Sangiovese •Estate Vineyard
California: Alexander Valley
What we say
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Mission Codename: Tuscany, California
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Sausal Winery and secure their 2007 Sangiovese for our Operatives around the world
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Sausal Winery
Wine Subject: 2007 Sausal Family Winery Sangiovese
Winemaker: Dave Demostene
Backgrounder: Our Operatives have been eagerly awaiting our return to Sausal, and today we have procured a limited allocation of their fantastic 2007 Alexander Valley Sangiovese, a wine that delivers a fantastic drinking experience – especially for its low price.
Varietal Backgrounder: The most widely planted grape in all of Italy, Sangiovese is used in everything from blended inexpensive table wines like Chianti, to the finest Super Tuscans. Italian immigrants introduced this varietal to the U.S. in the 1800’s. First plantings of this grape in the Sonoma County region were legendary and today, some of the most exciting California Sangiovese are found there. For today’s wine, Agent Red received a secret dispatch from most trusted confidential informants. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes on this great wine, followed by his mission report, to learn more about today’s old-world-in-California wine
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deeply dark red, with black cherry hues with clarity through its darkening heart. At the edges of the wine, a band of ruby rings the glass. On swirling, the wine leaves behind skinny, wine-stained legs that start high on the glass.
Smell – Leads with smoky black cherry, softly burnt plum, burnt sugar, oak, crushed dried violets, clove and a hint of tomato stem.
Feel – Soft and round at the very tip of the tongue, then the wine gradually reveals fine tannins as a soft dryness spreads around the entire palate. Eventually, the palate is left with an overall mineral dryness that puckers the lips and drys the tongue and cheeks.
Taste – Sweet and tart at the same time, the wine leads with smoked cherry, dried red flower petals, dusky blackberry, black tea, young strawberry, subtle dark mixed spice and minerals.
Finish – This wine starts sweet and then goes tart and smoky as the soft tannins gradually dry the mouth as minerals and dark spice support the long and gradual tailing off of flavors.
Conclusion – Once again, Sausal impresses us – deeply – with the fantastic value of their wonderfully delicious wines. We were lucky to have featured their Zinfandels, earlier this year, and our Operatives purchased the wines in record numbers. When I tasted today’s 2007 Sangiovese, I knew that I needed to procure as many cases as possible. This wine packs in a ton of flavor, with bold fruit that shines through with additional flavors of spice, dried flowers and black tea. Pair this wine with anything bold or hearty. A grilled steak, spicy pasta or pizza would all be easy matches with this wonderful wine. If you love great Sangiovese, this budget-minded wine delivers big!
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Dave Demostene
WINE EDUCATION: After graduating from Cal Poly and completing the wine enology program at Davis, I worked for 17 years with my father who was a winemaker
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Sausal Winery, Winemaker since 1973
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: The less you do to the wine the better
WINEMAKER QUOTE: It takes good grapes to make good wine
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: 1974
AGENT RED: Greetings, Dave. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
DAVE: You’re welcome!
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
DAVE: I grew up in the wine business, watching and helping my father make wine… this was way before it was popular. It was just our way of life then: Growing grapes and making wine.
RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?
DAVE: I learned by watching my father and in those days if someone made a good wine you’d ask them how they made it and they would tell you. It was a small industry then and everyone shared what they did or would be happy to help you out.
RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?
DAVE: I try to get away from the heavy fruit and high alcohol wines. I like a more balanced wine.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
DAVE: My Dad
RED: How long have you been making wine?
DAVE: I’ve been making wine all my life. I started working in the winery when I was 14 years old, after school and on weekends. I did everything: Shoveling pumice, pumping over, and racking wine.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
DAVE: I make wine that I like and our customers seem to like that too.
RED: Tell me, what makes the Alexander Valley so special?
DAVE: The soil and micro climate make this a good area. We have well drained soil, warm days with cool nights and a breeze that blows through the valley. Perfect growing conditions.
RED: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?
DAVE: Get your basics at school, but then find a winery that makes wine you like to get your apprenticeship from. Work a harvest there to learn how its done.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
DAVE: This is a busy time at the winery. The vines are growing so we are watching and tending to them. We are bottling wines that are ready, and topping the barrels of wines that are still maturing.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today
DAVE: Sangiovese is a medium bodied Italian varietal. We planted these 5 acres over 20 years ago on the lower end of the Sausal Ranch. The soil there has great drainage and Sangiovese likes that. The vines were trained on a quadrilateral cordon to increase their sun exposure and help control the vigor of the vine. This allows us to harvest the grapes about mid season at 24 brix with bright fruit. I age this wine in a combination of French and American oak, but mostly neutral barrels. Sangiovese is a delicate wine and I don’t want it to be over powered by oak. The result is lively red wine with bright red fruit and a hint of toasted sweet spice.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
DAVE: Our Sangiovese pairs wonderfully with pastas, pizza and grilled meats, as well as fruit and cheeses. Great for summer dinners. It also pairs well with Thanksgiving dinner.
RED: Please share one thing about yourself that few people know
DAVE: I like to hunt. Mostly pig, deer and elk
RED: What is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?
DAVE: You can’t go wrong with any Sausal Family wine!
RED: How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?
DAVE: Our wines are ready to drink when they are released and are made to be enjoyed with food.
RED: If you could choose any one wine to drink (regardless of price or availability), what would it be?
DAVE: Sausal Century Vines Zinfandel. That wine is made from vines that are over 130 years old. It’s soft and elegant. A perfect afternoon sipping wine. For a more value-minded wine, definitely today’s Sausal Sangiovese.
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!
DAVE: Thank you very much, and I hope you enjoy our wine.
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Sausal winery can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the winery says
Awards & Accolades:
About This Wine:
Sangiovese is a Tuscan varietal often associated with Chianti. Our Sangiovese is 100% estate grown on the Sausal Ranch in Alexander Valley. This wine is bright and tart with red fruit, but also has a wonderful spice that is characteristic of Alexander Valley. Our Sangiovese pairs wonderfully with pastas, pizza and grilled meats, as well as fruit and cheeses. A typical Sangiovese, it drinks fruity and bright now, but if you choose to cellar this wine it will get spicier and earthier over the next six years.
About The Winery:
Just outside of Healdsburg on Hwy 128 in the heart of Alexander Valley you will find Sausal Winery, a small family owned winery that produces award winning wine. Owned by the Demostene Family, Sausal Winery consistently produces premium estate bottled Old Vine Zinfandels (Family Zinfandel, Private Reserve Zinfandel, and Century Vine Zinfandel), Estate Sangiovese, and Estate Cabernet at reasonable prices.
The Demostene family history reads like a short course in the history of the Alexander Valley from the turn of the century. In 1901, Manuel Demostene, a native of Genoa Italy, began work on a ranch in the Valley. Soon thereafter, another Italian immigrant Abele Ferrari (pictured left) accepted work at Italian Swiss Colony in nearby Asti.
A mechanical whiz, Ferrari soon purchased the Healdsburg Machine Shop and began manufacturing winemaking equipment. Most notable was the Healdsburg Crusher for which he held 11 patents. During prohibition Abele’s business faltered along with all other wine-related industries.
Abele never lost faith and in 1923, after a steady decline in property values he seized the opportunity to purchase Soda Rock Ranch and Winery in the Alexander Valley. After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the enterprising Abele Ferrari completely rebuilt the old stone winery using recycled materials.
Romance brought the first two generations of Italian immigrants together. In 1936, Manuel Demostene’s son, Leo married Abele Ferrari’s daughter, Rose. The young couple established their new home at Soda Rock Winery where Leo took over duties as winemaker.
Leo’s dream was to have a winery of his own one day and in 1956 Leo and Rose took the first step by purchasing Sausal Ranch. A 125 acre property planted to prunes, apples and zinfandel wine
grapes. Many of the original vines were quite old and clearly established prior to the publication of an 1877 atlas of the area.
For old-timers like Leo it was a simple fact of life that the Alexander Valley was best suited for growing red wine grapes. With the help of his four children – Dave, Ed, Peachie and Cindy- scores of acres of new zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon plantings were installed over the next decade. During this time the entire family continued to help their grandfather at Soda Rock Winery aware that the knowledge gained there would be of real benefit someday.
Leo’s dreams of converting an old prune dehydrator into a winemaking facility at Sausal Ranch were not realized before his death in 1973. That same year however, after a remarkable effort from his children Leo’s sogni d’oro, his “golden dream”, was fulfilled.
This brings us to the third generation of this winemaking family. Dave, Ed, Peachie and Cindy have turned their father’s dream into a reality and each play a key role in keeping the dream alive.