2007 Preston Vineyard Marsanne
Marsanne •Preston Vineyard
California: Sonoma County: Dry Creek Valley
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Mission Codename: Not too hot, not too cold… Just right!
Operative: Agent White
Objective: Secure a limited allocation of the white Rhone Marsanne from our friends at JC Cellars
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: JC Cellars
Wine Subject: 2007 Dry Creek Valley Preston Vineyard Marsanne
Winemaker: Jeff Cohn
Marsanne, a top white varietal of the northern Rhone in France has become quite popular in California by the Rhone Ranger movement. Usually blended with Viognier and Roussanne, the grape is known for its aromas and flavors of ripe peach, spiced pear and almond nuts. Marsanne is very particular in terms of its climate and must grown to its ideal ripeness to produce a exceptional wine. Today’s Marsanne selection is one such well ripened grape from Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley and specifically the Preston Vineyard.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Rich and deep golden that pales slightly along the edges with amber and honey-orange hues through its clear core. When swirled this slightly viscous wine leaves slow clusters of medium thick legs on the edge of the glass.
Smell – Medium in intensity with bright aromas of stone and orchard fruit including spiced Bartlett pear, peach and a touch of apple cider. Notes of almond nuts, spice and vanilla oak round out the pleasant nose of this wine.
Feel – Full bodied, rich and cream in its weighty texture with balanced acidity and a touch of minerality and tanginess that hits at the back of the palate.
Taste – Lush and rich with ripe fruit including pear, apple, apricot and melon layer over spice, orange blossom and honey with a lingering vanilla oak component that holds it all together.
Finish – This weighty white lingers on the palate with its stone fruit fading away leaving a slightly tangy-bitter fruit finish framed by its vanilla oak and spice notes found on the palate and nose.
Conclusion – The 2007 JC Cellars Dry Creek Valley Preston Vineyard Marsanne is a delicious example of a wine that isn’t too common here in California as a varietal wine. The enticing golden-amber color begs you to take a sniff and sip, as the lush rich and cream fruit hold on tight. A fun wine that will make an ideal substitute for when you don’t want a big rich Chardonnay. Pair this wine with aged goat or hard aged cheeses. This wine is relatively high in alcohol, you may wish to let it blow off by letting it breathe a bit before enjoying.
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 2007 Preston Vineyard Marsanne 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: This wine is a pure expression of the soil and Sun. Two of my favorite areas for white wines are Hermitage and St. Joseph. Both grow Marsanne and both provide two totally different profiles for the grape. The Preston Marsanne is kind of a marriage between the two areas. Great minerality that is a signature of Hermitage and pinpoint fruit that is focused on Stone fruit, orange blossom, followed by bitter almonds and crème Brule finish. Aromatically this wine showcases the pure intensity this wine can provide, without ever being overdone.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
JEFF: I love this wine with Lobster and with roasted chicken in a crème sauce.
RED: In your opinion, what makes the Dry Creek Valley so special?
JEFF: Dry Creek is all about the sun and producing wines that always show a sense of purity. Be this fruit, minerality, and richness or spice flavors. They are so pinpoint and focused.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
JEFF: Getting ready for harvest: visiting vineyards, checking in my new barrels, cleaning equipment and making sure I have everything I need for a great vintage!
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
About This Wine:
Rich, with plenty of depth, this wine contains the element of ripe peaches at its center, but is balanced with minerality. Ripe stone fruit and citrus blossom waft placidly in the glass and a classic hint of bitter almond rounds out the creamy finish. Big and racy, its acidity avoids the heaviness that can be associated with Marsanne from warmer climates.
Winemaker’s Comments: The opportunity for a winemaker to produce a wine from a grape varietal that has fascinated him for such a long time is one thing. But to try and produce a wine that shares characteristics with the great wines of amazing wineries such as Chave, Chapoutier, and Domaine Des Remizieres, from Hermitage is another feat. We are very fortunate to have found a Marsanne vineyard planted in very well-drained rocky soil that lends itself to producing wines with a very nice mineral component that is the backbone to this incredible lush and decadent wine.
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.
Appellation: Dry Creek Valley