2007 Smoke & Mirrors Red Wine
What We Say
Today’s wine deserves special recognition, for it delivers a drinking experience well above its price class – earning it this QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) alert.
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Mission Codename: Actual Magic
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Send Agent Red infiltrate JC Cellars, a winery that Robert Parker declares to have “.. the Midas touch”. Instruct Agent Red to secure their exciting Smoke & Mirrors red blend.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: JC Cellars
Wine Subject: 2007 Smoke & Mirrors 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, Swanson’s winemaker was able to pick from the finest lot’s of the best wines. Today’s 2007 Smoke & Mirrors from JC Cellars is a fantastic example of how a remarkable wine can be born of great blending – and from the best vineyard sources.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Beautiful dark burgundy, with deep color through its darker core. At the edges, a beautiful ring of purple circles the glass.
Smell – Juicy blueberry, blackberry, black cherry and dark plum lead the charge, followed closely by sweet tobacco, dark chocolate, soft spice and roasted fig.
Feel – Medium-bodied at first, the presents soft and light at first. It soon gives way to a dryer and spicier dark mineral feel that fills the mouth as it dries the entire palate, from the edges, inward.
Taste – Big flavors of dark plum and dark mixed berries fill the palate. These are quickly followed by dark spice, dark sweetwoods, tobacco leaf, white pepper, dark chocolate and black fig.
Finish – Ultra long and lingering with bold dark fruit flavors that gradually give way to spice, minerals and soft pipe tobacco.
Conclusion – We love a great red blend and today’s wine is especially exciting. The wines bold flavors and deep aromas are completely captivating. It delivers a great deal of excitement and character, especially considering its low price. If you enjoy a great red blend that drinks with the complexity of a big and complex Rhone, this original blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel is certain to please you. Our hearty thank you goes out to our new friends at JC Cellars! Their Smoke & Mirrors blend is real magic.
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 Smoke & Mirrors red blend today. The wine is quite thrilling. 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: Smoke & Mirrors is a wine that isn’t always what you think it is. A base of Syrah, Petite Sirah & Zinfandel – Aged in a 600 gallon Foudre. Very Reminiscent of a Carnas, big, dark and beefy.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
JEFF: Wildgame bird & Venison. Decadent & Seductive all at the same time.
RED: In your opinion, what makes the California Appellation so special?
JEFF: I can choose what wines, in what amounts and locations of the vineyards that best make Smoke & Mirrors possible.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
JEFF: Starting to create magic by working on blends for the 09’s and getting geared up for the 2010 vintage. Plus tasting our 08 wines that we bottled 2 months ago.
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
“The debut of Smoke and Mirrors brings another chance to work our magic by blending vineyards which span California, 10 in total. The varietals include Syrah, Petite Sirah & Zinfandel. Über extracted, black cherry in color, the wine clings to the sides of the glass as you swirl, defying gravity.” – Jeff Cohn
About This Wine:
Alluring and mystical aromas of incense and sweet pipe tobacco permeate the room, a touch of crushed white peppercorns and roasted sweet peppers. Flavors focus on blackberry and black cherry, with subtle hints of dates and figs. French vanilla bean accentuates the finish that definitely does not disappear.
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: 85% Syrah, 9% Petite Sirah, 6% Zinfandel
Production: 831 cases