What We Say 2008 Home Ranch Chardonnay
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Mission Codename: The Red Mountain
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Send Agent Red to Sbragia Family Vineyards, at the extreme outskirts of Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley. Instruct him to return with the family’s easy-on-the-budget single vineyard Chardonnay, a wine that is well worthy of our Operatives exacting tastes.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Sbragia Family Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2008 Home Vineyard Chardonnay
Winemaker: Ed Sbragia
Backgrounder: We first became acquainted with Ed Sbragia’s winemaking prowess when we began featuring the wines that he made for wine icon, Beringer, in the Napa Valley. Ed, whose grandfather and father made wines, spent more than 30 years at Beringer, perfecting his skills. Today, Ed is Winemaker Emeritus at Beringer – and his family winery produces an amazing assortment of remarkable wines.
Regional Backgrounder: The Dry Creek Valley, in Northern Sonoma County, receives more rain and enjoys a longer growing season than neighboring regions. These conditions make for perfect Chardonnay grape growing.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Glinting golden yellow with perfect color concentration, from center to edge. Low, closely spaced legs start low on the glass. They start slowly and then accellerate down to the soft surface of the wine.
Smell – Bright and fragrant, with aromas that change and evolve as the wine warms slightly. Right out of the cooler, the wine shows off lemon curd, lemon tort, vanilla, pear and subtle zest. As the wine warms, intriguing aromas emerge, showing off softly smoky mineral salt, clementine, subtle bacon and burnt paper match head.
Feel – Cool and light on entry, then round across the mid-palate. The wine gradually spreads a soft dryness that begins at the center of the palate and then spreads outward to the lips and cheeks.
Taste – Sweet lemon pastry with vanilla and honeydew. These initial flavors are soon joined by honeydew, lime zest, sweetwood, clementine and apricot. Under these lie subtle hits of softly toasted oak and honeysuckle.
Finish – Exceptionally long and bright, with a softness that gently yields to an easy, softly mineral dryness.
Conclusion – In our four years of showcasing wines from around the world, today marks the sale of our very first Chardonnay from this exceptional region! Today’s wine comes from the Sbragia Family’s Home Vineyard, at the northern reaches of the valley, a location that is unique to the Dry Creek Valley. Cooler than the rest of the appellation, their estate vineyard is particularly well-suite to Chardonnay, a grape that thrives in the Burgundian cool climate of the vineyard. Today’s wine is a fantastic treat and we are impressed by its character, evolving aromatics and delicious flavors. Bright and smooth, with a softly complex side, this is an easy-drinking but also interesting wine. This is no one-dimensional Chardonnay, but neither is it overly complicated overpowering. Father and son team Ed and Adam Sbragia have crafted a delicious and well-balanced wine that impresses – while it pleases the wallet!
Mission Report:WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Edward Sbragia
WINE EDUCATION: BS Chemistry, UC Davis. MS Wineaking, CSU Fresno
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Chemist at Gallo, winemaker at l. Foppiano, Winemaster, Senior Vice President Beringer Vineyards, Owner/President Sbragia Family Vineyards.
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Wine is made in the vineyards. We are the just the protectors of the wine.
WINEMAKER QUOTE: Wine is food. It is made for great meal and great friends.
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: I started at Beringer in 1976. My own winery Sbragia family vineyard first release was September of 2004
AGENT RED: Greetings, Ed and Adam Sbragia. We are thrilled to be showing your 2008 Home Ranch Vineyard Chardonay today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
ED SBRAGIA: Our pleasure, Agent Red!
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
ED: We grew up in an Italian household. Adam, my son and I grew up in a farmer and winemakers’ world. My dad’s name was Gino – a farmer/winemaker. We had wine at the table and the wines were pure to type and also well made.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
ED: When I first started making wine my boss was Myron Nightingale who taught me a love of white wines specially Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay and my dad making superb Dry Creek Zinfandels. Between the two I fell in love with Cabernet Sauvignon also. I made Sonoma and Napa Valley cabs all my life.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
ED: Myron used to say, “To thy own self be true”. Great wines come from great vineyards. Winemakers need to make the wine to make them happy. If you can’t make yourself happy it is hard to make anybody else happy.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
ED: Our Home Ranch Vineyard, which my family has been farming for decades, is located on the Northeast side of Dry Creek in Sonoma County, California. This thirteen-acre Chardonnay parcel benefits from temperatures that are a bit cooler than most of the appellation, resulting in a Chardonnay with bright fruit flavors, good structure and a nice balanced acidity.
Spring 2008 was one of the driest on record with virtually no rainfall. Summer was on the cooler side, but was steady with no major heat spikes until Labor Day, thus allowing wonderful flavor development. The grapes for the 2008 Home Ranch Chardonnay were hand-picked on September 10, 2008.
When crafting the Home Ranch Chardonnay, my son Adam and I chose to barrel ferment roughly half of the wine in new Burgundian barrels while the other half went into once-used barrels. The wine underwent 100 percent malolactic fermentation and was aged for 10 months, with the lees stirred weekly. Our goal was to create a classically crafted Chardonnay, with a wonderful richness and concentration of the fruit expression of our Home Ranch Vineyard.
The family vineyards are my father’s legacy and I get so much joy from crafting wines from our Home Ranch. We love the opulence of this wine, and the sun-kissed flavors of Sonoma County that it evokes. The 2008 Chardonnay has rich aromas of apricot and honeysuckle. Layers of complexity and flavor in the mouth showcase notes of stone fruit, roasted pear, and a notably long finish.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
ED: I feel with the crisp Acidity the Chardonnay has it brings out rich aromas of apricot and honeysuckle. The layers of complexity and flavor in the mouth showcase notes of stone fruit, roasted pear, and a notably long finish. The wine would go well with Scallops sautéed in a butter ,lemon and olive oil. Also a nice salad with a good balance of apples, dried cherries, parmesan, olive oil and balsamic.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
ED: Racking, topping, stirring whites, tasting inventory, and getting wines ready for bottling in the spring.
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
ED: We make rich flavorful wines that stand alone or accompany a meal
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
ED: I hope you enjoy the wine as much as Adam and I enjoy making them and drinking them!
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 the Sbragia Family Vineyards winery, at the very end of the Dry Creek Vally, can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
Sbragia Family Vineyards
About This Wine:
About one mile from Dry Creek, this thirteen-acre vineyard benefits from temperatures. that are a bit cooler than most of the appellation. It makes wine that’s very aromatic with nice bright fruit. pear and lemon and a bit of minerality on the finish.
About The Winery:
SBRAGIA FAMILY VINEYARD IS A DREAM THAT I’ve had for some time, a small, family-owned winery making limited, individual lots of wine from grapes grown in select blocks of my favorite vineyards. I’ve always had one foot in Sonoma and the other in Napa. Both areas mean a lot to me emotionally. I’m more attached to Dry Creek because it’s where I raised my kids. But the wines that I’ve made at Beringer are like children, so Napa is also a very special place for me. Either way, the wines are intensely personal, an expression not only of terroir, but of my family’s winemaking heritage.
The Family: A big part of the appeal of doing my own label is working with my family. My son, Adam, makes the wines with me. My youngest son, Kevin, works in the cellar during harvest. Adam’s wife, Kathy, runs our hospitality, and my wife, Jane, and daughter, Gina, are often found helping out in the tasting room.
The family vineyards are my father’s legacy to me and my children. I love this land and making wine from it, and bottling it under the family name affirms all the work my father did for me. It’s something I had to do to say thank you to him, my dad, Gino.
Also, we welcomed the latest edition to our family, my granddaughter, Siena, on December 20, 2007.