What We Say 2005 redFOUR Rhone Style Red Wine
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LIBRARY RAID WORLD EXCLUSIVE ALERT:
For today’s wine, The Wine Spies were granted unprecedented access to Westwood’s private archives – and we absconded with a handful of cases…
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Mission Codename: beFOUR
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Respond to reports that Westwood Winery crafts wines of remarkable quality and value. Raid their cellars and return with a stellar Westwood wine for our thirsty Operatives
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Westwwood Winery
Wine Subject: 2005 redFOUR Rhone Style Red Wine
Winemaker: John Kelly
Backgrounder: The Sonoma Valley AVA is one of the oldest wine growing regions in California with the first vines being planted in the early 1800s. The AVA is located along California Route 12 and its eastern boundary are the southern end of the Mayacamas mountains. The unique micro-climate with less rainfall and fog than other parts of the region along with its unique soil provides ideal growing conditions for Cabernet Sauvignon and other red varietals.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Dark ruby with perfect clarity through its slightly darker heart. At the edges, a thick band of shimmering light red encircles the glass. After swirling, skinny legs streak down the glass.
Smell – A dense rush of raspberry, black cherry and blackberry on first inhalation. After some swirling, aromas of maraschino cherry, cigar box, dried fall leaves, caramel, black pepper and mineral salt marsh follow.
Feel – Medium-weight on entry, then plush across the mid palate. After a moment, easy tannins introduce a soft dryness the spreads slowly around the entire mouth.
Taste – Balanced and delicious, with flavors of blackberry, black cherry, and sweet plum. These mingle with undertones of leather, berry bramble, raspberry pancake syrup, slate minerals, brown spice and soft oak.
Finish – Long and dark, with fruit that carries through to the end, where slate and soft black pepper round out the experience by adding flavors that make your mouth water.
Conclusion – We love raiding library wines from our winery friends. Westwood allowed us special access to their archives and we chose today’s 2005 redFOUR. We featured the 2006 vintage of this wine, earlier this year, and it was wildly popular. This made the 2005 an obvious choice. With a year of bottle age on the 2006 vintage, today’s wine is even better. With more complexity and deeper aromatics, this ‘exotic’ blend is an exciting wine that is a real pleasure to enjoy. Again, winemaker shows off his unique blending skills by delivering a complex wine that is made from some unusual Rhone varietals. Enjoy this wine with most foods, especially hard cheeses, lamb or beef. Once again, Westwood impresses up with their outstanding wine!
Mission Report:WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: John M. Kelly
WINE EDUCATION: post-graduate degree in Biochemistry from UC Davis, on the job at a retail wine store
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: trained at Westwood, R.H. Phillips, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Duckhorn Vineyards and Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards before going out on my own.
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: pre-emptive minimalism: respect tradition in light of modern understanding, don’t do anything in the vineyard or winery that forces me to take extra measures later.
WINEMAKER QUOTE: “How far down the rabbit hole do you want to go?” I guess I explain things pretty well – people end up asking me questions they had never thought to ask before.
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: (DATE) first Westwood release was a 1984 Pinot Noir from Lake County. My first vintage in control of Westwood was 1995.
AGENT RED: Greetings, John. We are thrilled to be showing your 2005 Westwood redFOUR blend today. Our Operatives loved the 2006 that we featured, and we are really excited to be able to offer them today’s 2005! Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
JOHN: Glad to have the opportunity to chat with you, Agent Red.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
JOHN: We always had good wine at the dinner table when I was growing up, but it was a trip to Napa Valley in the early 70s that sealed the deal for me. I was too young to taste at the wineries, but the vineyards, the smells in the cellars – they made an deep impression that never wore off. Plus my parents brought back a boatload of great wine – mostly reserve Cabernets – that we enjoyed for years after. It was working for Mansion Cellars – at the time the only fine wine shop in Davis – for a year (1986) that started my career.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
JOHN: My archetype is probably my first taste of a decent Valpoilicella. Boillot red Burgundies from Volnay and Pommard, my first Vieux Telegraphe, a Clape Cornas, Acacia, Chalone and Calera Pinots… So I guess it was not “a” wine.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
JOHN: Our plan has always been to make wines I like, and then find the consumers who are as excited by them as I am. We don’t make a lot of wine – under 2,500 cases.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
JOHN: This is our 2005 redFOUR red blend, primarily Syrah, with Mourvedre, Grenache and Tannat in the mix. This was our first redFOUR and our first vintage of a Westwood wine made entirely from grapes we grew at our Annadel Estate Vineyard in Sonoma Valley. This wine is ageing beautifully and gracefully.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
JOHN: Our redFOUR has great complexity and acidity – it is such a versatile wine, it is hard to pick one favorite pairing! The other night we really enjoyed it with lamb “sliders” – I grilled a lamb tenderloin and sliced it thin, topped with sliced fresh tomato from the garden and pickled onions, served on small toasted potato rolls dressed with mayonnaise we had mixed with spicy harissa. Yum!
RED: In your opinion, what makes the Sonoma Valley so special?
JOHN: So many different grape varieties do very well in our appellation – there’s such a range of soil types and climates in unique combinations. The weather at our own vineyard is surprisingly cool – it’s got a great climate for Pinot and is marginal for our Rhône varieties. Growing Mourvedre, Grenache and Syrah at low yields in this cool climate gives our wines a unique character.
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
JOHN: With an open mind! Leave aside expectations and preconceived notions. Especially with Westwood wines – our wines don’t fit the “California” profile. They are soil-driven rather than fruit driven.
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
JOHN: Yes – a glass of wine. If you find yourself in downtown Sonoma, come see us!
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
JOHN: Um… harvest? So, if you will excuse me – I gotta run!
RED: Yes, have a great harvest, John! 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 the Westwood Winery tasting room, just off the square in downtown Sonoma, can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
Wine is a deep garnet red in the glass, with rosy edges and perfect clarity. Like all of our wines from the 2005 vintage, the aroma is initially very closed in. With some air and time, the redFOUR opens up to an explosive perfume of rose petals, black cherries, briar, leather, black pepper and wet stone. In the mouth the initial impression is one of weight and softness, with pleasing fruit flavors and excellent equilibrium. The finish is long, complex and spicy; the structure of the wine really asserts itself in the aftertaste – this wine truly merits the “iron fist in a velvet glove” description.
Our 2005 redFOUR is a big wine that doesn’t mind a bit of aeration at all at this stage in its development. It is also a screaming value.
About The Vineyard: We have planted an interesting group of Rhône varietals at our Annadel Estate Vineyard: seven different block of Syrah, three blocks of Grenache, and a block of Mourvedre. We also have a tiny block of the relatively little-known varietal Tannat. Our vineyard site has a unique combination of soils and mesoclimates that allowed us to locate each in expositions where they ripen properly.
We sourced budwood for some of these varietals from Tablas Creek nursery – the mothervines for this wood came directly from the famed Château de Beaucastel. In-house we refer to the redFOUR as our “Beaucastel blend.” The 2005 vintage marks our first release of this soon-to-be-classic, styled like its progenitors from near Avignon but very much a product of its unique Sonoma Valley terroir.
Winemaking Notes: Our 2005 redFOUR is a blend of 52% Syrah, 30% Mourvedre, 14% Grenache and 4% Tannat. After vinification, the components of the blend were aged in French oak, one fourth of the barrels new. The redFOUR is assertive but balanced, with a racy floral perfume overlaying black cherry fruit, briary and leathery notes, and a peppery minerality.
The components of our blend were harvested between 10/2/2005 (Tannat) and 11/2/2005 (Grenache).
Average yield was 2.2 tons/acre, with good natural acidity and perfect seed ripeness. The Grenache was concentrated before fermentation by a 28% saignée de cuve. All ferments were done in T-bins, inoculated with selected yeast strains – D80, “Syrah” and BM45 – and punched down an average of once a day during active fermentation. The Grenache had 12 days cuvaison, the Syrah 19 days. The Tannat and Mourvedre components were both given extended maceration, for 41 days total cuvaison each. Wines went to barrel between 11/21/05 and 4/12/06 after at least one racking, and were racked once during 31 months total aging before blending and bottling. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. 423 cases produced.
About The Winery:
NEW WORLD WINES WITH TRADITIONAL STYLE: Westwood produces wines that satisfy desires for depth, structure, balance and finesse. Our wines are soil-driven and food-friendly. Westwood’s Annadel Estate Vineyard is planted to Dijon and heritage clones of Pinot Noir, several clones of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Counoise and Tannat. Starting with the 2008 vintage our wines are all Estate-produced and -bottled.
We currently bottle one Estate Pinot Noir, a varietal Syrah, our proprietary redFOUR Rhône blend (Mourvedre, Grenache, Counoise, Syrah, and a hint of mystery), our 4-Part Rosé, produced as a saignée de cuve from Grenache, Mourvedre, Counoise and Syrah, and finally, a small amount of varietal Tannat. Our total annual production is around 2,000 cases.
A NEW WINERY WITH A SOLID PAST: The modern history of Westwood began in 2002 when the winery – founded in 1984 by Bert Urch and Betty Stoltz – was purchased by John Kelly and partners and moved to Sonoma Valley. Today John – a UC Davis-trained biochemist with over two decades of winemaking experience – is making Westwood wines from grapes grown on the Annadel Estate, a unique vineyard planted by the partners in 2001.
The Apprenticeship of John Kelly: John Kelly and Westwood go way back. He and Bert befriended each other while working together in the Department of Biochemistry at Davis, where John was pursuing his post-graduate degree. After Westwood was established as a commercial operation John began helping Bert out at the winery whenever he could.
When John decided to pursue a career outside academia he first took a job managing a high-end wine shop in Davis, and then interned in wine production at R. H. Philips Vineyards in 1987. In 1988 he landed an assistant winemaker position with the prestigious Napa Valley Cabernet producer, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. At SLWC, John’s responsibilities grew to encompass viticultural research – which allowed him to put his training as a scientist to use.
John maintained his relationship with Westwood as his winemaking apprenticeship progressed, continuing to assist whenever he could. Then in 1992 he left Stag’s Leap for a short but instructive stint at Duckhorn Vineyards before moving on into a deeply rewarding research position at Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards, Sonoma County’s famous Chardonnay producer in the Russian River Valley.
Late in 1994, while still at Sonoma-Cutrer, John took over winemaking at Westwood when Bert Urch suddenly passed away. In 1995 John put to use lessons learned from his associations with wineries successfully specializing in one grape – Chardonnay at Sonoma-Cutrer, Merlot at Duckhorn, Cabernet at Stag’s Leap – and decided to focus his attentions on Pinot Noir at Westwood.
A New Partnership: In 1998, John was working as Technical Director for the wine service laboratory Vinquiry and devoting nights and weekends to Westwood. Though fully engaged in these pursuits, when presented with an opportunity to form a partnership with investors to acquire potential vineyard land, he took it.
The partnership bought an undeveloped parcel located at the northwest end of the Sonoma Valley appellation, in the cool Santa Rosa Plain–Russian River drainage basin. They immediately set about improving and planting their unique site, taking the historic place name of the surrounding area to call their development the Annadel Estate Vineyard.
While the vineyard was being established the partnership approached Betty Stoltz, the owner of Westwood, with an offer to buy the winery. A deal was struck and closed in 2002, and in anticipation of working with the grapes from Westwood’s Annadel Estate the new owners determined to move the winery from its original Sierra Foothills location to the town of Sonoma.
The Move To Sonoma Valley: While waiting for the Estate vineyard to come into production, John secured contracts to buy Pinot Noir fruit from two very high quality vineyards, one in the Sonoma Valley appellation and one in the Sonoma Carneros. John and his partners brought Westwood to market in its new Sonoma Valley incarnation with these two Pinot Noir bottlings, along with the superb Haynes Vineyard Napa Valley Pinot Noir which Westwood produced from 1985 through 2005. Starting with the 2008 vintage, all Westwood wines are 100% Estate Bottled.
We have taken full advantage of the unique combination of soils and exposures at our Annadel Estate Vineyard, planting Pinot Noir in the coolest areas. Presented with a diversity of soils and meso-climates at the site we decided to expand the range of wines offered under the Westwood label. In the warmer locations we planted an unusual selection of red Rhône varieties: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Counoise. We originally planted a small amount of the inky, aptly named Tannat to give us new blending options for our unique reds, but have since found it can make a really interesting varietal wine at our site.
The Future of Westwood: After several vintages the wines we have produced from the Annadel Estate have started to show a clear sense of place, a distinctive structure and minerality that will define the Westwood style going forward.
Ultimately Westwood will release two Estate Pinot Noir bottlings – one vinted from modern-era Dijon clones and a second Pinot assembled from our collection of California Heritage clones.
We will release four wines from our other Estate varieties: our redFOUR – a proprietary red wine blend, a dry pink wine we call our 4-Part Rosé, produced from saignée de cuve of our Grenache, Mourvedre, Counoise and Syrah grape lots, a varietal Syrah, and a small amount of varietal Tannat.
Westwood has embarked a new chapter in its history – in Sonoma Valley, where we will continue to produce distinctive artisanal red wines in our iconoclastic soil-driven style.
Varietals: 52% Syrah, 30% Mourvedre, 14% Grenache and 4% Tannat
Alcohol: 14.9% (v/v)
T.A.: 6.65 g/L
V.A.: 0.87 g/L
G+F: 0.02 g/L (bone dry)
Malic: 0.06 g/L (malolactic complete)
Production Notes: Bottled unfined and unfiltered. 423 cases produced.