Red Zeppelin Winery
2007 Red Zeppelin Cabernet Sauvignon
California: Paso Robles
What We Say
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Mission Codename: High Aloft
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Red Zeppelin Winery, where rock ‘n roll winemaker, Stillman ’Swilly Idol’ Brown, has just released his deep and delicious new Cabernet. If the wine is a great as reputed, secure an ample allotment for our Paso-loving Operatives
Mission Status: Accomplished
Current Winery: Red Zeppelin Winery
Wine Subject: 2007 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon
Winemaker: Stillman Brown
Paso Robles, in California’s Southern Central Coast region (San Luis Obisbo County) is one of California’s oldest, but now up and coming wine growing regions. The first vines were planted in the late 1700s by the Spanish missionaries. Today, the region is host to dozens of world-class wineries.
Paso’s unique climate, perhaps influences its vine more than any other area in California. The hot, dry weather that is only minimally effected by coastal fog and wine results in grapes that are more concentrated in flavor and intensity. This climate makes Paso uniquely suited to grow the big red varietals including Zinfandel, Syrah and as in this wine, Cabernet Sauvignon.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Dark ruby red with brighter ruby edges and a darkening heart of pure garnet. This wine shows off a tightly springy surface when swirled. On settling, the wine leaves behind thin, color-stained tears – which give a preview of the rich concentration to come on the palate
Smell – Dark and warm, led by blackberry tart, smoky blueberry preserve, black plum, dark fig and hawthorn. These sit atop soft oak, dusty bramble and mild spice
Feel – Light and medium bodied across the front of the palate, then fine grained tannins dig inward from the outer edges, adding a gradual mineral dryness that makes the mouth water
Taste – Dark fruit here as well, with blackberry juice, black cherry, plum and cassis. These mix with oak and a hint of minty spice
Finish – Super long, bright, sweet and then finally softly tart and clean as flavors tail off slowly
Conclusion – The 2007 Red Zeppelin Winery Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon is a bold wine with a balanced feel and a clean finish that ends with a mouthwatering reminder to take another generous sip. Not as brash and concentrated as some Paso Cabs, this wine shows great poise without being overpowering – or boring! Enjoy this wine on its own, or with a great meal. The fine acidity in this wine makes it an easy companion for many foods. I’d pair it with pasta Bolognese. In fact, I think that I will, tonight!
Decant for at least 30 minutes for best results.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Stillman Brown
DATE OF BIRTH: Oct 6 57
PLACE OF BIRTH: Berkeley CA
WINE EDUCATION: I’m a UC Berkeley grad, but my wine education is from the University of Bordeaux; that is to say, Professor Emile Peynaud’s classic “Knowing And Making Wine” was first published in English in 1984, the year I entered the wine business. I must have read that book at least a dozen times.
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Founder and winemaker, Jory Winery: 1986-2003; founder and winemaker, Red Zeppelin Winery, 2003-; founder and winemaker, Stillman Wines, 2001-. “Stillman” is my first name, and also my father’s, and I save it for special wines that might not fit into the Red Zeppelin portfolio. Of course, my dad gets free wine as a royalty payment for the use of his name. Ha!
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Start with superior grapes and don’t screw up. In the winery, I’m progressive/scientific. I’m not an additive freak, but I’m certainly not hands-off. Some bugs are great, others are lethal.
SIGNATURE VARIETAL: Syrah. Though I love Corton clone Chardonnay and 777 clone Pinot.
CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Winning the ‘Syrah Shootout’ at Hospice du Rhone last year, with a wine from a vineyard I planned myself, that had a government-approved label showing the death of Elvis Presley.
CAREER HIGHLIGHT: My annual events, unquestionably acknowledged as the wildest winery parties in California. Yes, you’re invited. (Details at WetZeppelin.com.)
WINEMAKER QUOTE: “Lord Almighty, I feel my temperature rising.” Then I turn on the tank’s cooling jacket.
What follows is our previous interview of the ever elusive Stillman Brown.
AGENT RED: Greetings, Stillman. We love you, we love your wines, and we are thrilled to be working with you again. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
WINEMAKER: Hola, dude.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
WINEMAKER: When I was in high school in NY my father was a senior Pepsi exec – stop laughing, we were the only family among the big shots that didn’t have a Pepsi vending machine in the house, we just didn’t like it – and in order to get Pepsi into the USSR, Pepsi agreed to distribute Stolichnaya Vodka in the US. To do that they had to buy a NY company that was also a wine importer, etc etc . . . anyway, there were dinner parties at our house where some really fantastic wines were served. My mother, a native Californian like myself, drank Almaden, but that interested me somewhat less.
RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?
WINEMAKER: From Peynaud’s book, and by osmosis; drinking and asking questions of other Santa Clara/Santa Cruz Mountain winemakers.
RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?
WINEMAKER: . See above. Plant something that wasn’t there before, and if it works, you can then start with superior grapes. Don’t assume that you can just pick great grapes and crush them, and magically get a great wine that doesn’t need to be looked after.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
WINEMAKER: There’s definitely no single influence; I learned from everyone from the late Dave Bennion, who founded Ridge, to Adam LaZarre, the Central Coast ubervintner.
RED: We are good friends with Adam, as you know. Please don’t reveal his Wine Spies Agent Name, though. It’s too shocking! Tell me, how long have you been making wine?
WINEMAKER: 25 harvests in California, 8 in New Mexico (concurrently). I also have consulted in Arizona.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
WINEMAKER: Fans, friends, family and fruit flies. Other winemakers and critics can be in the first category, but only if their palates allow it.
RED: Tell me, what makes the west side of Paso Robles so special?
WINEMAKER: It’s the rockiest part of Paso Robles, and one of the coolest. Temperature wise, of course. Much of Paso Robles is too hot and fertile for the varietals planted there.
RED: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?
WINEMAKER: Make absolutely sure that you have the nose and palate for it, can identify basic characters and flaws that you’ll encounter, and yet still artistically appreciate great wines.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today
WINEMAKER: I planned and planted this small block of grapes on the west side of Paso Robles, immediately south of L’Aventure, to 2310 vines of Syrah and 500 vines of Alicante Bouschet; I was told that it was the first planting of the latter, a cross between Grenache and Petit Bouschet, in the county in over sixty years. It’s a steep east facing hill that I named the Hill of Graceland in honor of the Australian property and of Elvis, who never drank wine or performed in Australia. I picked in late October of 2005 – immediately before the first rains, in fact – and blended with a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon from another Paso Robles vineyard, it was then aged in one year old Seguin Moreau barrels and bottled eighteen months later. It’s very big (32 proof) and full of black fruits, pepper, vanilla and oak; with some fine tannins, it formerly took an hour or so to open up, but it’s been maturing in the bottle. It’s probably the most awarded wine I’ve made this decade.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
WINEMAKER: Dry aged beef.
RED: Please share one thing about yourself that few people know.
WINEMAKER: That’s tough, because I’m an inveterate babbler; and Facebook has just made it worse. I suspect that everyone who knows me, knows too much about me. But for Wine Spies, I will admit that I like punk rock, regularly go into mosh pits, and have been known to stage dive.
RED: We appreciate that! What is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?
WINEMAKER: Pinot Noir, which I have planted but don’t currently make.
RED: How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?
WINEMAKER: Parched, with a corkscrew and a large glass. In general, relaxed; even if you’re going to be analytical, it should still be fun.
RED: If you could choose any one wine to drink (regardless of price or availability), what would it be?
WINEMAKER: La Tache, I suppose.
RED: What is the one question that I should have asked you, and what is your answer to that question?
WINEMAKER: How was your annual winery party?
Wet Zeppelin was the wildest party wine country has ever seen. Several hundred people showed up, and after six bands and at least sixty gallons of wine, people were jumping off the pier, climbing on the roof, fighting in and outside the hall, and driving into public buildings. Jealous husbands threw chairs through walls, drunken security guards staggered away, letting yahoos in the back door to steal wine and get in wild mosh pits, with punks climbing on stage until they were kicked off. Large numbers of uniformed officers arrived, and politely suggested that we shut down (with 3 more bands still to go, including the infamous Dread Zeppelin) just before midnight. We raised thousands for our wine and viticulture scholarship, and everyone that didn’t get arrested or taken off in an ambulance had a great time!
See you next year?
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!
WINEMAKER: In the immortal words of Elvis Presley, who showed us the consequence of a wine-free lifestyle, “Thankyouverymuch!”
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Stillman Brown, the winemaker at Red Zeppelin Winery can usually be found rocking out in Cayucos, CA.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
Primarily Halter Ranch (Westside) fruit with some exotic barrel treatment; it’s quite a big wine, but rich and smooth once the tannins get some air. It’s been called lovely already, what can we say? A bit of air for twenty minutes or more, or a few years in the bottle, the choice is yours!
About The Winery:
RED ZEPPELIN WINERY is a small producer of premium and super premium wines, based in Paso Robles California. Founded in 2003, we own and have trademarked the Red Zeppelin names and brands developed by winemaker Stillman Brown at Jory Winery starting in 1991. There are no tasting or facility tours available, however we do hold events including winemaker dinners and truly outrageous parties. The wines are currently distributed in the US and Japan, please see the Contact page (CLICK HERE) for more information.
Red Zeppelin’s development plans include the acquisition of a vineyard and tasting room in northern San Luis Obispo county. Our concentration on low-yielding super-premium cool-climate varietals such as our Syrah and our upcoming Pinot Noir means that we will remain a small, exclusive winery, emphasizing wines of the highest quality and most distinctive personality.
About The Winemaker:
Stillman Brown, a party animal native to California, started as the winemaker of the infamous Jory Winery, which he co-founded in 1984; he originally focused on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the northern Central Coast, particularly exotic and rare clones. He conceived and developed the Red Zeppelin brand for Syrah and other Rhone varietals in the ’90’s, and then along with his new partners started Red Zeppelin as an independent winery in 2003, bringing his winemaking expertise and creative abilities, both of which are considerable. For more information – perhaps too much information – about Stillman please see his “enological party website” www.SwillyIdle.com.
Where did the Red Zeppelin name come from?
My first Red Zeppelin wine was released in 1991, when I was the winemaker at Jory Winery. The name is indeed a pun on the rock band, but it only arrived in my brain after a jetstream of consciousness derailed my train of thought (ha!) about another wine label. Many people seem to think that Bonny Doon was the first California winery to have silly labels. (In fact, Thomas Kruse in neighboring Gilroy was first.) The now-famous Le Cigare Volant label, seen here and first used on a 1984 California Rhone blend, wittily if a bit preciously relates as explanation for its image the tale of the village of Chateauneuf du Pape’s 1953 ordinance banning the landing of UFOs in local vineyards, the purported result of a cigar-shaped “flying saucer” scare. As something of a skeptic in these matters I duly considered the tale, and it seemed to me that those stereotypically excitable Frenchmen were suffering from postwar stress syndrome; indeed, unconsciously recalling an incident from the Great War. The Germans used rigid airships extensively in WW1, though the technology wasn’t up to the mission. One large Zeppelin raid on London was hit by unexpected high winds (perhaps the then-undiscovered jetstream) that blew the dirigibles astray; some crashed in France, one was never found. The crash of a huge airship, filled with hydrogen gas and made of toxic metals, into a valuable vineyard just before harvest would be terrible indeed: explosions, mangled vines and twisted wreckage, the Germans stuffing their faces with Grenache . . . . I saw it all clearly, as through an overfined Marsanne. And then the name came to me: Red Zeppelin. As I was already interested in adding Rhone varietals to our lineup at Jory Winery, I knew I had the name for my new wine. As for the label design, the genius Rick Tharp and I thought we would have a little fun; but that’s a tale for later.
Blend: 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Syrah, 4% Merlot, 3% Petite Sirah, 1% Petit Verdot, 1% Cabernet Franc
Winemaker and vineyard consultant: Stillman Brown
Production: 147 cases