2007 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
California: Sonoma County: Alexander Valley
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Mission Codename: Riding the Ridgeline
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Ridgeline Vineyards, sister winery of our friends at Artesa. Secure an ample cache of their soon-to-be-released Cabernet Sauvignon for our waiting Operatives.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Ridgeline Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2007 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Winemaker: Dave Dobson
Today’s Cabernet Sauvignon comes to us from our goood friends at Ridgeline Vineyards, in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley. The Alexander Valley AVA in northeast Sonoma County is located on the western side of the Mayacamas range and extends westward to the edge of the Russian River Valley. This appellation was formerly considered a part of Dry Creek Valley but became its own appellation in November 1984. The region is best known for exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot but recently people are starting to discover its Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and Chardonnay as well.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Darkest deep purple with an inky, almost black core. Color is concentrated, right out to the very edge of the glass. Swirl the wine and watch as wine-hued legs start high on the glass before they rush to the surface.
Smell – Overripe blackberry and Bing cherry lead off the lush nose. Ripe, sweet raspberry black cherry and blueberry follow. These sit atop soft cedar, spice, black pepper – and an intriguing subtle aroma of Peppermint Patty candy.
Feel – Initially plush and soft on entry. Then, softly grippy and textured with crushed velvet tannins. Spice and cedar contribute to the dry velvet feel, especially as flavors fade.
Taste – Juicy blackfruit preserves of overripe blackberry, plum, and dark blueberry over brown tobacco leaf, soft moist cedar shavings, fresh earthen dried herbs and white pepper.
Finish – Medium in length, jammy and and flavorful, with dark fruit that fades to reveal exotic spice, soft cedar and a mineral-driven white pepper.
Conclusion – The 2007 vintage is turning out to be a fantastic one for California Cabernet Sauvignon. Today’s 2007 Ridgeline Vineyards Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is a the best we have tried from this vintage. A very approachable and juicy wine, it is ripe and bursting with flavors. The feel is easy and elegant, and the aromatics are plain intriguing. The soft mint and chocolate was surprising, but it works just beautifully in this wine. Overall, this fun and easy-drinking wine shows great balance. We enjoyed our sample bottles with woodfired pizza with fresh mozzarella, spinach and bacon. The balanced acidity o the wine made it an easy compliment to the complex flavors of the pizza. This great Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon gets a hearty Wine Spies recommendation.
We were unable to sit down with Ridgeline’s winemaking team today. What follows, for your enjoyment, is a recap of Agent White’s original mission to Artesa, the sister winery of today’s winery, Ridgeline. The following mission is from early 2009:
Finally, I was able to wrangle a choice assignment away from Agent Red! And, while he did all of the leg work for today’s mission, I get the glory.
Red had Artesa under surveillance for a long time, probably too long. I all fairness, he did gather a great deal on intel on the winery and that set the stage for my quick infiltration. If any mission goes on for too long, I am usually the one that is called on to complete the mission – and get the wine.
Read Agent Red’s mission updates in the W.I.N.E. (Wine Internet Nexus Engine for our newest Operatives) archives. For my part, I’ll just tell you that a couple of calls to senior management at Artesa was all it took to secure today’s wine.
Rather than bore you with those details, I do want to point out a few things about Artesa and their world-class team.
If you ever find yourself in Napa, a visit to Artesa is not just recommended, it is essential. The winery grounds, sculpture gardens, architecture, and winery are magnificent. One has the feeling of visiting a world-class art museum, a winery and even a place of worship when spending time at Artesa.
In my case, the winery was the place of worship! For all of Artesa’s ambiance and style, the winery is really the divine place where their great wines are born. A few afternoon hours with the great counter staff – spent tasting through their wines – was such a delightful treat. The people, like the wines, were great fun.
Artesa in the U.S. is the extension of a Spanish winemaking family that dates back to the year 1551, when the Codorníu family first made wine at Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, in the Penedès region of Spain, just west of Barcelona.
The family continues making wines for centuries and in 1872, becomes the first in the world to make sparkling wines outside of Champagne in the méthode champenoise. This revolutionizes Spain’s wine industry.
In 1897, Codorníu is declared the exclisive supplier of wine to the king of Spain, King Alfonso XIII.
In 1915, the Codorníu winery build the world’s largest wine cellars, with five subterranean levels extending 16 miles.
The winery continues to grow and gain in prestige and honor for the next several decades. In 1989, they break ground on a revolutionary new winery in the Napa Valley. In 1991, Codorníu Napa opens as a méthode champenoise facility in the Carneros region of the Napa Valley. Those of you that know our tastes, know that The Wine Spies are enamored with the Carneros region.
In 1999, the winery is renamed Artesa Winery and releases its inaugural wines – two Chardonnays, three Pinot Noirs, and a Sauvignon Blanc – to critical acclaim.
Earlier this year, the winery is joined by one of America’s only multi-generational winemakers, Mark Beringer. In the United States, ‘multi-generational’ in winemaking usually means two or three generations have been involved in the craft. Mark, whose great, great grandfather was winemaking pioneer, Jacob Beringer, is a fifth generation winemaker and head of winemaking for Artesa and Ridgeline today.
Throughout his career, Mark has been recognized as a leader and a pioneer in the field of winemaking. He has received numerous kudos and awards, including Winemaker of the Year by The San Francisco Chronicle.
If you can’t make it out to Artesa, at least you’ll be able to get a taste of the place by picking up a few bottles of today’s great wine.
As for Agent Red, don’t feel too bad for him. He was pretty bummed out that I was able to close the deal with Artesa, but that case of Artesa Cab I secured for him is keeping him plenty happy. For the moment!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Alexander Valley AVA in Sonoma County can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
Aromas of blackberry, plum, allspice and vanilla lead to complex flavors of cassis, chocolate, cedar, and caramel on the palate. Fine tannins create a smooth supple texture leading to a full long finish. Seductive and tantalizing, this wine is a beautiful example of the elegance and rich fruit character for which Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon has come to be recognized. This well-structured Cabernet Sauvignon can be enjoyed for another ten years or more.
The 2007 Vintage: The 2007 growing season was wonderfully unique for several reasons. It was a drought year which means the vines were less vigorous with smaller berries and more sunlight on each berry. We also got an early start to the growing season and benign harvest weather which enabled us to get our grapes fully ripe before the rainy week in early October. The summer of 2007 was very mild with very cool nights. These cold nights produced grapes with exceptional color and concentration. Because of this concentration and power the 2007 vintage will take an additional year or so to open up and express its full beauty.
About The Vineyard: Clinging to Oak Mountain overlooking the Russian River in Sonoma County’s famous Alexander Valley is our Ridgeline Mountain Vineyards estate. The 90 acre vineyard spans over 1000 vertical feet in elevation. Due to the steepness, less then 1/4 of our 400 acre property was suitable for planting in soils which are 50% rock, resulting in low vigor combined with excellent exposure to make this a true world class site for growing high quality Cabernet Sauvignon. We carefully manage the amount and positioning of our vine shoots to provide the optimum amount of sun to ripen our fruit slowly and evenly, giving the grapes extended “hang time” to achieve the mature and full ripeness we strive for. The result is grapes that are exceptionally small, bursting with intense fruit flavor.
Winemaking: Hand harvested in the early morning, the berries were gently de-stemmed and barely split and only free run juice was used to produce this wine. Fermentation occurred in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and full fruit extraction was accomplished through a combination of mechanical punch downs and gentle pump over followed by an extended maceration period to help build the mouth feel and structure. The wine then went directly to barrel for malolactic fermentation where it was allowed to mature in 50% new and 50% used French oak barrels for 24 months. Prior to bottling, every barrel was individually tasted and analyzed and the final blend was carefully assembled by our winemaker. Small amounts of Merlot and Cabernet Franc were added to enhance the balance and complexity.
About The Winery:
FIFTEEN HUNDRED FEET up Oak Mountain, Cabernet Sauvignon vines hug the sides of a track so steep and sharply curved that the vineyard manager’s four-wheel drive groans with each shift of gears. The early morning air is cool and clear, affording stunning views of neighboring ridges to the west and of the Russian River, coiled ribbon-like on the quilt of the valley below. This is Standing Bear Vineyard on Ridgeline’s remote 409-acre property in the prestigious Alexander Valley appellation of California’s Sonoma County. Named for a 30-foot granite outcropping that resembles a grizzly bear, the 11-acre parcel is one of six vineyards producing Bordeaux grapes that translate into superbly structured Cabernet Sauvignon.
THE FIRST RESIDENTS of what is today known as Ridgeline Vineyards (Oak Mountain) were a tribe of Native Americans referred to by white settlers as ‘Pomo Indians’ but who referred to themselves as Mahokama. The Russian River which the Mahokama people depended on for much of their subsistence runs right past the base of Oak Mountain and Ridgeline Vineyards. The Mahokama called the river, “Shabaikai” or “long snake”. The numerous natural springs that feed our vineyards were also used by the Mahokama for medicinal purposes.
OAK MOUNTAIN sits on what was once part of the “Rancho Ricon de Musalacon”, a Spanish land grant. In 1875 the Oak Mountain property was acquired by Colonel Hartwell Preston and the village of Preston was established at the base of the mountain just north of Cloverdale, which had been established in 1867, on the property now known as Ridgeline Vineyards.
FOUNDED BY EMILY PRESTON, it was the center of a faith-based community of several hundred followers that Madame Preston oversaw and for whom she was the spiritual leader until her death in 1909. Madame Preston was a colorful personality who supposedly could see through people with her “X-ray eyes.” Her place of worship was called the Church of Heaven on Probation. Madame Preston also dispensed numerous patent medicines for which she established a very successful mail order business. The key and most functional ingredient in her patent medicines, which contained a variety of herbs and spices, was wine, produced from grapes grown in the community’s vineyards. What finally did her in was passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906, which stopped her—and thousands of other purveyors of patent medicines—from commercially selling homemade drugs. The village of Preston broke up after her death in 1909.
FOR NINETY YEARS the property lay undeveloped as it passed from owner to owner. In 1999 the property site was purchased by our parent company Codorníu who developed the property with the specific goal of growing California’s best grapes and making California’s best Cabernet Sauvignon.
Varietal Composition: 96% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Cabernet Franc & 2% Merlot
Vineyards: Ridgeline Vineyards, Alexander Valley
Harvest: September 2007
Average Sugar at Harvest: 26.8 Brix
Appellation: Alexander Valley
Cooperage: Aged 24 Months in 50% New and 50% Used French Oak Barrels