2008 'The Impostor' Red Wine
What we say
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
Today’s unique and delicious blend from our friends at JC Cellars not only received top marks from both Wine Spectator and Robert Parker, but also blew our tasting panel away with its plethora of aromas and flavors!
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Mission Codename: False Identity?
Operative: Agent White
Objective: Revisit our friends at JC Cellars to acquire their delicious and unique ‘The Impostor’ Red Blend.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: JC Cellars
Wine Subject: 2008 ‘The Impostor’ Red Wine
Winemaker: Jeff Cohn
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, it is a unique and extremely flavorful blend of seven grapes including 39% Zinfandel, 29% Syrah, 22% Petite Sirah, 4% Tempranillo, 3% Carignan, 2% Grenache, 1% Viognier.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Beautifully dark and dense garnet purple with a dense inky but clear heart. Along the edges, the color shows its garnet tints and when swirled, tightly spaced clusters of fast legs race down the side of the glass.
Smell – Bold and rich in intensity with aromas of spiced dark bramble berries that are layered over smokey and toasted oak with hints of vanilla. Zesty and savory notes, a touch of licorice and floral violets.
Feel – Expansive on the palate, this full-bodied dry wine reaches the far corners of the palate with its firm but smooth ripe tannins and chewy vibrant acidity. Softly textured minerality blend with the well developed tannins and lingers long into the finish.
Taste – Rich and ripe black and red bramble berries, boysenberry and plum flavors generously hit right away as this wine’s layers of spice, toasted and smokey oak, earthy undertones and mocha follow. Savory notes along with hints of licorice and pepper also make their appearance.
Finish – Long and plush, this wine finishes clean with its ripe fruit and other flavors nicely evolving and begging for another sip.
Conclusion – The 2008 JC Cellars ‘The Impostor’ Red Wine is an amazingly abundant, complex and flavorful blend that brings together the best of its seven component varietals. Big on the nose, well structured but not abusive, great flavors and a finish that lingers. Definitely give this wine time to open up or decant it; cellar for up to five years or more. We enjoyed this wine with barbecued baby-back ribs with its smokey, savory and sweet flavors perfectly complement this fantastic wine.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Jeff Cohen
WINE EDUCATION: Masters of Agriculture Chemistry with an Emphasis in Enology, California State University, Fresno.
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Enologist, Asst, Winemaker , Winemaker Rosenblum Cellars 1996-2006. Owner/Winemaker JC Cellars 1997-Current
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: The less you do, the better off you are / If you ask if in needs to be cleaned, just clean it.
WINEMAKER QUOTE: ” Anything is possible / I am never satisfied.“
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: 1996
AGENT RED: Greetings, Jeff. We are thrilled to be showing your 2008 Importer today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
JEFF COHEN: My pleasure, always like to come out of the Barrel room for intrigue and excitement.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
JEFF: The first time I had Chateauneuf du Pape and a Ridge Fiddletown Zinfandel.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
JEFF: This is a constant. As I continue to experience wines from others. Zinfandel: Kent Ronsenblum, Syrah: Pierre Gaillard, Yves Gangloff, John Alban. Whites: Yves Cailleron, Yves Gangloff, Francois Villard.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
JEFF: Myself – and I hope that others will love it and buy it up, so I don’t have to drink it all myself.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
JEFF: The Impostor is a bit of a mystery wine. Each year it changes in its influence. Some years it’s more Northern Rhone, some years Southern Rhone. 2008 reflects the fact that I was doing more Spanish wines, this has old vine Carignan and Tempranillo. I really like this wine because of it’s darker side. Blackberry, dark cherry, sun drenched blueberry and wild raspberry that is infused with exotic spices.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
JEFF: Anything on the grill, chicken, steak, hamburger, sausages, even grilled vegetables. This wine is also the perfect pizza wine.
RED: In your opinion, what makes California Appellation fruit so special?
JEFF: I can bring the best fruit sources in for this wine and create the blend. This includes Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles and Santa Barbara.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
JEFF: Tasting through Barrels and on the road spreading the gospel of JC Cellars. I am also spending more time with family & friends.
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
JEFF: Never from behind, you might scare the cork out of the bottle. Always decant them, they love to breathe and strut their stuff. I even like to decant whites (not champagne)
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
JEFF: My goals are to let both the vineyard talk, but also listen to me. It’s like a marriage, you have give an take and maybe a fight or two, but if you work hard and remember it’s all about the passion in the end, the wine will reflect 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 Vineyard Check:
The location of JC Cellars tasting room, in Oakland, California, can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the winery says
Awards & Accolades:
91 Points – Wine Spectator – Rich and exotic, but complex and well-focused. Aromas of blackberry and smoky charcuterie lead to layered and ultraripe flavors of boysenberry, toasty caramel and Asian spices. Appealingly distinctive. Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Tempranillo, Carignane, Grenache and Viognier. Drink now through 2015.
91 Points – Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate – The 2008 Imposter Proprietary Red (39% Zinfandel, 29% Syrah, 22% Petite Sirah and the rest Tempranillo and Carignan) has turned out brilliantly. An earthy, peppery, spicy nose is followed by a dense purple-colored wine exhibiting blueberries, black raspberries, cherries and loamy soil underbrush-like notes. This Provencal-styled red can be drunk over the next 3-4 years.
About This Wine:
“After nearly two years your favorite Wine Spectator Top 100 wine is back! If you loved the 2007 ‘Impostor’ we are certain you will adore the 2008 vintage. You don’t have to wonder what’s behind the façade of this wine; we’ll let you in on the secret. The blend has changed a bit this time around, but the same 1% Viognier is the secret to producing an intriguing and delightful quaff.” – Jeff Cohn
The 2008 Impostor is as loaded as a wine can get. Full of over-the-top dark fruits and mysterious aromatics of spiced plum, wild game, graphite and dried currant. It gains depth and traction on the finish with complex minerality and chewy tannin.
About The Winery:
When Jeff Cohn was the winemaker at Rosenblum Cellars, annually he crafted more than 70 different wines. Today, at his Oakland-based warehouse winery, the irrepressible vintner now limits himself to a mere 21 bottlings, focusing on Rhône varietals. Cohn’s longtime relationships with some of California’s top growers and vineyards enable him to source some of the state’s finest fruit, including Rockpile in Sonoma County, Fess Parker in Santa Barbara County and Stagecoach in Napa.
About The Winemaker (& President of JC Cellars):
Jeff Cohn, the winemaker, president, and “JC” of JC Cellars got his start in the industry almost 20 years ago. As an intern at Boordy Vineyards in Maryland, he drove an hour and half each way to prune vines in frigid weather, pick grapes in stifling heat, and scrub everything from barrels to floors.
Long before he began his winemaking career he received an associate degree in culinary arts from Johnson & Wales University, and a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management from Florida International University.
Cohn had always loved the hospitality industry, and as he worked through several high profile positions after college he found his passion for wine steadily growing. The more he learned, the more he wanted to learn, until he realized that becoming a winemaker was his ultimate goal. The job at Boordy was a deciding factor in the trajectory of his career — in spite of all the scrubbing.
With the encouragement and support of his family, Cohn moved to California in 1993 to follow his dream. He earned his master’s degree in agriculture chemistry, with an emphasis on enology, from California State University, Fresno in 1996. It was here that Cohn discovered French winemaking techniques and the concept of terroir. “The flavor profile was so different than anything else I had ever tried,” he says of the first Chateauneuf-du-Pape he tried in school. “It was a shocker. To go from tasting only single varietals to a blend really opened my eyes.”
Upon graduation, Cohn joined Rosenblum Cellars as an enologist. He rapidly moved beyond lab work and soon found himself in charge of the entire white wine program. In 2000, Cohn was officially promoted to winemaker, and in 2004 was named vice president of winemaking and production at Rosenblum. He was instrumental in creating cutting-edge barrel and yeast programs at the winery. It was through experimentation at Rosenblum that Cohn perfected the technique of using different types of yeast to create even more subtle, specific characteristics in the wine he was crafting.
He began his own label, JC Cellars, in 1996. JC’s first vintage was the 1996 Rhodes Vineyard Zinfandel. 75 cases were made. Over time, case production at JC slowly increased from that small, intimate introduction to over 5,000 cases annually. In January 2006 Cohn finally parted ways with Rosenblum to focus exclusively on his own winery, but not before crafting the 2003 Rockpile Road Zinfandel, which placed 3rd on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list that year. This was a coup for not only Cohn but all of California’s winemaking industry, as no Zinfandel had ever appeared so high on the list before. In fact, no Zinfandel from California had ever even cracked the top ten.
Cohn goes to great lengths to marry California fruit to the aspects of terroir and minerality you’d find in France’s oldest winemaking regions. He does so by travelling all over California, from Santa Barbara to Mendocino, in search of the finest fruit and the best vineyards. Among some of Cohn’s most important discoveries include the Rockpile region in Sonoma, where nine years ago he began sourcing the Syrah grapes that are now the main component of his most elegant and complex wines; the Buffalo Hill Syrah, Haley’s Reserve Syrah, and the stunning 2008 So Serine Syrah, to name a few. The craggy soil of the aptly named Rockpile produces some of the most complex and distinctive minerality in all of California.
Throughout the years JC Cellars has taken on a life of its own. Located in downtown Oakland in a 15,000 sq. ft. warehouse, JC’s unlikely location is part of its charm. It was also a conscious decision, as Cohn is a resident of Alameda. “Being in Napa and Sonoma, the world of winemaking surrounds you all the time,” says Cohn. “I like being where I am because I like a private life. I’m close to the winery without being immersed in the endless competition of that environment…and I like living here,” he jokes, “because I’ve always wanted to live on an island.”
Being housed in downtown Oakland also gives the community a first-hand glimpse at what really goes on behind the scenes, especially during harvest. The most hectic time of year, it’s during harvest that you can really experience all that goes into the craft of winemaking. “Harvest is my absolute favorite time of year,” says Cohn, “and it’s also nerve-wracking because there is just so much to do. We easily put in 12 to 14 hour days for weeks on end. But fermentation…I love the aroma. I love the smell.”
When he’s not running JC, driving all over California in search of the perfect grapes, or spending time with his family, Cohn is also a consultant for several wineries including Prospect 772, SummerWood, and the Valdez Family Winery. “Consulting is something that I really like,” he says, "I go through the whole process, from discussing the goals of the winemaker to designing their program.” Of the whole process he notes, “I help give them the guidelines and point them in the right direction.”
The future of JC involves exacting even more attention on the quality of the fruit. “The Rhône stuff is the passion,” Cohn says, “but right now we are looking at some Zin vineyards including Dusi Ranch, Sweetwater Springs, Iron Hill, and the remarkable St. Peter’s Church. The goal is to become a bit more focused and work with some really small vineyards and growers that we know are the best of the best.”
Jeff Cohn is JC Cellars — a winery where you’ll find remarkably crafted wine, a production team with decades of experience, and staff with an unparalleled passion for food, drink, and hospitality.
Varietals: 39% Zinfandel, 29% Syrah, 22% Petite Sirah, 4% Tempranillo, 3% Carignan, 2% Grenache, 1% Viognier
Production: 1,171 cases