2007 Old Vine Zinfandel
California: Napa Valley
What We Say
Today’s wine earned a special spot in our annual Wine Intrigue Awards line-up, when it won -
Top QPR Napa County
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
Today’s youthful, vibrant and mouth-filling Zinfandel from legendary winemaker Nils Venge is truly a fantastic wine and shows everything you’d want from a classic Old Vine Zinfandel.
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Mission Codename: Back in the Saddle
Operative: Agent White
Objective: Visit Saddleback Cellars and winemaker Nils Venge to acquire a limited quantity of their highly esteemed Old Vine Zinfandel.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Saddleback Cellars
Wine Subject: 2007 Napa Valley Old Vine Zinfandel
Winemaker: Nils Venge
Zinfandel is often aptly named California’s grape. Its history and lore and the wines that result are often the makings of legend. In this case, famed winemaker Nils Venge selected the best old-vine grapes from a two vineyards, one in Napa’s Calistoga with 86 year old vines and a small lot from the Russian River Valley’s Monte Rosso vineyard’s 120 year old vines.
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. Old Vine Zinfandel, which are characterized by their refinement and balance, are extraordinarily popular with our Operatives.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Dark and deep ruby red with a clear core that lightens just slightly along the edges of the glass. When swirled, evenly spaced thing legs race down to the wine below.
Smell – Rich and spiced bramble fruit along with blackberry cherry and plum meld with notes of cedar and toasted oak with a hint of vanilla, subtle dried herbs and earthy notes are balanced over a kick of white pepper.
Feel – Mouth-filling, chewy and expansive, this full-bodied dry wine has vibrant acidity and firm tannins that approach smoothly before taking hold at the mid palate and linger into the finish.
Taste – Generous but well balanced flavors of red cherry, blackberry plum integrate with a healthy dose of white pepper, bramble herb, spice, cedar, sweet tobacco and toasted oak/vanilla notes.
Finish – Extremely long with its bramble fruit, cherry and plum lingering on the palate and holding tight leaving behind its tangy and spice for several minutes.
Conclusion – The 2007 Saddleback Cellars Napa Valley Old Vine Zinfandel is a fantastic old vine Zinfandel that is sure to please. Lively and youthful with great classic aromas and flavors with an expansive palate that is big but isn’t abusive like some young Zinfandel can be. Great cherry and bramble, white pepper, cedar all in balance – simply delicious. We reviewed this wine on its own but feel free to pair it with anything on the grill. Enjoy this wine now or cellar for up to 10 years, if you can wait that long.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
Subject: Nils Venge
Wine Education: UC Davis – BS in Viticulture and Enology. I have over 40 years of winemaking experience in Napa including Villa Mt. Eden, Groth, my own labels – Saddleback Cellars, Envy Wines and Cougar’s Leap/Black Rock – and as consultant for several boutique wineries in Napa, including Fortress Vineyards.
California Wine Job In Brief: As noted, I make wine under my own labels and am the consulting winemaker for several other boutique wineries including Fortress Vineyards.
Winemaking Philosophy: “First and foremost, I always strive to capture as much of the true varietal character and the character of the particular site or terroir in each wine. I also work to make each wine balanced, smooth and one that will age well.”
First Commercial Wine Release: 1974 – Villa Mt. Eden Cabernet Sauvignon.
RED: Greetings, Nils. We are thrilled to be showing your 2007 Old Vine Zinfandel today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
NILS: Thank you, I am happy to be back with you, again. I am sorry that I can’t spend more time with you, but harvest is here and the grapes beckon!
RED: I understand! Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
NILS: Yes, my parents were Distributors in Los Angeles and represented many high quality suppliers. I was introduced to the best quality wines at an early age. I looked forward every Christmas to see what special wines my father would pour for the dinner. Most years the selection would include a wonderful Chateau Latour and Chateau D’Yquem.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
NILS: Definitely Chateau Latour inspired me from the start. For a domestic wine, I have always looked to Ed Sbragia’s Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon as a standard.
RED: Ok, Nils, your cell phone keeps ringing, so I know that I have to let you go. Thank you so much for your time. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The approximate location of the Saddleback Cellars can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
Fruit comes from two old vineyards: one in Calistoga 86 years old; the other in Russian River, over 120 years old. Full-bodied with wonderful aromas of cherries, spices and cigar box. Opulent, jammy black fruit flavors. Released and poured at Tag Along party Aug 2010.
Nils Venge has been making Zinfandel since 1992. The majority of each vintage has come from Zinfandel grapes grown on the floor of the Napa Valley near St. Helena, California. In 1994, an additional small lot of grapes came from the Monte Rosso vineyard in Sonoma which is owned by the Martini Family. Nils always blends a little Cabernet Sauvignon into each vintage to add depth. Our Zinfandel is always treated to 100% brand new American oak and is no exception to the rule of “meal-in-a-glass” Zinfandels. The Saddleback Zinfandel has gained quite a reputation as a “monster Zin” and is in great demand. This wine has a track record of selling out within 30-45 days of release.
Our Zinfandel is always treated to 100% new American oak barrels. This meaty giant is no exception to the rule of “meal-in-a-glass” Zinfandels.
About The Winery:
Established in 1982, Saddleback Cellars is a small winery located in Oakville, in the heart of the Napa Valley. 14.8 total acres are planted to 8.4 acres Cabernet Sauvignon, 2.9 acres Chardonnay, 1.75 acres Merlot, 1.1 acres Pinot Blanc, 0.3 acres Pinot Grigio and 0.3 acres Zinfandel.
Known as “The King of Cabernet,” legendary winemaker and owner, Nils Venge, has been making stellar Cabernet Sauvignon, along with many other varietals here since its establishment. Nils’ philosophy on making wines for Saddleback is that they must reflect the best qualities that Napa Valley has to offer; sometimes a single vineyard, sometimes a single appellation, or a blend of appellations to make the best wine in a particular vintage. Despite his reputation as “The King,” Nils is a down-to-earth, cheerful, full-of-life kind of guy whose wines not only reflect the character of their region, but also seem to reflect his personality – bold, yet approachable, friendly and fun yet with layers of complexities.
In 1939, Lady Liberty welcomed the Venge family, Nils’ grandparents and his father, Per, into New York harbor from Denmark. Grandfather, Kund, was asked by his company in Denmark, George Jensen Silver, to oversee the New York City enterprise. The small family thrived in this fast paced new world. Per attended New York City College and studied business administration. When Knud retired from the silver jewelry business, the Venges looked westward, and Southern California is where they headed.
The family bought a home in the Hollywood Hills where Per was able to indulge in his love of horses. He worked at North American Aircraft as an efficiency engineer during World War II and was a member of the Sheriff’s Posse of Los Angeles County. One day, on horseback, Per spotted Gudrun Ingwersen, also a member of the Posse. When their eyes met, he knew he was looking at the woman he was destined to marry. Soon after, Gudrun gave birth to twins, Nils and his twin sister, Karen.
After the war, Per started a wine, beer and spirits distributor business in Los Angeles which specialized in Danish and European products. While growing up, Nils worked for his father on weekends and the summer holidays. When he graduated from San Marino High School, it was Per’s wish that young Nils would take over the family venture. They both agreed that they really needed to know more about wine. So, Nils enrolled at the University of Davis where he went on to earn his Bachelor’s Degree in Viticulture with a minor in Enology in 1967. When he returned to Southern California, Nils enrolled at L.A. State College to work toward a degree in International Business Law. At the same time, Nils signed up as a Navy Reservist which sent him on a tour of duty in Danang, Vietnam.
When he returned in 1970, Nils decided that what he really wanted to do was put his degree to work in the Napa Valley and not to take over the family business.