What We Say 2006 Cooke Vineyard Zinfandel
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
Today’s featured Zinfandel is a truly delicious and remarkably unique wine. Usually only available at the winery, today is your opportunity to add this great wine to your cellar collection.
LIMITED AVAILABILITY ALERT:
We got our hands on every last bottle of today’s superb wine – and it will sell out before the end of the day. Get it while you still can!
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Mission Codename: Sonoma’s Piedmont
Operative: Agent White
Objective: Send Agent White to Ravenswood Winery and acquire another worldwide exclusive Zinfandel, available nowhere outside of the winery
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Ravenswood Winery
Wine Subject: 2006 Cooke Vineyard Sonoma County Zinfandel
Winemaker: Joel Peterson
Backgrounder: Sonoma County is well known for producing some of the best wines in California, however, not long ago, Sonoma was better know as a provider of grapes for blending despite some of the best vineyards in the region having been planted in the 1800s. In the 1960s that all changed when Simi Winery in Alexander Valley changed hands and brought attention to the region. With a tremendous diversity of soil, climates and aspect, Sonoma County is now home to over 200 wineries spread across several diverse valleys such as Dry Creek, Russian River and Alexander Valley as well as hillside vineyards with the distinct mountain Terroir to the Mayacama range.
Zinfandel is related to the Italian Primitivo grape, tracing its origin to the Croatian grape Crljenak Kastelanski. Zinfandel is one of the most versatile varietals with the ability to make wines, both rich to fruity, dark to light, and dry to sweet. Sonoma Valley Old Vine Zinfandels, which are characterized by their refinement and balance, are extraordinarily popular with our Operatives.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep and dark ruby red with purple hues with a deep clear heart. Along the edges, the color lightens slightly to include ruby and pink tints. When swirled, tightly spaced random thin legs race to the wine below.
Smell – Bold and redolent with bright aromas of cherry and dusty bramble fruit over a heady and spicy peppery base. Complex herbal aromatics, floral violets, sweet and sandalwood and hints of cocoa invite you in.
Feel – Initially bone dry in its muscular attack and highly textured, this full bodied dry wine has firm etched tannins, lively acidity and fantastic minerality that smooths as this wine opens, but the textural quality remains and grips the palate long into the finish.
Taste – Uniquely old world and almost austere at mid-palate for a California wine in its flavors with its peppery hot exotic spice blending with red and black cherry, plum and blackberry. All the complex undertones found in the nose incorporate with a subtle zesty tar, herbal and cocoa component.
Finish – Extremely long with the grippy and textured tannins and acidity holding tight as the fruit slowly fades leaving hints of the other complex flavors behind.
Conclusion – The 2006 Cooke Vineyard Zinfandel is a truly unique wine with great concentration and raw power in its texture and complexity. An amazing nose with both intensity and subtlety. Somewhat restrained on the palate with regard to its fruit. And a finish that continues for minutes. Reminiscent of old-world Piedmontese wines pair this wine with a dish that is rich and fat as the etched texture will cut through it like a hot knife through butter.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: JOEL PETERSON
DATE OF BIRTH: APRIL 1947
PLACE OF BIRTH: Born in Oakland, California. Fifth generation Californian.
SIGNATURE VARIETAL: ZINFANDEL
WINEMAKER QUOTE: ”Style, history, quality, character – California wine has it all.”
AGENT WHITE: Greetings, Joel. We are thrilled to be showing your exceptional 2006 Cooke Vineyard Zinfandel today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
JOEL PETERSON: Happy to answer questions, particularly when they are about my favorite subject, wine. I am also thrilled that you are showing my wine today. Direct experience is one of the best ways that we have of developing fans for Ravenswood wines.
WHITE: I’m sure that our Operatives will respond well to today’s offer. Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
JOEL: My father taught me to taste when I was fairly young. Many young men play baseball or hunt with their fathers (we did those things as well), but what was unusual was that I learned to taste wine and as a result got an olfactory training that is fairly rare. The single wine that change my vision of wine was a 1957 Chateau Fortia. I was about 20 years old and had developed incredibly interesting and complex perfume and flavors making is one of the most memorable wines that I had tasted up to that date.
WHITE: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?
JOEL: I spent the years from 1973 until 1977 with Joseph Swan learning the nuts and bolts of winemaking. Joe was good friends with Andre Tchelistcheff and used him as a consultant, so I was able to learn in a very hands on way from the best in the business.
WHITE: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?
JOEL: Wines should reflect the flavors of the places that they were grown. Wine should taste like fruit, not oak. Wine should be balanced, rich and complex and interesting. The best wines are the ones that develop well with age. To that end we attempt to let each vineyard express it’s optimal character by using winemaking techniques and careful attention to detail that dwells on each vineyards particular strengths. Our mantra is “no wimpy wines”, meaning that we want each wine we have to exhibit strength of character, not merely power.
WHITE: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
JOEL: There are a whole series of wines that have influenced my winemaking style. Most of them have been European form places like Bordeaux, the Rhone and northern Italy. These memorable wines have a certain balance of fruit, density, acid and tannin that I find desirable in a wine.
WHITE: How long have you been making wine?
JOEL: 35 years
WHITE: Who do you make wine for?
JOEL: I make the wine that best expresses the vineyard, the vintage is balanced and tastes good. As a result ,it is fair to say that, Ravenswood makes wine for me, wine reviewers and wine lovers everywhere.
WHITE: In your opinion, what makes the Cooke Vineyard so special?
JOEL: It is special because of the difficult soils and the hillside location that gets plenty of sunshine, but has a cooling breeze most of the day which is perfect for producing flavorful, well-balanced grapes.
WHITE: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?
JOEL: Learn your craft well, be patient and love what you do. It is not “just a job”.
WHITE: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
JOEL: We are just cleaning up after harvest, making our preliminary blends, deciding how much new oak to use in our wines, hoping that our malolactic fermentations finish and being grateful that a very long harvest is behind us.
WHITE: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today
JOEL: The wine being featured today comes from Cooke Vineyard which is a very small vineyard in the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains. It is about 1200 ft above the Sonoma Valley floor. The vines are planted in solid volcanic schists. In fact, the owner of this vineyard, Charlie Cooke, was so set on having a vineyard that he dynamited the hillside so that the vines would be able to penetrate the soil. Although the vineyard is only 20 years old, it looks much older because it has to struggle so to survive. The vineyard typically produces less than one half ton per acre. The clusters are very small, and the berries are very small which leads to wine with intense spicy flavors, intense cherries and raspberries, and frequently scents that resemble the aromatics of bay leaves. It also has very notable black pepper finish..
WHITE: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
JOEL: Anything that you might find in Tuscany. Grilled meats, meat based tomato sauce with polenta, and anything that includes lots of garlic and olive oil.
WHITE: Please share one thing about yourself that few people know
JOEL: I delivered my son, Morgan, at home.
WHITE: Both of my mini-agents were, as well! Tell me, what is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?
JOEL: Sherman and Hookers Shebang. A one liter jug wine from California. Beyond that, I taste so much, my answer should be whatever wine is in front of me.
WHITE: How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?
JOEL: With a sense of exploration, joy and with food and company.
WHITE: If you could choose any one wine to drink (regardless of price or availability), what would it be?
JOEL: I would never make such a choice. Wine is about diversity and complexity. One wine would be boring. This is not a monotheistic endeavor.
WHITE: Excellent answer! What is the one question that I should have asked you, and what is your answer to that question?
JOEL: Do you have the best, most interesting, most diverse, most challenging, most satisfying job in the universe? YES
WHITE: 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!
JOEL: Every winery needs fans. Without them there is only a singular void. So, thank you to you and all those who make wine part of their daily experience.
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Ravenswood Winery can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
Awards & Accoaldes:
92-94 Points – Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar
About This Wine:
The wine is highly aromatic, dense and peppery—perhaps the most esoteric of all the single-vineyard Zins we make. Along with loads of intense flavors, those tiny berries pack a lot of big tannins. The Cooke Zin is very structured; some have compared it to a fine Barolo. This one will probably last close to 100 years. Well, that may be exaggerating, but it definitely has plenty of staying power. Because Cooke yields are so low, we make very little of this wine.
About The Winery:
For as long as anybody cares to remember, this has been the credo (calling card? Battle cry? Team yell? Coat of arms?) of Ravenswood Winery in Sonoma, California. Expressing our commitment to full-flavored varietal wine — notably Zinfandel — it sums up our mission to capture everything a vineyard has to offer, and to promote it in a way that won’t put people to sleep. Wine is, after all, one of the most fascinating and fun things in life, which is why Ravenswood winemaker Joel Peterson believes that it belongs on the table — not on a pedestal or in an ivory tower.
How did the name of Ravenswood become interchangeable with irresistibility? In the early 1970s, when California’s claim to fame was the “best jug wine in the world,” Joel’s dream was to create wines that would rival the greatest of Europe. Turned out he wasn’t dreaming: In his first vintage, 1976, he produced 327 cases of Dry Creek Zin that took first place in a prestigious San Francisco tasting. But despite the cult following and critical acclaim that began to swirl around its hypnotic logo, Ravenswood remained a roving boutique until the late 1980s, when its Vintners Blend program was launched. Conceived on Joel’s conviction that, besides great wine, the world needs good, affordable wine (“a lake of wine an inch deep”), it redefined the concept of Best Jug Wine in the World.
Thanks to this and a few other things (not least, its tireless campaign against priggish elitism), Ravenswood acquired an informal reputation as the people’s premium winery. In 1999 the company went public with a “Dutch auction” of shares offered over the Internet, and two years later Ravenswood was purchased by Constellation Brands, becoming part of its fine-wine division, Franciscan Estates — a productive partnership that kept the winery under Joel’s control while providing greater resources for efficient operation and growth.
The picture has changed a bit since 1976. Following the original inspiration of wineries like Ravenswood, California has now shirked its once-wimpy status to a fault. But the more things change around our Sonoma headquarters, the more they stay the same. In this brave new enologically altered world, Ravenswood continues to set a stubborn standard for complex, balanced, uncompromising wine that captures everything a vineyard has to offer (and, we might add, nothing more).
About The Winemaker:
Joel Peterson grew up on the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay during the Dark Ages when California wine was judged by the type of jug it was bottled in. However, Joel’s farsighted father Walter bucked the status quo by starting the San Francisco Wine Sampling Club, which studied fine wines from all over the world. Walter allowed his son to join the group’s twice-weekly tastings when Joel was nine years old, carefully measuring the wine in the boy’s glass — then his spittoon — to make sure everything was expectorated.
By the time he was a teenager, Joel thus had a working knowledge of European vineyards and vintages, along with a collection of headstrong opinions about what made good wine. After graduating from Oregon State University, he followed in the professional footsteps of his parents (both of whom were chemists), going to work as a laboratory scientist. On the side, he made money through wine writing and consulting, gaining a local reputation as a gifted taster (and tasteless punster).
Eventually it dawned on Joel that he had the background (not to mention the prejudices) to be an actual winemaker. Hence, he apprenticed with Joseph Swan — one of California’s outstanding craftsmen of fine Zinfandel — to learn the art of traditional winemaking as practiced in Bordeaux and Burgundy. In 1976 Joel founded Ravenswood in partnership with fellow wine lover Reed Foster (a Harvard MBA gone astray) and over the next half-dozen years, their fledgling operation moved from the rear corner of one willing winery to another. When Ravenswood finally turned a profit after a dozen years of operation, they settled on the northern edge of Sonoma, where the winery’s tasting room is located.
Joel is now acknowledged as a leader in California wine — an articulate spokesman and stylistic trendsetter who helped make Zinfandel the runaway phenomenon that it is today. If there were a California Winemaking Hall of Fame, he’d be a shoo-in for early induction — not just as a home-run hitter but as one of the most popular players in the majors. (It’s said that even as a Little Leaguer he could handle the spitter with aplomb.)
Wine Type: Red Wine
Varietal: 100% Zinfandel
Appellation: Sonoma County
Harvest: Oct 11, 2006
Bottled: July 2008
Ageability: 5-20 years
Acidity: 0.60g / 100ml
Production: 295 Cases