Highway 12 Winery
2006 Reserve Blend
Red Blend •Serres Ranch
California: Sonoma County: Sonoma Valley
What We Say
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Mission Codename: Life is a Highway
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Infiltrate Highway 12 Vineyards & Winery and retrieve their best red blend for our demanding Operatives
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Highway 12 Vineyards & Winery
Wine Subject: 2006 Reserve Blend
Winemaker: Michael Sebastiani
Backgrounder: Bordeaux wines are usually a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet France, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Carmenere. And in France, perfection is achieved by finding the best balance of those grapes. In California, one could argue that Bordeaux grapes from Sonoma County reign supreme within the state, with large crops of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The 2006 Highway 12 Reserve Blend is an exciting and delicious blend of 32% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Cabernet Franc, 12% Malbec and 4% Petit Verdot.
Read Agent Red’s tasting notes and mission report below, for the complete profile on today’s beautiful Bordeaux blend from winemaker Michael Sebastiani.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deepest dark garnet in color, with a deeper heart opaque heart. The wine retains deeply concentrated color, right out to the rim of the glass. After a hearty swirl, thick, wine-stained legs move slowly down the glass.
Smell – Ripe jammy blackberry, black cherry and sweet raspberry lead the charge. Just below these, aromas of blueberry, soft cedar, rose petals and cranberry add an inviting warmth. After some time in the decanter, a subtle herbal note mingles with a hint of dark spice.
Feel – Cool and light across the front palate, then softly grippy, with an easy dryness that spreads outward from the center, eventually drying the cheeks and lips.
Taste – Jammy blackberry compote with with black cherry, sweet raspberry and fresh strawberry. These are followed, closely, by dark plum, soft sweetwoods, soft minerals and a hint of mineral-rich black pepper.
Finish – Very long and flavor-filled, leading with red fruit and succumbing to soft black fruit, subtle mineral and an easy black pepper at the very end.
Conclusion – This is a fantastic red blend that our entire tasting panel went bonkers for! The fruit is bursting with flavor and the aromatics offer a heady compliment that had us inhaling the wine as heartily was we were sipping it. If you love great red blends, then this is a wine that I encourage you not to miss. We enjoyed ours with a thin crut wood-fired pizza with Escarole, carmelized onion, pork sausage and Fontina cheese. The combination was divine and we all agreed that this wine, with its fresh fruit flavors and good acidity, would pair well with almost anything. Drinking beautifully now, we are cellaring a few bottles for the next several years.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Michael Sebastiani
WINE EDUCATION: B.S. Fermentation Science, UC Davis
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: I started working in the vineyards at Sebastiani Vineyards at a very young age….in 1982. I worked through my teens in various jobs throughout the winery, from the carpenter shop to the maintenance shop, and then in the back room of the tasting room until 1986. I then worked construction while building Viansa winery from 1988-1990, when I left for college. I did cellar work for Viansa off and on from 1991-1993 and then began full time cellar work in 1993. I took the title Winemaker at Viansa in 1995, and in 1996 designed and built a 75,000-case winery production facility to bring all Viansa wine production in-house. I left Viansa in 2002 with aspirations of venturing out on my own. In 2003, with fellow co-founder Paul Giusto, we launched Generations of Sonoma, LLC which provided the backdrop to our flagship brand, Highway 12 Vineyards and Winery in 2004. In 2010, we designed a new 25,000-case production facility to produce the wines for Highway 12 Vineyards and Winery; we crushed about 20,000-cases in 2010.
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: After 2 decades in the professional wine industry, my philosophy continues to evolve, just as the wines do. The core, and purity of winemaking hasn’t changed in centuries….only the technology. I continue to learn new aspects in the particulars of vineyards and wine each year, and I need to remain open to it. Vineyards act like people do…they get hungry, they get tired, they get moody and they live in cycles……and a lot of time they like to be left alone. And maybe one of the most understated mentioned in the process of winemaking is the consumer – they are the audience I make wine for, not for me; we are on stage and perform for them. I make wine for our friends, families and others; it is my job to use my expertise and choose the appropriate vineyards and wine styles to meet their desires. I do not tell them what they should appreciate and not appreciate.
WINEMAKER QUOTE: “Growing up surrounded by food and wine, I’ve found that winemaking is just like cooking – start with your best ingredients, and try not to mess it up!”
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: 1995
AGENT RED: Greetings, Michael. We are thrilled to be showing your 2006 Highway 12 Reserve Blend today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
MICHAEL SEBASTIANI: Thank you for having me – wine is meant to be shared, so I am glad to be here and share our wines.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
MICHAEL: I could say there could be one specific experience, but it’s more like a long history of many…..as one example that inspired me, yet not exactly for the love of it….was working at a very young age in the vineyards – “suckering” vines as a kid, in the hot summer, getting dirty and not thinking it’s the best thing in life! Yet I didn’t realize that it was my way to literally start from the ground up. That said, I was also told my most inspirational quote as teenager that stayed with me: “….in the morning you work the vineyards and you are a farmer; at lunch you bring samples into the lab and you are a scientist; and after lunch you are on the road promoting/selling your wine and you are a businessman.” All 3 professions in 1 day – I knew I could do anything I wanted to within the wine industry.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
MICHAEL: As I usually draw most of my analogies from cooking…..I am one of those chefs that has learned from many different styles; and my personal style is to respond to our customers at the table….so I’m always evolving my style. As a concept, back in the early 90s, the invention of the “Cal-Ital” concept, and the popular “Mediterranean-diet” pyramid, really helped me find a style path I wanted. A clean, welcoming, and healthy flavor profile….I tend to focus a lot on feel, texture, and aromas….then each vineyard terroir takes care of providing the flavor.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
MICHAEL: That’s easy….the final consumer who enjoys drinking the wine….they are the ultimate boss.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
MICHAEL: This is our 2006 Reserve Blend….I’ll try and keep the story short…..our first Highway 12 wine began as a field blend. When we started Highway 12, I went back to a grower that I had worked with for over a decade, and picked my 3 favorite spots on the ranch. He was able to harvest right down to my specs…..1/3 each of Cab Sauv, Cab Franc and Merlot. We crushed it as a field blend, and I believed it would work – yes, it was an educated guess, but luckily it worked! Our “Blend” has been our flagship wine ever since, and the percentages have never changed. So, we took the next step and dug a little deeper into the varietal make up. For our Reserve Blend, we look to all 5 of the traditional Bordeaux varietals….and work back from there. We work on very small batches, and extend the barrel aging. This 2006 Reserve is just released, and our 2008 Blend “regular” is just sold out. The Reserve will have a much more complex and softer tannin structure.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
MICHAEL: This Ranch and this Reserve Blend are old school farmers’ wines…..I gotta go with red meat, and would love a peppered flank steak with garlic sauteed spinach and seared baby red potatoes.
RED: In your opinion, what makes the Sonoma Valley so special?
MICHAEL: Our region, Sonoma Valley, has a long history. I’m a believer in every region being special in their own way. Sonoma’s history speaks for itself – the end of the Camino Real, the raising of the California Bear Flag on our plaza, and California’s oldest premium winery just a few miles from that spot. Our tasting room is right on our famous plaza, of which we dedicate our “La Piazza” wines to our town. For this particular ranch, it sits on the “banana belt” of the valley floor; the old Hot Springs runs under this ranch, and lends to warmer roots, and much more controllable ripening.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
MICHAEL: Well….it’s the week before Thanksgiving and we’ve still got 1 more load of Cab Sauv and Cab Franc to press…..does that give you any indication of how harvest was? We had a later and compressed harvest….everything came in fine and well, it’s just that we’re still in harvest mode!
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
MICHAEL: Completely without caution….our wines have a “one with the people” attitude. It’s like Italian food….everybody loves Italian food, right? My goal is not to make big wine bombs that you scrape off your teeth….I learned early on that no wine will age unless there is much of the fruit flavors up front….because in all wines, once the tannins soften there has to still be some fruit there. Our wines age extremely well, but I focus on the fruit which makes them drinkable at a younger age. Also, I’m used to making many different wines, so we have about 14 in our arsenal….I realize that I like to have a wine all types of preferences….just like how we cook!
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
MICHAEL: To get an easy and clear sense of Highway 12 Winery, we use our Wine Corridor map – if you imagine the Sonoma Valley running north/south, and then the Carneros Region running east/west at the base of the Valley, that “L” shaped area is our self-proclaimed wine region; our own estate, or appellation in other words. I have worked with our growers for 2 decades now, and even planted many of the vineyards we work with. Our goal is showcase our corridor and wine region, and that is why we look to blending quite often and understand vineyards merry together best – that is how we bring forth the flavors of this California Wine Corridor.
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!
MICHAEL: Thanks for this opportunity to share my wine with your Operatives!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The approximate location of the Highway 12 Winery tasting room can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
This second-coming of our Reserve Bordeaux Blend offers an elegant, slightly sweet entry with a touch of power through the mid-palate, giving us a classic Serres Ranch minerality for the finish. The mocha, berry and supple smooth delivery of this wine makes it a beauty for years to come. 32% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Cabernet Franc, 12% Malbec and 4% Petit Verdot. Drink now through 2020.
About The Winery:
Founded in 2003, Highway 12 Winery was inspired by the vision and pioneering spirit of so many before us. Our Highway 12 wines are rooted in their legacy and we offer them proudly in recognition of the heritage and responsibilities we’ve assumed.
Winemaker, Michael Sebastiani has spent his life in these vineyards and his adult life making wine. His is a labor of love and tradition and the medals and critical recognition our wines receive attest to his skills and dedication.
At our winery and barrel cellar on Eighth Street East, future releases of these wines are aging and evolving in more than a thousand oak barrels, all carefully monitored as they progress. Visits to our cellar are by appointment and tastings at the cellar are usually in groups of eight or more.
The Highway 12 corridor is home to dozens of world class vineyards and from the best of those come the grapes for our Highway 12 wines.
We’re proud to list among our growers the near legendary Serres Ranch. John Serres, owner and patriarch, is one of the few remaining real Sonoma cowboys. John best evaluates his vineyards on horseback where he can be close to the vines and better assess the health and quality of the grapes.
Sangiacomo Family Vineyards, four generations of grape growing since 1927 and one of California’s most prestigious and respected grower families. It’s not by chance that the Sonoma/Carneros region is home to growers of this caliber. With several varieties of Sangiacomo fruit currently aging in our barrel cellar, we look to those future releases with great anticipation.
We’re fortunate to also number among our Southern Sonoma growers, Ned Hill and La Prenda Vineyards. Raised in a grape growing family, Ned grew up working in the vineyards and knows first hand the necessary skills and the unique agriculture of our area.
Appellation: Sonoma Valley
Vineyard: Serres Ranch
Varietals: 32% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Malbec, 4% Petit Verdot
Aging: 42 months in new French oak
Cases produced: 298