2007 Limited Release Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon •Fouche, Vadasz
California: Sonoma Valley
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Mission Codename: The Secret Reserves
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Acquire an exclusive Cabernet Sauvignon from our old friends at Blackstone Winery
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Blackstone Winery
Wine Subject: 2007 Limited Release Cabernet Sauvignon
Winemaker: Gary Sitton
The Sonoma Valley AVA is one of the oldest wine growing regions in California with the first vines being planted in the early 1800s. The AVA is located along California Route 12 and its eastern boundary are the southern end of the Mayacamas mountains. The unique micro-climate with less rainfall and fog than other parts of the region along with its unique soil provides ideal growing conditions for Cabernet Sauvignon and other red varietals.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – A dark and richly colored wine with an almost black core, a garnet body and ruby edges.
Smell – Rich and full, the nose is pure Cabernet with lots of currant, plum and cherry – mingling with wildflowers, chocolate and soft spice.
Feel – Vibrant, youthful, bright and alive in the mouth, but still in balance with layers of fine textures.
Taste – Leads with black and red fruit of black cherry, blackberry, plum and black currant. These mingle with soft spice, supple leather and a hint of bakers chocolate.
Finish – Long and lingering currant, tobacco, cherry cola and dry tannins.
Conclusion – This wine has lots of stuffing and powerful fruit, with good deep flavors from the heart of the Sonoma Valley. The palate is lush and giving with youthful fruit and the flavors are everything you would expect from a famed area such as the Sonoma Valley, with lots of intense red fruit drive this full Cabernet with touches of sweet oak, spice and firm tannins that hold it together nicely. Not usually available so go it for while you can get it, this Cabernet is drinking great now, but would also benefit from some short term cellar time, just getting richer as time goes by.
SUBJECT: Gary Sitton
DATE OF BIRTH: 09/73
PLACE OF BIRTH: Bakersfield, CA
WINE EDUCATION: Masters V&E, UC Davis
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: I started out driving tractor and pulling leaves in the vineyard. That gave way to my first winery job, working at a small Mom and Pop winery named Sommer Vineyards (3,000 case). It was there I developed a love for Sonoma County, it’s rich agricultural heritage, and the culture, people and lifestyle of the wine industry. From there I went to work in the cellar at Ravenswood, during the harvest of 1999, as I was pursuing my Masters degree in viticulture and enology at UC Davis. I worked at Ravenswood from Sept 1999 until the Spring of 2007 when I took over the head winemaker role at Blackstone.
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: I don’t subscribe to the more is better philosophy of oak, butter (malolactic), etc. I strive to make varietally correct wines which are representative of place. And because I am first and foremost a wine and food guy, I look to produce wines with good acid balance and structure, that favor finesse and complexity over power.
SIGNATURE VARIETAL: Merlot: it’s my goal to make Merlot sexy again. I feel many consumers have been sold a bill of goods about Merlot. It is a fabulous grape, which if managed properly can produce world class wines.
CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Oddly enough it’s not an accolade, or wine score, it’s the people I’ve worked with throughout my career, from grape growers, to my teams at Blackstone and Ravenswood.
WINEMAKER QUOTE: “It’s my goal to make Merlot sexy again”
AGENT RED: Greetings, Gary. We are thrilled to be showing your wine today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
GARY SITTON: It’s my pleasure. The greatest enjoyment I derive from winemaking is sharing the wines with people.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
GARY: People fall in love with wine in different ways. For some people it’s an epiphany after tasting a specific wine. For others it’s a memorable event which involves wine. For me, it was an unintended immersion into the Sonoma County wine industry. I stumbled into it through marriage…my wife Jill was born and raised on vineyards in Dry Creek and Alexander Valley. I started out driving tractor and pulling leaves in her family’s vineyard. That gave way to my first winery job, working at a small Mom and Pop winery named Sommer Vineyards (3,000 case). It was there I developed a love for Sonoma County, it’s rich agricultural heritage, and the culture, people and lifestyle of the wine industry. From there I went to work in the cellar at Ravenswood, during the harvest of 1999, as I was pursuing my Masters degree in viticulture and enology at UC Davis. I worked at Ravenswood from Sept 1999 until the Spring of 2007 when I took over the head winemaker role at Blackstone.
RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?
GARY: That’s a very difficult question to answer. I’ve learned different lessons at each stop in my winemaking journey. Starting at a small 3,000 case winery gives you the opportunity to do everything, from manual labor, to retail sales, to accounting, to winemaking. It gives you a great breadth of experience and perspective. My time at UC Davis gave me a great foundation to build upon, understanding the science behind grape growing and winemaking. My time at Ravenswood gave me a deep appreciation for how wines are affected by place, and it taught me to value deeply the relationship I have with my grape growers. And, my time at Blackstone has been an opportunity to synthesize all these components into my own wine style.
RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?
GARY: I don’t subscribe to the more is better philosophy of oak, butter (malolactic), etc. I strive to make varietally correct wines which are representative of place. And because I am first and foremost a wine and food guy, I look to produce wines with good acid balance and structure, that favor finesse and complexity over power.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
GARY: I would have to say it was Joel Peterson and the entire winemaking team at Ravenswood. As I said above they gave me an immense appreciation of place and its effect on grapes and the resultant wines.
RED: How long have you been making wine?
GARY: It’s hard to believe, but I’ve been making wine now for 14 years.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
GARY: At the end of the day I make wine first for myself, but always with an eye on the end wine drinker. What I mean by that is if you make wine by consensus, trying to please everyone, you will seldom produce a distinctive high quality wine, and the wines will often lack consistency. So I first make wines according to my taste, which incorporate specific elements depending on the who will be drinking them. For instance, if I am making a bottle of $10 Blackstone Winemaker’s Select Merlot, I will be making a wine that is intended to be more fruit forward, with an emphasis on a soft/supple mouthfeel, which can be drunk right now. If I am making a $20 bottle of Sonoma County Merlot, I will be making a wine that while fruit forward, will have more structure and tannin.
RED: Tell me, what makes Sonoma County so special?
GARY: The diversity of the growing regions, soil types, and microclimates is what makes Sonoma County so special. We do Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (from Russian River, Sonoma Coast, and Sonoma Carneros) equally well as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon (Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley, and Sonoma Valley). This diversity really lends itself to the production of many distinctive, unique wines.
RED: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?
GARY: Be true to yourself. This goes along with the question above as to “who you make wine for”. At the end of the day you have to be confident enough, and comfortable enough in your own skin, to know you can’t please everybody. While sharing my wines with people is the most rewarding part of my job, it can also be difficult when people don’t like necessarily resonate with them. I guess that’s what I mean when I say you can’t make wine to try and please everyone. I feel the most distinctive, consistent, and high quality wines are made by people who have the confidence to make wines according to their particular vision.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
GARY: Most of my time is currently spent on blending. I’ve just finished the 2009 Sonoma Reserve Pinot Noir and Chardonnay blends, and I’m presently working on the 2008 red blends. I’m also spending a lot of time in the vineyards assessing the start to this year’s vintage.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today
GARY: Our home is in Kenwood, in the heart of Sonoma Valley, so it is important to me we make wines which capture the character of this amazing growing area. Because of its orientation, Sonoma Valley is little bit cooler say, than Alexander Valley and Dry Creek Valley to the North. It gets more wind and cool coastal air blowing in from the gap in coastal mountains to the west. And to the south, we butt-up against the Northern most portion of San Francisco Bay, San Pablo Bay. But it is warmer than Russian River, or Sonoma Coast. Too me this is an ideal area to grow Cabernet Sauvignon, producing wines of exceptional balance.
2007 was a fabulous vintage. We had a warm dry spring, and with the exception of one heat spike at the beginning of Sept, we had a long cool summer. This is ideal for allowing the flavors in the grapes to slowly mature and develop without the sugars getting too high.
The 2007 Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon from two vineyards at the opposite ends of Sonoma Valley. The Fouche Vineyard is a hillside vineyard at the Northern end of Sonoma Valley. It rests on South-facing slopes and has shallow rocky soils. It produces a wine with concentrated black fruit (berry, plum) flavors, balanced with olive, cedar, spice, and leaner tannin structure with great length. The Vadasz Vineyard is situated on the bluffs west of Sonoma at the Southern end of Sonoma Valley. The block of Cabernet for this blend is also a hillside vineyard, which faces west, so it has sunlight well into the evening during the growing season. It is a long slow-ripening block which is almost always the last block we pick each year. It produces a big fruit forward Cabernet with ripe black fruit characters, and a rich supple mouthfeel. I like blending the two together because I feel the herbal notes, spice/minerality, and length of the Fouche, compliment the ripe black fruit flavors and richness of the Vadasz. Together they make a complex, balanced Cab Sauv which I feel represents the best of Sonoma Valley.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
GARY: Personally, I love to hang out on the patio, grilling with family and friends. I think the 07 Sonoma Valley Cab Sauv is exceptional with a grilled rib-eye steak, grilled pork-chops, or even grilled lamb shanks.
RED: Please share one thing about yourself that few people know
GARY: When I was fresh out of college I spent a brief stint as an aspiring professional soccer player in the US and abroad.
RED: What is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?
GARY: This is one of the most common questions I receive as a winemaker, and I truly must say I do not have a favorite. It’s a bit like asking someone what their favorite song, or type of music is. For me it is determined by the weather, the food I’m having, and my mood. I love equally French Champagne, Rhone wines (from Syrah based to Grenache based), Bordeaux, California Zinfandel, Sonoma County Merlot, Rose… you get the idea.
RED: How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?
GARY: I recommend approaching wine boldly and without being afraid to experiment. Forget about wine scores, high prices, and all the romance of the wine industry, and start trying things you haven’t tried before. You will try some things you don’t like, but in the process you’ll learn what you do like, and you’ll be awakened to so many knew things. And even more importantly you’ll begin to appreciate the value in wine…that you don’t have to pay $30+ to get a great bottle.
RED: If you could choose any one wine to drink (regardless of price or availability), what would it be?
GARY: I truly can’t point to a single wine which I would choose above all others.
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!
GARY: Thanks, Red!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of Blackstone Winery’s tasting room in Sonoma can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the winery says
About This Wine:
Dark ruby in color, this wine has layers of complex aromas – red cherry, cassis, vanilla and spice. Initially sweet on entry, the wine broadens across the palate with rich flavors of red cherry, cassis, vanilla, savory herbs and bramble spice with a subtle edge of minerality. This Cabernet Sauvignon has a long satisfying finish, and will have a very long life, offering 10 to 15 years of aging potential.
The perfect accompaniment to grilled beef tenderloin with baked potatoes or lamb chops.
Growing Season/Vineyard Details: 2007 was an ideal growing season. We had early bud break, with a mild spring, and warm dry weather during set. Crop loads were slightly below average providing for good concentration and good flavour intensity. We endured an early September heat spike with daily temperatures well over 100oF, then we settled in for a very long cool summer with many foggy mornings. This provided for long hang time, the fruit achieving full tannin maturity, and flavour development, without high sugars and subsequently high alcohols. In all 2007 was a stellar growing season.
About The Winery:
Relax, unwind, and uncork a flavor bomb. When it comes to enjoying the big, rich fruit that’s Blackstone’s signature, no occasion is too small.
Blackstone Winery was founded in 1990 with the goal of producing approachable, full-bodied, well-balanced wines. We believe in good friends, good food and juicy conversations-and our wines are the ideal complement.
We’re glad you dropped by. Please stay a while and learn more about our wines, check out upcoming events, or get tips for entertaining. We wish we could offer you a glass of Blackstone to enjoy while you explore-but if you visit our wineries in Sonoma Valley and Monterey County, we’ll make it up to you.
About The Winemaker:
Winemaker Gary Sitton, a Sonoma native with more than 10 years of winemaking experience in Sonoma county, is passionate about this winegrowing region. Gary believes that, “Sonoma County is one of the most fabulous places in the world to live and make wine. The wonderful combination of topography, landscape, weather, and people that is found here offers me the resources to make exactly the kinds of wines I like: expressive, rich and balanced, full of fruit and varietal character. I live here, work here, play here, and am raising a family here. That gives me a real insight into this region.” Gary holds a Master of Science in Enology and Viticulture from the renowned winemaking program at the University of California Davis.
Wine Style: Bold Red Wine
Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
Appellation: Sonoma Valley
Barrel Aging: 20 months; 60% French, 30% new, 20% American, 20% Hungarian
Bottling Date: May 20, 2009