2006 Red Dirt Red
California: El Dorado County
What We Say
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
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Mission Codename: Ridin’ the Rhone
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Vinum Cellars, in Napa, California, and retrieve an allotment of their fantastic Red Dirt Red, a proprietary red blend that is wildly popular with the winery’s club members.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Vinum Cellars
Wine Subject: 2006 Red Dirt Red Red Blend, El Dorado Hills
Winemaker: Richard Bruno
The El Dorado County AVA is located in the Sierra Nevada mountain foothills and is well known for its Zinfandel crop. Increasingly though, Rhone varietals and Nebbiolo are being planted. The rich volcanic soil, higher elevation and climate (similar to the Piedmont, incidentally) most influences the fruit from this relatively lesser known AVA. Today’s exceptional blend is comprised of 51% Syrah, 28% Mourvedre and 21% Grenache.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Dark Burgundy hues, with a slightly darker, clear core. At the rim of the glass, soft band of ruby encircles the wine. When swirled, the wine settles quickly, leaving behind tight clusters of wine-stained tears.
Smell – Black stonefruit is right out front, with juicy plum and prune leaping from the glass. Behind these, black cherry candy, black licorice, baking chocolate, dark violets, softly toasted oak, spice and dried fall leaves.
Feel – Velvet-smooth across the front palate, then mouth-filling and juicy, with bright fruit cascading around the mouth. Red fruit yields to black fruit and a soft, mineral-driven dryness spreads across the palate.
Taste – Juicy red fruit leads, with black cherry, raspberry cherry and a hint of smoky cranberry. These are followed, closely, by plum, dark fig, licorice, dark chocolate and soft baking spice. At the tail end of the long finish, a flinty mineral dryness is gradually revealed.
Finish – Ultra long and very flavorful, with sweet fruit flavors that give way to darker fruit. A the very end, soft spice and flinty minerals linger on.
Conclusion – What a fantastic wine this is! Flavorful, and very well balanced with a terrific feel and deep aromas, this wine delivers on levels. The low price of the wine makes it a no-brainer. The juicy fruit has a dark (tasty-fruit) side that our panel found not only delicious, but also complex and interesting. The wonderful feel of the wine is punctuated but the bright acidity and plush tannins. The 2006 Red Dirt Red is a fun, approachable, balanced and tasty wine that we think will pair easily with a nice steak, or grilled chicken with a tangy BBQ sauce. Drinking beautifully now, you could probably sit on a bottle or two for the next few years.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Richard Bruno
WINE EDUCATION: Fermentation Science (Enology) from the University of California at Davis. Prior to that 12 years in San Francisco fine Dining including: Rubicon, Masa’s and Zuni Cafe. I worked with MS Larry Stone at Rubicon.
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Don Sebastiani & Sons, Director of Winemaking 2001-2009 Niebaum-Coppola, Consultant 1999-2001 Tom Eddy & Associates, Consultant 1998-1999 Started Vinum Cellars, 1997 Bonny Doon Vineyard, Distiller 1996-1997 Gloria Ferrer Winery 1995, Harvest Intern 1995 Storybook Mountain Winery, Harvest Worker 1994
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: In the vineyard – To work with growers to maximize quality in the vineyard and harvest at optimal maturity. In the Winery – We use traditional winemaking practices, but use a variety of yeast strains to maximize the varietal character of each wine. As a rule, we use only French oak, but the newest barrels are second year (used once, we buy from another winery’s white program). We prefer integrated flavors, not heavy handed oak aromas or flavors.
WINEMAKER QUOTE: ”Wine is a part of a healthy lifestyle (if consumed in moderation), therefore it should be affordable.”
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: June 1st, 1998
AGENT RED: Greetings, Richard. We are thrilled to be showing your 2006 Red Dirt Red today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
RICHARD BRUNO: Thanks Agent Red, I am proud to offer this exceptional wine to your customers at your price, this is a tremendous value.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
RICHARD: I don’t remember the exact first time, but my mother is a wonderful cook. Not an Alice Waters, more of a Julia Child type cook; my family’s roots are from the Mid-west and East Coast. Anyway, while in High School (and playing a lot of Soccer), my mom would cook early dinners (after practice) and serve a little wine that went with the evening’s meal that she and a friend would prepare. Her friend had a great cellar and brought over a lot of cool stuff like Guigals from the 1970s, Napa Cabs from the 60s and 70s and the occassional Chateau Palmer or Margaux. I was always taken by the importance of wine’s role with a meal based on these experiences. Sometimes I wish I could go back to those days.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
RICHARD: My old boss, Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard. I was so intrigued to learn how to make Old World wines from new world grapes.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
RICHARD: I have always made wine for myself, by shunning too much oak in favor of a more European Food-Friendly style.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
RICHARD: This wine is what many winemakers refer to as a GSM (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre). We have been sourcing fruit for years out of the El Dorado area from a fantastic grower (Ron Mansfield). We always loved the Mourvedre and Syrah, but there was no Grenache available until the 2002 vintage when we were finally able to make a true Southern Rhone Valley inspired GSM which we named Red Dirt Red. This name is descriptive of the blend and the color of the soils (in El Dorado). The grapes arrive in wooden picking bins and we hand sort and ferment each varietal separately in small open top tanks. After a light pressing, the wine finishes malo-lactic fermentation in barrels. As I mentioned earlier, we are careful (and have a light hand) with our use of oak and use a combination of 2, 3 and 4 year old oak. After aging on the gross lees for 14 months (an old world technique) we do our first rack and make the blend, which was followed by another 8 months in barrel. The result is a hearty red with beautiful, upfront cherry fruit notes (from Syrah), earthy textured midpalate (from the Mourvedre) and white pepper spice (from the Grenache). A great food wine, but great for parties, bowling night or cigars with the boys.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
RICHARD: Wow, well, it’s a tossup between a blood sausage Cassoulet and spit roasted lamb rubbed with herbs de Provance and packed in a salt crust.
RED: In your opinion, what makes the El Dorado region so special?
RICHARD: El Dorado is high in elevation (1,600-2,400 feet) in the mountains providing good drainage which reduce yields. Also, vines struggle a little in hillside settings which is also beneficial to quality. Finally, the soils are red, which comes from the ferris (iron content) within the soil itself.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
RICHARD: Well, we are very busy selling wine at the moment. Many of the wines in our cellars are resting, so I have booked a 2 week sales trip scheduled for early May. I will be in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Illinios. In June I’ll be in Arizona, then in July and August I travel to Florida and New York.
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
RICHARD: Relaxed and without ceremony. It’s wine, not a painting. I think our wines are so balanced that people often don’t notice how good they are until second or third sip.
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
RICHARD: I still feel like I’m 21, but I’m still trying to figure out who that guy is that is looking back at me in the mirror every morning.
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 El Dorado County AVA can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About the wine
This elusive Rhone style blend is hard to find, so if you do spot it, apprehend immediately! We recommend you pass the word on to others and we promise you won’t regret getting your hands on it!
Medium brick color. This is a California Rhone Style blend. We find this composition to be intoxicating; The ripe generous nature of Syrah and the concentrated raspberry and cherry notes it offers, intermingle well with the rustic fleshy qualities of Mourvedre of leather and earth components. Finally, white pepper spicy and strawberry fruit apparent Grenache finish this trio with class and intrigue. The result is a ripe wine with ample fruit, spice and balanced French oak underneath. The name; Red Dirt Red is a tribute to the volcanic red soils of El Dorado where there is very clearly an iron content in the soil and comes through in the characteristic of the wine, the French would suggest that these qualities are the wine’s “terroir”.
We love this wine with comfort food; especially in the winter months… French Cassoulet with smoked duck or Greek style spit-roasted leg of lamb and also, still my favorite, Bistec Giganteo slow roasted in the pizza oven with a sea salt crust and served with wilted bitter greens. Day to day, this wine is great with all barbequed meats from Chicken to pork to beef. If you are a non meat eater, we highly recommend cooking judiciously with tomatoes and wild mushrooms; any of them.
About Vinum Cellars
Vinum Cellars is a small California Winery well known for producing wines of the highest quality. The grapes are selected from premium coastal and cool climate growing areas within California. The wines are made by hand in small batches to allow the varietal character of each wine to express itself.
Vinum Cellars is a collaboration of winemaker’s Richard Bruno and Chris Condos, who first became friends while they were students at UC Davis. They share a long standing passion for Chenin Blanc and fondness for the more obscure grape varieties.
After graduation, Chris went to work for Pine Ridge an Enologist, and Richard wehnt to Bonny Doon as their distiller. Shortly after, their friendship was solidified over Chenin Blanc with the creation of their first wine “Pointe Blanc”. Currently the Vinum Cellars team is working with over 10 grape varieties from El Dorado and San Benito Counties to Napa Valley.
Our basic winemaking philosophy is to work with great grape growers to develop the best fruit in the vineyard. We pick the grapes at optimal ripeness and gently process the fruit. We are very experimental with yeast strains and use different cultures for each variety. Our whites are barrel fermented slowly and aged Sur Lies in small French Oak barrels. With our reds, skin contact is optimized by the use of small open top fermentors, hand punch downs and extended maceration before pressing. Our belief in the use of older French Oak barrels allows the varietal fruit of our wines to be expressed. We are committed to experimenting and learning new winemaking methods while preserving an old world approach.
Varietal Composition 51% Syrah, 28% Mourvedre, 21% Grenache
Appellation: El Dorado
Winemakers: Richard Bruno, Chris Condos
Harvest Brix: 25.0O (average)
TA (g/100ml): 0.58
Barrels: 25% new French Oak, 75% 2 year old French Oak
Production: 1,628 cases (6 pack / 750ml)