2007 Marin County Pinot Noir
California: Marin County
What We Say
UNIQUE WINE ALERT:
Today’s wine is fantastic. It is unique, so please read our review, below, before making your purchase. Our tasting panel really loved this wine, but it is a Pinot perhaps unlike any you have experiences!
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Mission Codename: Rocket Powered Pinot Noir
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Vergari Wines, a Wine Spies Operative favorite, and secure David Vergari’s delicious and unique Marin County Pinot Noir
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Vergari Wines
Wine Subject: 2007 Pinot Noir – Marin County
Winemaker: David Vergari
Backgrounder: Earlier this year, we feature a fantastic Pinot Noir from Vergari, a winery that thrilled our Operatives so much that requests have been flooding in for another great Vergari wine. We were patient, though, and we stayed stealthy, waiting until David Vergari’s Marin County Pinot Noir was ready. Today, we are proud to bring you his fantastic 2007.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Like a french Burgundy, this wine shows lovely garnet hues. The wine has from nearly-clear edging, and deepens in color as you look through its deepening garnet core. Spin the wine, and it settles quickly. Long after settling, chubby tears from high up on the glass – and then crawl slowly down to the wine, below.
Smell – Unlike a French Burgundy, this wine is loaded with exotic aromas, leading with boldly spicy and bright red cherry. Floral and earthen notes follow, as do young strawberry and underripe mulberry. These all sit atop subtle dried fall leaves and soft barrel notes.
Feel – Soft and light across the entry, this wine gradually becomes grippy at the mid-palate. From the mid, a mineral-driven dryness appears, spreading outward very slowly – until it eventually dries the lips and cheeks.
Taste – Bold and spicy red cherry charge onto the palate, coating with bold primary flavors that gradually yield to a very earthy flavor that is comprised of dried leaves, dark dried herbs, redwood shavings and forest floor.
Finish – Very long, and very intriguing, as flavors evolve as the feel changes on the palate. The gradual tailing off – and changing of the flavors – is driven by the changing feel of the wine. As the dryness spreads, flavors change. This happens in a way that is unique to this wine. At the very end, as fruit, spice and earthy notes dwindle, soft barrel notes remain for a long time.
Conclusion – When David Vergari recently handed me this wine, he said, “Taste the wine – and then call me, right away!”. Without asking him why, I accepted the sample bottle and, later, followed his advice. On tasting the wine I immediately knew why he had made that request; David’s 2007 Vergari Pinot Noir – Marin County is unique, to be sure. And, in my opinion, very intriguing and very good. I don’t want to seem overly cautionary, but this wine is not a typical California Pinot Noir. Nor is it much like a French Burgundy. It does have elements of both, but the wine seems infused with something extra, something out of this world. This Pinot of a rocket-powered, delicious, spicy, earthy wine that is equally at home on the dinner table with an exotic-spiced meal as it would be at an elegant evening soiree. Way to go David Vergari! You’ve delivered an intriguing wine that is sure to spark lively debate among our brightest Pinot-loving Operatives.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: David Vergari, owner/winemaker of Vergari Wine
DATE OF BIRTH: Exact date is classified, but I was conceived during Orson Welles’ radio broadcast, “War of the Worlds”. You do the math!
PLACE OF BIRTH: Oak Ridge, TN
WINE EDUCATION: Are you kidding? You mean it’s possible to get a wine education? I have a mail-order degree from UC Davis
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: I wear boxers.
SIGNATURE VARIETALS: Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon
CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Seeing the Southern Cross while working at Coldstream Hills in the Yarra Valley
CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Meeting myself coming the other way
WINEMAKER QUOTE: I have several: “…it’s just wine, damnit!!!…”, “…Wine snobs are a pain in the arse…”, “…open the bottle, already!!!…”
AGENT RED: Greetings, Elvis. We are thrilled to be showing your 2006 Sangiacomo Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
DAVID VERGARI: Hey, it’s my privilege.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
DAVID: My family is Italian. I grew up with Dago Red. Need I say more?
RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?
DAVID: On the practical side: Working with Damian Parker at Joseph Phelps Vineyards. It was cool to integrate the cellar experience with the theory I learned in school.
RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?
DAVID: I missed that lecture. I’ve been winging it ever since. What seems to work for me is not getting in the way, using oak very judiciously and letting the vineyard express itself
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
DAVID: With Cabernet Sauvignon, I’d like to give a tip of the hat to Randle Johnson and Tom Smith, whom I interned under at the Hess Collection back in the early-nineties. There’s also Damian Parker at Joseph Phelps, who continues to mentor me to this day. Finally, James Halliday introduced me to sooo many wines from his phenomenal cellar when I worked at Coldstream Hills. I took notes and learned.
RED: How long have you been making wine?
DAVID: I started making Zinfandel at home in 1981. Professionally, since the early-90s.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
DAVID: People who will appreciate the style of wine I’ve made… in other words, not everyone. I do not pander to critics and accept the fact that some of them will not “get” what I am trying to accomplish. No big deal. Be true to oneself and let the chips fall where they may. Oooh, that’s heavy, man!
RED: Tell me, what makes Marin County such a special place for Pinot Noir?
DAVID: Well, for starters there is less than 150 acres of Pinot Noir in all of Marin County, so it’s pretty hard to get a hold of grapes to begin with. I like the climate. It’s coastal with maritime influences like wind and fog from the nearby Petaluma Gap. Daytime highs seldom go above the mid-80s, while nighttime temperatures range somewhere from the mid-40s to low-50s, which is ideal for growing quality grapes. Finally, there’s just something about the site that feels right. I’ve gained this sense from traveling and making wine on four different continents. It cannot be quantified…it’s just something that resonates within.
RED: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?
DAVID: Give me a call. I’ll try to talk you out of it
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
DAVID: Taking care of bidness. Keeping an eye on what’s in barrels from the 2010 harvest for one thing. We’re just about finished with pruning. Selling the wine is the most important demand on one’s time, because at the end of the day I am really a wine-seller.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today
DAVID: My 2007 Pinot Noir is from Marin County. The grapes come from the Chileno Valley area, located in the northeast corner of Marin.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
DAVID: YES! (ahem) Okay, I’ll try to be more, uh, serious here. What’s cool about Pinot Noir is its versatility. There are several foods that match up well, such as leg of lamb, salmon, pork tenderloin, and some spicy dishes as well.
RED: Please share one thing about yourself that few people know
DAVID: I swam across Lake Tahoe in a relay race. The water was rather cold.
RED:What is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?
DAVID: Whatever I am drinking at the time. Really. During the harvest my favorite white is Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Bear Republic’s Racer 5 IPA.
RED: How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?
DAVID: Mine? With extreme caution. Wine in general? Remove the cork or screwcap and just enjoy.
RED: If you could choose any one wine to drink (regardless of price or availability), what would it be?
RED: What is the one question that I should have asked you, and what is your answer to that question?DAVID: Jeepers-creepers, haven’t I bored you enough? Okay, here goes: “When did you feel comfortable inside your own skin as a winemaker?” Answer: Only recently. I make wine with my heart and guts. It’s scary and exhilarating. When something clicks, I am very grateful. And relieved.
RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and about your wine. Keep making your great wines. We became instant fans, the moment we tasted with you at [REDACTED].
DAVID: I really dig what the Wine Spies are doing. It was my pleasure to be with you, again, today.
What the Winery Says
Awards & Accolades:
90 Points – Josh Raynolds, Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar – Vivid red. Fresh red berries, cherry and spicecake on the nose, with a smoky mineral undertone. Fresh, focused, gently sweet raspberry on entry, giving way to deeper bitter cherry with air. Silky tannins add focus to the long, sappy, increasingly spicy finish. This is balanced to age but there’d be no crime in drinking it now.
About This Wine:
Ruby color; bouquet of spice, earthy, and red cherry aromas. Pronounced earthiness that is not the result of Brettanomyces! The fruit-driven entry opens into a silk textured mid-palate that ends with a seamless and long finish. This wine is made for aging. That’s how I roll.
The vineyard is located in the Chileno Valley in the northeast corner of Marin County. The Petaluma Wind Gap affects the local weather with coastal fog and moderate temperatures that make for a long growing season. The vineyard is a field blend of several Dijon clones, which presents a challenge when it comes time to pick: no two clones ripen at exactly the same time. There is less than 140 acres of Pinot Noir in all of Marin County.
About The Winery:
Founded in 2003 by owner/winemaker David Vergari, Vergari Wines strives to produce Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon from vineyards that are exclusively suited to those varietals. David shepards the wine from vine to bottle, ages them solely in French oak barrels and trusts that if he’s doing his job well, each wine will display its own “voice” – its own distinctive and unique character.
While studying Enology and Viticulture at UC Davis, David interned at Sonoma-Cutrer and The Hess Collection in Napa Valley, and worked abroad at Coldstream Hills in Australia and Covisa in Spain. Landing back in California, David worked his way up to Research Enologist at Joseph Phelps Vineyard before moving to Rutz Cellars in the Russian River Valley, where he not only became the winemaker, but honed his skills and appreciation for Pinot Noir. Then, after four years as Head Winemaker at Maddalena Vineyards, David decided to launch his own label, Vergari Wines. In his spare time, David acts as a consulting winemaker and teaches extension wine courses at UC Irvine.
David ascribes his life-long interest in wine at least in part to his Italian ancestry. His first memory of wine goes back to when he was five years old, in his great-uncle’s cellar in San Francisco tasting “Dago Red” – cut with water, of course! For a while in his twenties he worked as a financial analyst, but winemaking was in his blood, and inevitably he decided to change careers and follow his passion.
David makes his wines at Owl Ridge Wine Services in Sebastopol, California, formerly co-owned by friends and fellow winemakers Greg LaFollette and Greg Bjornstad. David became fast friends with the two Gregs while attending UC Davis and vowed that one day he would make wine at their facility. The third generation of his family from western Sonoma County, David divides his time between the winery and vineyards in Northern California and his home life with wife Katie Orth in Sierra Madre, Southern California.
David’s philosophy; “Give every lot of grapes the attention and careful handling it needs, let the wine find its voice while knowing when to stay out of the way, and always remember that wine is something to be enjoyed – like the company of an old friend.”
CLONES: Heritage clones and various Dijon clones
SOIL: Rocky, clay volcanic
YIELD: Low: 1½ to 2 tons per acre; cordon pruned
CLIMATE: Days typically begin with morning coastal fog which burns off by mid-day and then returns in the evening
HARVEST DATE: October 15, 2007
- Grapes were hand harvested into ½ -ton macrobins
- Hand-sorted twice at the winery, before and after crushing
- 30% of the berries were left uncrushed to add complexity and spiciness
- Cold soaked before the onset of native fermentation
- Malolactic fermentation finished in barrel after four months
- 20% new, 40% once-filled and 40% neutral French oak
- Aged on the fine lees for eleven months
- Bottled August 2008
WINE PH: 3.68
TA: 6.08 grams/liter
PRODUCTION: 138 cases