanting, new aromas and flavors emerged, and the wine became distinctly softer and more flavorful. One thing that we love about Pinot Noir is that it is the one California wine that shows off Terroir or the sense of place that the wine hails from. This wine is decidedly Santa Barbara, in that it delivers characteristic , aromatics and texture. This is a fantastic Pinot Noir that delivers value way beyond its price. Enjoy this special Pinot on its own, or with a tangy barbecued chicken.

Mission Report:

WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER

SUBJECT: Bill Batchelor

WINE EDUCATION: No formal winemaking education. Degree in Anthropology. Learned most of what he knows by having excellent opportunities in wineries that make all types of wines at different price points.

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Bill began his career in the wine industry in 1996 working in the cellar at a small Dry Creek Valley winery specializing in Rhone and Italian varietals.

Bill soon moved on to the Russian River Valley to work for a large custom-winemaking facility. Initially hired to oversee a hard apple cider program, Bill quickly learned the fundamentals of commercial wine production – fermentation, aging, fining, blending and bottling – in a fast-paced, high-volume environment. Over the next five years Bill managed winemaking programs for a diverse portfolio of wineries.

In 2001, Bill concentrated his efforts on managing wine production for the rapidly growing Blackstone brand, eventually relocating to Sonoma Valley to oversee their new reserve micro-winery.
In July 2003, Bill joined Courtney Benham at his new Russian River Valley winery and has since worked to develop the Martin Ray and Angeline family of wines. Today, Bill and his team are dedicated to producing high quality, distinctive wines sourced only from premium

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Work with the vineyards to grow the best possible fruit. If you begin with a great foundation, the rest of the winemaking should be relatively simple.

WINEMAKER QUOTE: ”Strive to constantly improve and refine your work.”


WINEMAKER INTERVIEW

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

BILL BATCHELOR: You’re welcome. I am happy to be able to share some insight into what we are all about at Martin Ray.

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

BILL: The reality is I was at a time in my life when I needed a proper, steady job. I managed to get a seasonal cellar position at a small Dry Creek Valley winery. On my third or fourth day there I was tasked with filling all their empty barrels with water in preparation for harvest. Pretty mindless work. So I found a huge stack of wine trade magazines and enology books in the winemaker’s office. I spend two days up there in the fixed barrel racks reading everything I could, completely fascinated. When it was all done I realized this industry had a lot of potential.

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

BILL: A local winemaking consultant named Kerry Damskey has taught me a lot about how to make wines in different styles.

RED: We are very familiar with Kerry Damskey’s fine work. Tell me, who do you make wine for?

BILL: I make wines for people that enjoy drinking wine. I strive to deliver something they will enjoy and remember. You can’t please everyone all the time, but that is the goal, and I like to over-deliver on flavor and value. The trick is to realize there are different types of consumers at different price points with varying palettes and expectations, and I enjoy crafting wines for every type of wine drinker.

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

BILL: Our goal is to allow the wine to develop its own depth and distinctive characteristics. Three days “cold-soaked”, gentle punch-downs, fermented at cool temperatures with native yeasts and eight months of aging in French oak barrels develops a rounder, creamier texture in the wine. The 2010 Santa Barbara County Pinot noir has a balanced, ripe aroma profile of juicy, cranberry-raspberry fruit highlighted by a touch of earthiness. The soft, textured palate of inviting bright cherry is layered with flavors of rhubarb, smoke, forest floor and spice. This Pinot has excellent structure and a full finish.

Regarding the vintage, the 2010 harvest was one of the strangest growing seasons on record. This long, slow, cold season had us about 3-4 weeks behind schedule and a small window of time to bring in all the fruit. Although the season has been bizarre, this will be the harvest of “super berries”. Due to moderate ripening at cool temperatures, the grapes have retained good levels of acid so we have very balanced fruit that has achieved ripeness at lower brix. Therefore, we have lower yields of fruit, with lower alcohol and sugar levels, great color and amazing flavors.

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

BILL: Try this Pinot Noir with poached salmon in cream sauce, pork with mushrooms or roasted Cornish game hen.

RED: In your opinion, what makes the Santa Barbara such a special place for Pinot Noir?

BILL: The grapes for our Martin Ray 2010 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir are grown in the Loma Verde Vineyard in the Los Alamos Valley appellation. This east-west running valley opens up to the Pacific Ocean, allowing the inland flow of fog and ocean breezes, making this region one of the coolest viticultural areas in California, with a long, steady growing season. Pinot Noir grapes from this region have intense berry flavors and rich colors due to the many microclimates of the valley.

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

BILL: Preparing for the 2011 Harvest which we expect to begin in early September. Our Enologist, Asst. Winemaker, Vineyard Manager and myself have begun visiting of our vineyards throughout the state monitoring sugar levels, fruit quality, etc. trying to gage when each crop will be ready for harvest.

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

BILL: Most are meant to be enjoyed at any time and with friends, dinner or whatever. I advise people not to over-think wine – just drink and enjoy. We do make several Cabs (including the one you are featuring today) which could be laid down for a few years, but in general, our wines are ready to drink upon release. There are 1000s of wines available these days, so if you don’t like one, try another. Exploration is half the fun.

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

BILL: Please enjoy our 2008 Reserve Chardonnay and come pay our tasting room a visit! Thanks.

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 Martin Ray Winery in Santa Rosa can be seen in this satellite photo.

2009 Armida Winery Castelli-Knight Vineyard Pinot Noir

Posted in California, Pinot Noir with tags , , , , , , on August 9, 2011 by thewinespies

Mission Codename: Bring on the Knight

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Return to multi-year favorite, Arimda Winery. Secure their newest single vineyard Castelli-Knight Ranch Pinot Noir for our Pinot-loving Operatives.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Armida Winery

Wine Subject: 2009 Castelli-Knight Ranch Pinot Noir – Russian River Valley

Winemaker: Brandon Lapides

Backgrounder:

The Russian River Valley, in Sonoma County, produces Pinot Noir of remarkable distinction. The cooler maritime conditions of the region make the Russian River Valley ideal for growing Pinot Noir. The Russian River Valley in Sonoma is particularly well suited to producing exceptional Pinot Noir. This 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 Castelli-Knight Ranch named after Steve and Glenda Castelli and their daughter and son in law Sheri and Rob Knight, is a 9-acre ranch planted in 1997 with about 8,000 vines. Approximately half of those vines are Pinot Noir (Pommard clone 4, and Dijon clone 115), all of which is sold to Armida Winery. This rolling hillside vineyard sits in a bowl above the Russian River. The soil is sandy loam and red clay, and stresses the vines just enough to create perfectly small, intensely flavored berries.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Striking garnet, with perfect clarity. Color is evenly concentrated, right out to the very edge of the wine, where color falls off to nearly clear. When swirled, thin, tightly-spaced legs take a very long time to emerge before moving slowly downward.

Smell – Soft spiced cherry is the lead note, but this is soon overtaken by dusty bramble, blackberry, soft cedar and subtle toasty vanilla.

Feel – Cool and smooth on the attack, the wine feel s quite light at the tip of the tongue. Then, at the mid-palate, the wine firms up and shows off a bigger medium bodied structure. Smooth tannins give the wine a mouth-filling quality.

Taste – Dark cherry, softly smoky blackberry & plum jam (that is more fruit than smoke), toasty vanilla, cedar, black tea, blueberry and stewed black fig that has been ever-so-slightly burned.

Finish – Very long and clean with fruit that slowly gives way to spice, black tea leaf and toasty oak at the tail end.

Conclusion – The 2009 Castelli-Knight Ranch Pinot Noir from our good friends at Armida Winery is a delicious and focused wine that, despite its relative youth, is drinking really beautifully. The wine is a little shy at first, so we recommend decanting. After decanting for at least 30 minutes, the wine really opens up and lets loose with softer, more flavorful fruits and bigger aromatics. Very well-structured and bright, this is a very food-friendly wine. We paired ours with angel hair pasta with tomato sauce with plenty of crumbled Parmesan cheese. Enjoy now, and be sure to cellar a few bottles for the next several years.

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the Armida

2008 Dutch Bill Creek Winery Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Posted in California, Pinot Noir with tags , , , , on August 1, 2011 by thewinespies

Mission Codename: Aromatisch

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Send Agent Red to Dutch Bill Creek Wines, whose grapes are grown by the Heintz family, a Wine Spies Operative favorite. Sample their estate-grown Pinot Noir and, if the wine meets our strict quality standards, secure an ample allotment for our Pinot-loving Operatives.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Dutch Bill Creek Wines

Wine Subject: 2008 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley

Winemaker: Kevin Kelley

Backgrounder: Today’s wine hails from Heintz Ranch Vineyards, under their original label, Dutch Bill Creek Wines. This label was created in recognition of one of the early settlers of the town of Occidental, CA, named William “Dutch Bill” Howard and the creek that was later named after him. Heintz continues the tradition of crafting fine wines under this label – crafted from Heitz family estate fruit.

The list of wineries that purchase wines from Heintz Ranch Vineyards grapes is as long as it is impressive. The list includes a Who’s Who of award-winning, ultra-premium wine producers. Littorai, Oren Swift, Williams-Selyem, Suacci-Carciere and many others prize Heintz grapes for their superior quality. Today’s wine is made by Heintz from select Heintz Pinot Noir grapes.

If you loved the Heitz wine that we have previously featured, we assure you that you’ll love today’s just as much.

Varietal Backgrounder: The Russian River Valley, in Sonoma County, produces Pinot Noir of remarkable distinction. The cooler maritime conditions of the region make the RRV ideal for growing Pinot Noir. The Russian River Valley in Sonoma is particularly well suited to producing exceptional Pinot Noir. This 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. Read Agent Red’s mission report and tasting notes below for the full intel on this exciting wine.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – When viewed from the side, the wine shows an evenly concentrated dark red ruby hue. Viewed from the top – or when spinning – the wine shows more pinkish hues. At the edge of the glass, a thick band of pink encircles the wine. After swirling, skinny legs form high up on the glass, the run slowly down.

Smell – Bright Bing cherry, earthy raspberry, bramble and strawberry take a boldly aromatic lead. Add to these, follow-on aromas of brown tobacco, gunpowder and bacon.

Feel – very smooth and light on entry, this wine shows almost no weight – at first. As the wine crosses to the mid-palate, a medium weight and bright acidity settle in. After swallowing, finely integrated tannins drive a soft, crushed velvet feel around the palate.

Taste – Sweet Bing cherry, young strawberry and raspberry are the bold, sweet, initial flavors. These are closely followed by blackberry bramble, fig red plum skin and hints of tobacco leaf, rose petal and subtlest cinnamon.

Finish – Very long with lingering red fruit. The Bing cherry and strawberry really hang on for a long time, and are then replaced by dried rose petal and a hint of cinnamon at the tip of the tongue. As flavors fade, the wines bright acidity causes the mouth to water, reminding you to take another long sip.

Conclusion – This 2008 Dutch Bill Creek Winery Pinot Noir is fantastic, bright, juicy, delicious wine. Our tasting panel absolutely loved it, praising its tender mouthfeel and bright red fruit profile. We were not surprised, for every wine that hails from Henitz’ vineyards has been superb to our palates, this year. If you are a fan of juicy, fruit-forward Pinot Noir, this is an easy choice. And, while the fruit is certainly delicious, the more earthen flavors of the wine give it lovely balance. The wine shows off the terroir of the Russian River Valley, and the superb fruit of the vineyards. Oh, yeah. Let’s not forget the considerable skills of winemaker, Keven Kelley! Drinking beautifully now, this wine has the potential to progress over the next few years. We love this Pinot Noir as a Summertime wine, but our Fall holiday tables will also certainly see a few bottles on it, later this year. We think this wine will be the perfect compliment to a Turkey or Goose dinner.

Mission Report:

WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER

SUBJECT: Kevin Kelley

WINE EDUCATION: UC Davis

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Winemaker for Heintz , Dutch Bill Creek, Salinia and The NPA.

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Provide a clean safe environment for mother nature to work her magic.

WINEMAKER QUOTE: You can’t improve upon nature so don’t try.

FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: 2003


WINEMAKER INTERVIEW

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

KEVIN KELLEY: My Pleasure.

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

KEVIN: In High School I read a book called “Like Modern Edens” by Charles Sullivan that was about the beginning of grape growing and winemaking in California. I was so enthralled by it that I read another wine book and then another. I was hooked and the path was laid out in front of me. At the time I didn’t know that Charles Sullivan was the same Mr. Sullivan that was teaching English at my High School.

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

KEVIN: I find a huge amount of inspiration from the generational passing down of the winemaking craft. I did not have that because I did not come from a winemaking family and we have very little of here in California. There are a few pockets in the world that have been making wine the same way for generations, parts of Slovenia and Croatia for instance. They have resisted the modern winemaking trends circling the globe and are very unique because of that. Some of these wines are so pure and honest that it is hard not to be inspired by them. RED: Who do you make wine for?

KEVIN: I most certainly make wine for the consumer with the hope of allowing them to experience a definitive time and place through the wine.

RED: Heintz Ranch grapes find their way into some of the most sought-after California wines. Can you name a few wineries that benefit from Heintz grapes?

KEVIN: True there is great company out there, Littorai, William Selyem, Dumol, Flowers and Salinia just to name a few.

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

KEVIN: The vineyards actually as we are just starting to get into flowering which will not only dictate the crop for this year but influence next years as well.

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

KEVIN: Approach them with patience, these wines are meant to improve with age. When drinking them young, start the bottle cool, cold even and pour yourself a glass as you cook. Slowly let it warm up in your glass over time. Taking your time to enjoy the evening while watching the wine evolve in glass will reward you on many different levels.

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

KEVIN: Take your time, slow down and enjoy the moment. Those evenings spent with family, friends, food and wine are what memories are made of.

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 location of the Heintz Ranch vineyard can be seen in this satellite photo.

2008 Olivia Brion Heron Lake Vineyard Pinot Noir

Posted in California, Pinot Noir with tags , , , , , on July 29, 2011 by thewinespies

Mission Codename: The Suffragette

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Send Agent Red back to Olivia Brion, the only winery currently producing wine in the Wild Horse Valley to procure the latest vintage of their stellar Pinot Noir, a wine that proved extremely popular with our Operatives, the last time we featured it. Grown high above the valley floor, the cool climate of this unique AVA is perfectly suited to Pinot Noir.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Olivia Brion

Wine Subject: 2008 Pinot Noir – Wild Horse Valley

Winemaker: David Mahafey

Backgrounder: The Wild Horse Valley AVA is an American Viticultural Area whose borders overlap both Napa County and Solano County, California and is partially contained within the Napa Valley AVA. Despite the appellation’s southerly location, which results in more hours of sunshine than other locations in Napa Valley, the Wild Horse Valley enjoys a cool climate, approximating France’s Burgundy region. The Valley’s proximity to San Pablo Bay, which results in a cooler climate, makes the Wild Horse Valley attractive for the cultivation of grapes like Pinot Noir.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Deepest ruby, with a darker core of dark crimson. At the edge of the wine, a fine ring of vivid light pink encircles the wine. When the wine settles, after a good swirl, wine -stained tears begin high up on the glass. They begin slow and fat, and then go skinny as they glide their way to the surface of the wine.

Smell – Reminiscent of a French Burgundy on initial uncorking, as the wine opens up, it begins to express lush red fruit, beginning with dusky dark cherry, dark strawberry and smoked cranberry. These sit atop subtler rum cake, fresh morning forest, gentle clove, leather and cherry-sandalwood.

Feel – Plush up front, then voluptuous and round at the mid-palate. This medium-bodied wine has a bright acidity, which makes it an obvious companion for food. A moment after swallowing, a fine dryness gradually spreads from the edges of the palate, inward.

Taste – Earthen dark cherry mingles with tart cranberry, stewed mixed dark berries, soft clove, black tea leaf, autumn leaves, subtle darkly toasted oak and a hint of anise at the end.

Finish – Medium long, with red fruit yielding to the more earthen flavors of the wine. Soft spice and a hint minerals seem to increase as the fruit flavors diminish. Ultimately, a soft minerality and an easy dryness

Very long duration, with bright red fruits sustaining far longer than most other Napa Valley Pinot Noir. Brown spices encroach and eventually overtake the red fruit, ending in a mineral-rich black pepper spice that leaves the drinker craving another sip.

Conclusion – Once again, winemaker David Mahafey shows his considerable skill at making Pinot Noir. Of course, he begins with some of the most unique Napa Valley Pinot Noir grapes, grown in the Pinot-perfect Wild Horse Valley. This small sub-appellation of the Napa Valley benefits from an evening cooling that the rest of the valley does not enjoy. The terrain and coastal fog that rips across the valley makes this AVA a fantastic place to grow Pinot. This 2008 Olivia Brion Pinot Noir is another California Burgundian, that delivers plenty of character, without sacrificing the Cali fruit that has become so beloved. Pinot Noir is such a great varietal for showing off the concept of Terroir and the Terroir of the Wild Horse Valley is distinct – and certainly worthy of your attention in this wine. Of course, the wine itself is fantastic. It is bright, and it is bold, but it is also balanced and softly earthy. Enjoy this delicious wine, now, or cellar for up to seven years.

Mission Report:

WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER

SUBJECT: David Mahaffey

WINE EDUCATION: Taught wine production and wine study classes at Napa Valley College for ten years—I have a Masters degree in Education from Harvard

OTHER CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE WINE BIZ: Inventor and co-developer of an Ozone Sanitation system used by more than 800 wineries. Applied for and got Wild Horse Valley approved as AVA in 1987

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Transparency in the winemaking so that the vineyard specific qualities always shine through. WINEMAKER QUOTE:”Great Pinot Noir is always aromatically forward – it should reach out and grab you by the nose. If you have to suck whitecaps to smell it, its not great pinot”

FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: First Vintage 1980, first commercial wine release 1985


WINEMAKER INTERVIEW

AGENT RED: Greetings, David. We are thrilled to be showing your astounding 2008 Olivia Brion Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

DAVID MAHAFFEY: It’s great to be back with you, Agent Red. As you know, I’m always happy to pontificate about wine in general – especially my wine in particular.

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

DAVID: Yes, harvest 1979, rain threatening, last day of picking at Green & Red vineyard, the last box of grapes were dumped into the stemmer, the heavens opened and Biblical rain started… Followed by one of the great feasts of my life.

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

DAVID: I’m lucky enough to have been able to drink some really great Burgundy. The one that comes to mind is, ‘95 Musigny from Comte de Vogue – extraordinary fragrance and femininity. I’m sure I’d recognize if I ever got to taste it again. (now, however, a second mortgage would be necessary to do that)

RED: Who do you make wine for?

DAVID: If I can make myself happy, everybody else is going to be thrilled. Most of the time winemaking is a skilled craft, like being a chef, however, once in a while, an intuitive leap from my standard protocol really works and it feels like art has happened. That makes me happy.

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

DAVID: The ‘08 Olivia pinot is really showing its “spice rack”. > All the pie spices – cinnamon, cardamom, clove, and allspice – are more forward each week. It also has a nice broad and rich mid palette and amazing long finish.. The beautiful younger sister of the justly famous ‘07 Olivia Brion pinot.

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

DAVID: I’ve just returned from an amazing white water trip in the Yukon and Alaska and I brought home Sockeye Salmon that I caught on a fly rod. Dark orange salmon perfectly grilled on pinot vine cuttings with dark red Olivia pinot full of rich aromatics and spice flavors is my idea of a perfect meal!

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

DAVID: My winery has its own appellation, Wild Horse Valley. This AVA status was granted on three important factors – unique mineral rich soil type called the Trimmer series, its mountainous elevation, and the historic name of the valley. I have been growing grapes on this soil since 1980 and I can taste the minerals from the soil in both the pinot and chard!

The Wild Horse AVA was granted largely on a unique mineral rich volcanic soil called the trimmer series. The Pinot vineyard sits right on top of this soil. Add to that the 1200 foot elevation and a straight shot west to Bodega Bay. So you have all the factors for a great place to grow Pinot – shallow rocky soil, cool steady wind from the ocean and altitude for further cooling. Plus, I have been farming this spot of land for thirty years, so I’m off the flat part of the learning curve. Still lots to learn.. the difficult part about winegrowing is that you only get to bat once a year.

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

DAVID: We’ve just finished bottling the ‘09 pinot and chard, also lots of hand work in the vineyard doing cane positioning – really the first steps in the quality of the wine from the 2011 vintage!

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

DAVID: With reverence… OK, BULLSHIT! Wine is to make the pasta more interesting on Wednesday night! Serious answer—with curiosity, intent, and memory sensors set to 11.

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

DAVID: Please call and come taste my wines from the barrel and talk to me about wine.

RED: I have the feeling you’ll be seeing our Operatives, soon…. 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 vineyard where Olivia Brion was born can be seen in this satellite photo.

2009 Red Car Wine Boxcar Pinot Noir

Posted in California, Pinot Noir with tags , , , , on July 25, 2011 by thewinespies

Mission Codename: Tickets, please!

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Infiltrate Red Car Winery, in Sonoma County’s Pinot-perfect Sonoma Coast appellation. Sample their Pinot Noir and secure an allocation if the wine meets our highest quality standards.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Red Car Winery

Wine Subject: 2009 Boxcar Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Winemaker: Carroll Kemp

Backgrounder: For the last decade, Carroll Kemp and his accomplished team have been making California wines of remarkable distinction. Perhaps best known for their stunning Syrah, it is their Pinot Noir that caught our eye – and palate. Today’s wine delivers a wonder drinking experience, at a fantastic price. Today, we are proud to bring you Carroll’s wonderful 2009 Boxcar Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.

The Sonoma Coast AVA, established in 1987, is the area directly adjacent to the Pacific coastline of Sonoma County. The ocean’s influence causing a cooler, higher rainfall and foggy climate most influences the vineyards of this region, many of which have exceptional views of the mighty Pacific. These factors cause grapes to mature and ripen more slowly which is idea for Pinot Noir. The region is approximately 750 square miles with about 7,000 acres under vine.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Light ruby hues are the prevailing color. The wine has a slightly darker core and color remains concentrated, right out to its soft pink edges. When swirled, tightly spaced legs form high up on the glass, taking a very long time to reach the wine, below.

Smell – Rich and aromatic with earthy aromas and red fruit jumping from the glass. Spiced red fruit includes red cherry, dark raspberry, young strawberry. Earthy sweet tobacco, black tea and toasty oak mingle with a soft minerality and subtle black pepper.

Feel – Cool and light across the front-palate, this wine then gradually takes on a plush medium-bodied feel, with pronounced crushed velvet at the mid. Well structured, lively and complex with bright acids and fine to medium tannins. Light minerals appear as a soft dryness spreads from the mid-palate, outward.

Taste – Dark cherry and young strawberry and the primary fruit notes – at first. These mingle with earthy mushroom, dried fall leaves, black tea leaf and a hint of dried violet. As the wine opens up, subtle truffle, kola nut, a hint of black pepper and soft minerals add softness, depth and complexity.

Finish – Long and clean with ripe red fruit slowly yielding to the earthen flavors. At the very end, subtle minerals and black pepper linger as the palate slowly dries.

Conclusion – The 2009 Boxcar Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir from our new friends at Red Car Winery is a fantastic Pinot Noir that delivers a big, delicious drinking experience – at a really great value. While I was visiting with the winery, we got into a discussion of Terroir, or that sense of place that is expressed through a wine. Viticulturist, Paul Sequeira, concludes that Pinot Noir, more than any other varietal, expresses terrior. I could not agree more. Today’s wine comes from select vineyard sources around the Sonoma Coast, including the winery’s own estate vineyard. With a bountiful nose, a plush feel and a complex palate, this is a wonderful wine to enjoy all on its own, but we also recommend that you pair it – with almost anything. This is certainly a very food-friendly wine. Enjoy now or age for the next five years.

Mission Report:

WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER

SUBJECT: Carroll Kemp

WINE EDUCATION: On the job training

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: I started Red Car in 2000. This is my only job in the wine business. Previously, I was a film producer.

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Red Car combines modern viticulture with traditional winemaking to craft balanced, food friendly wines.

WINEMAKER QUOTE: ”Our aim is to faithfully give voice to the West Sonoma Coast’s cool-climate personality by producing wines that express fruit and terroir with equal regard.”

FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: 2000 vintage


WINEMAKER INTERVIEW

AGENT RED: Greetings, Carroll. We are thrilled to be showing your 2009 Box Car Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

CARROLL KEMP: We are thrilled as well.

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

CARROLL: In my previous career as a film producer I had the opportunity to visit France several times with Johnny Depp. We enjoyed many bottles of old burgundy together with friends overlooking the Mediterranean at the Hotel du Cap. I had never tasted wines of this quality before so I set out to learn as much about them as possible. This journey eventually inspired me to become a winemaker.

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

CARROLL: Henri Jayer. [ed. Note: French winemaster, Henri Jayer, was the most renowned Burgundy maker of his generation]

RED: Who do you make wine for?

CARROLL: Myself.

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

CARROLL: The 2009 Boxcar Pinot Noir is an elegant wine the pairs well with food and should age gracefully. Like most good Pinot Noir, it is built around its acid, not its tannins so it offers great purity and minerality.

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

CARROLL: Roast Chicken.

RED: In your opinion, what makes the Sonoma Coast so special?

CARROLL: The West Sonoma Coast is our home and our passion. Climate is the single most influential factor in determining the potential quality of fruit and the West Sonoma Coast climate is ideal: cool and temperate with a long, dry growing season that allows grapes to develop intense flavor without high sugar. This is cool-climate viticulture— literally on the edge—where grapes struggle to ripen on the margin of viability.

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

CARROLL: Bottling!

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

CARROLL: In the company of friends at the dinner table

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

CARROLL: I hope you enjoy drinking this wine as much as I enjoyed making it.

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 Winery Check:

The location of the tasting room, where Red Car’s incredible wines can be found, can be seen in this satellite photo.

2007 Stephen & Walker Trust Winery Monterey Pinot Noir

Posted in California, Pinot Noir with tags , , , , , on July 15, 2011 by thewinespies

Mission Codename: In Pinot We Trust

Operative: Agent White

Objective: Revisit our friends at Stephen & Walker Trust Winery and return with their delicious Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Stephen & Walker

Wine Subject: 2007 Monterey County Pinot Noir

Winemaker: Nancy Walker

Backgrounder:

Monterey County’s Santa Lucia Highlands boasts 5,900 acres of wine grapes and a near-perfect environment for cooler climate Burgundian varietals of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which makes up more than half of the grapes grown in this region. The reason for this massive proportion? Santa Lucia Highlands grows some of the best in the country! Spanish missionaries first planted grapes here 200 years ago but the 1970s saw a major revival in the region’s viticulture. And in 1991, the region officially became an AVA.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – A beautifully deep burgundy with ruby red reflections in its clear heart and along the edges. When swirled, this wine leaves widely space and random clusters of tin legs that cling to the side of the glass.

Smell – Classic coastal Pinot aromas of bright ripe and tart red fruit including red cherry, raspberry and other tart aromas are layered over a complex base of soft earthy undertones, tasted oak and vanilla and brown spices.

Feel – This dry and medium-to-full bodied is extremely smooth and plush with crushed velvet smooth tannins that awaken mid palate when the vibrant acidity makes its appearance. Soft textured minerality also spreads over the palate and lingers into the finish.

Taste – Fresh flavors of red cherry, raspberry, cranberry and a touch of baking spice and vanilla gives this wine a fresh and approachable. Hints of green herbs and soft briary blend with earthy and mocha notes and adds subtle complexity.

Finish – Long and smooth, with this wine’s fresh and tart red berries initially fading leaving behind notes of toasted oak and vanilla, soft spice and herbs and its earthy flavors framed by its smooth textured minerality and tannins while the acidity continues beyond.

Conclusion – The 2007 Stephen & Walker Monterey County Pinot Noir is a fantastic, and nearly ‘old world’ Pinot Noir with great complexity but not at the sacrifice of being very approachable and drinkable. Rich flavors and aromas along with its tart vibrant acidity makes this a great food wine. Enjoy this wine tonight and watching its aromas and flavors evolve in the glass. We enjoyed this wine with simple roast chicken seasoned with herbes de Provence and pomme frites.

Mission Report:

WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER

SUBJECT: Nancy Walker

WINE EDUCATION: Bachelor’s Degree UC Davis – Bacteriology! Now that’s a great school.

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: I’ve been winemaker for 29 years and love it! I’ve worked in the cellar, driven fork lift and operated every piece of equipment in the winery. I’ve worked Mendocino County, Sonoma County and a little Pinot Noir in Dundee, Oregon too.

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Ou-la-la! It’s all about great grapes and good winemaking experience. It’s so easy to make great wine when you start with great grapes.

FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: Wow – that’s a scary thought! Stephen & Walker released our first commercial wine 5 years ago and never looked back!! Me as a winemaker – I have a few more vintages under my belt!!


WINEMAKER INTERVIEW

AGENT RED: Greetings, Nancy. We are thrilled to be showing your 2007 Stephen & Walker Monterey County Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

NANCY WALKER: Thank, Agent Red. It’s great to be back on another covert mission with The Wine Spies.

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

NANCY: Yes, My Mom and Dad would load up the family station wagon and every 6 months we would travel to Napa and tour and wine taste with the entire clan. My parents served wine with every dinner, and we really celebrated family life every day. I loved exploring the wineries as a kid and finally came to realize that after college. I love cellar work and being in the thick of harvest with all the new wines, flavors and aromas!!

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

NANCY: Hmm. That’s a toughie. I have learned so much through the years – especially my years at Fetzer with all the fine winemakers there. I think my best experience as a young winemaker came at Clos du Bois under the tutelage of John Hawley. John is so creative and he really encouraged me to step out and have an opinion and utilize my tasting skills. Confidence is so important. It’s hard to believe that a winemaker isn’t just born with it!!

RED: Who do you make wine for?

WINEMAKER: Well, I always try to make the best wine possible from the grapes I’m working with. Yes, I make wine for myself, but I want to be the Best of the Best – SIR!!

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

NANCY: 2007 Pinot Noir Monterey is grown in the Santa Lucia Highlands just west of Salinas. It’s one of my most favorite areas for Pinot Noir grapes – that and Santa Maria Valley. I’ve worked with this vineyard for 6 years now and feel really comfortable with the wines that are resulting from that long relationship. I really think the first 3 vintages are just the introduction with a vineyard – after that the winemaker can really start to know the grapes and how the wine will turn out. It really is important for barrel choices, fermentation choices, etc.

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

NANCY: I enjoy this wine with fresh local breads, the cheeses here are to die for – Purple Haze (goat) is my favorite – the lavender changed the nose of the Pinot and makes it more red berry fruit. Sensational!!

RED: In your opinion, what makes Monterey County such a special place for Pinot Noir?

NANCY: Well it’s really that big blue pond out there – the Pacific Ocean. The wind picks up every single day as the interior parts of the valley heat up and it pulls the cool air from the Pacific Ocean right across the Salinas Valley, Arroyo Seco and SL Highlands. This cooling allows the Pinot to grow in bright sunshine, but not warm up and the results are spectacular. Monterey area is very dry, average rainfall there is super small – below 20 inches a year and all these things have an affect on the grape quality.

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

NANCY: I’ve started a new brand and we are working on getting that to market. Right now I’m preparing all the wines for bottling July 25th and that is super intense, we are pulling out of barrel and I’m tasting and blending the lots. It is such a rush to taste the new wines and realize the super high quality that is going to be available – yet another fantastic vintage for Stephen & Walker!! Yay!!

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

NANCY: Really – just enjoy at your leisure. Make sure to decant your reds and allow them to open up. Serve your wine in BIG, BIG glasses so you have a chance to really taste and enjoy them as they open and change too!!

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!

NANCY: Until next time, Agent Red. Stay covert!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The approximate location of the Santa Lucia Highlands, near Soledad, CA can be seen in this satellite photo.

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