Rancho San Miguel Winery

2008 Old Vine Zinfandel

Zinfandel •Starr Road Vineyard

California: Sonoma County: Russian River Valley

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Mission Codename: Catch a Rising Starr

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Investigate reports of an exceptional, Starr Road vineyard Russian River Valley Zinfandel from Rancho San Miguel Winery. If the wine meets our high standards, procure an allotment for our Zin-loving Operatives.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Rancho San Miguel Winery

Wine Subject: 2008 “Starr Road Vineyard” Old Vine Zinfandel – Russian River Valley

Winemaker: Michael Adair

Backgrounder: 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, Starry Night’s winemaker selected the best old-vine grapes from a number of the Russian River’s best vineyards, many of which have been planted for nearly 100 years. The Russian River Valley is ideally suited for red grape varietals. Its early morning fog and coastal breezes result in a cooler climate than the neighboring wine growing regions.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Dark garnet hues, with a fine rim of burgundy that encircles the glass. The wine appears weight and springy when swirled, leaving behind chubby wine-stained tears.

Smell – Bold and dark, with black cherry, plum, blackberry, dusty bramble and dried mingle with dark brown spice, black and white pepper.

Feel – Silky across the entry, then quickly grippy and spicy as the wine passes across the mid-palate. Almost instantly, the wine coats the entire palate, drying as flavors spread to the far corners. Bold tannins and a balanced acidity create texture and intrigue.

Taste – Bold and very flavorful, with black cherry, dark blackberry jam, dried fall leaves, hard leather, smoky cranberry, and dark chocolate.

Finish – Very long and very flavorful, with red and black fruit easing off in equal proportion. As the fruit fades, dark chocolate dust and bramble lead to a spicy, peppery, mineral ending.

Conclusion – This 2008 Rancho San Miguel Old Vine Zinfandel is a complex, flavor-filled wine that delivers a bold and robust drinking experience. A little hard-edged out of the bottle, this wine really shines after some decanting time. As we swirled and swirled our review glasses, the wine softened and more authentic fruit flavors emerged. The wine stays big, and that’s part of its charm. Old Vine Zinfandel always thrills us and if you have not experienced an Old Vine Zinfandel, this is one to sample. A youthful wine, this 2008 will continue to progress nicely for the next few years. We can’t wait to enjoy a bottle with our best Summertime barbecue, but we’ll be saving a few bottles for our Holiday celebrations – and beyond.

Mission Report:









AGENT RED: Greetings, Mike. We are thrilled to be showing your 2008 Starr Road Old Vine Zinfandel today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

MIKE ADAIR: Thanks for supporting small local winemakers.

RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

MIKE: My first grilled lamb and Zinfandel meal.. I’m pretty sure I saw God.

RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

MIKE: Gus Gamba (Gamba Winery) and Paul Draper (Ridge Winery).

RED: Who do you make wine for?

MIKE: I love to grill outdoors, sip wine, cook, then eat with my friends and family and enjoy how it all comes together.

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.

WINEMAKER: The 2008 vintage release of Rancho San Miguel Old Vine “Starr Road Vineyard” Zinfandel is classic in its bold fruit forward style. Starr Road vineyard, located in the Russian River Valley, directly west of the old town district of Windsor in northern Sonoma County, is legendary. Planted in the 1920’s this vineyard supports some of Sonoma County’s oldest Zinfandel grapes. The grapes were picked on foggy, early mornings to preserve the natural acidity in the juice. We then gently crushed and destemmed into open top fermenters. Cold soaking for several days, the grapes gain deep color and flavor extraction. Wild indigenous yeasts allow the expression of the old vine fruit to show the wine’s sense of place and origin. The wine is pressed off of its skins and allowed to develop in both new and used American oak barrels.

This 2008 release offers up vibrant garnet colors, showing brilliance in the glass, highlighted by its dark, scarlet hues and reveals delicious and compelling deep raspberry preserves and hints of brown spice. This is a well balanced wine supporting smooth, ripe tannins with proper natural acidity. I know everyone will enjoy this wine with a vast array of foods — either way, there is time to enjoy this wine. Given its fine pedigree, this wine will age gracefully in the cellar for several years to come.

RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?

MIKE: Lamb, BBQ Ribs, good Italian cheeses, pastas, and the list goes on.

RED: In your opinion, what makes the Russian River Valley so special?

MIKE: The loam soils and the deeply rooted old vine Zinfandel plants of the Russian River have a signature like no other in the world.

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

MIKE: Watching nature to look at what needs to be done to get the best concentration of flavors at harvest from the vines and getting the chance to show everyone how great this wine tastes.

RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?

MIKE: Have fun, get to cooking, pop open some bottles, and enjoy your life!!
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

MIKE: The Rancho San Miguel 2008 Old Vine Zinfandel was organically grown in a limited production of 450 cases. This exceptional wine will speak for itself!

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!

What the Winery Says

About This Wine:

The 2008 vintage release of Rancho San Miguel Winery Old Vine “Starr Road Vineyard” Zinfandel raises the bar for this classic, bold and fruit forward style wine from this legendary Russian River valley old vine vineyard, planted in 1920. This exclusive old vine vineyard is home to some of Sonoma County’s top Zinfandel wines.

The 2008 offers up vibrant color, showing the brilliance in the glass, highlighted by its dark, sexy scarlet hues. Rich, intense, dark fruit pushes forth, offering an array of mouth watering flavors and aromas, this well proportioned behemoth is packed with flavor, yet maintains a deft valance on a solid structure, while offering the decadent richness of blackberry preserves, and hints of compelling allspice. Well built, round and sprint smooth tannins and proper acidity to finish its parade of flavors, this wine is a must for the table of any opulent meal. This bold wine is also an enjoyable experience to savor on its own in front of a crackling fire, or under the stars with a significant other. Either way, there is a time to enjoy this wine, give its fine pedigree. Given all of its attributes, the wine will age gracefully in the cellar for several years to come. Enjoy!

About The Winery:

The name Rancho San Miguel Winery came about on a sunny July afternoon. As winemakers often do, Gus Gamba and I were discussing how the grapes were growing and the progress of the season . Gus asked me about the progress of my attempts to find a good name for my winery. Believe it or not, finding a good winery name is pretty difficult. I told him that I really wanted to incorporate my family name like he had. Gus then asked me what my patron saint was. When I told him St. Michael, we soon remembered that the largest land grant in California was the Rancho San Miguel. When the hair on the back of our necks finally settled back down, we realized we had just come up with the name of the winery.

At approximately 6,663 acres, Rancho San Miguel is one of the larger California land grants. During Spanish Rule from 1769 to 1821, Mission Rancheros were under the Spanish crown.

After 1821, Governor Juan Alvarado granted to William Mark West, the William Mark West Ranchero, currently known as present day Santa Rosa, that stretched from Santa Rosa between Mark West Creek and West Ranch Road.

After that time, Mexico had achieved its independence from Spain and was under control of the Mexican Government. It wasn’t until the Mexican Era from 1821 to 1846 that the land was actually used for farming of grapes and other crops in larger quantities.

During the Secularization Act of 1833, the Mexican Government repossessed most of the lands that had been provided under the Church or Mission system under the Spanish Crown. The padres were allowed to keep their churches, priests’ quarters, and gardeners, but the rest of the herds, cattle, and town plots were broken up. Under the Mexican Land Grants the boundaries had to be officially surveyed and marked. Owners had to provide proof of ownership.

During the American Era, the United States declared war against Mexico in 1846 that resulted in the Bear Flag Revolt that occurred on the town square of Sonoma, California. The jurisdiction of Mexico was officially terminated on July 7, 1846. During the Bear Flag Revolt, the State of California became admitted into the Union as the 31st State by Congress in 1850.

Not too many years later, the California Gold Rush occurred. During the Gold Rush, thousands of miners and other fortune seekers flooded into California. Cattle and other goods were provided to gold miners. During the Gold Rush, cattle prices soared and the ranchers of Californians made great fortunes on grapes, food crops, and cattle.

In 1851, the United States Congress passed the Search and Settle of Private Claims to the State of California Act. Indian, Spanish, and Mexican land grant holders had to provide title proving that they owned land. In many cases the land grants had been made without closely defined or very exact boundaries. 813 claims were brought before the State and took 17 years to settle most of these land grant disputes. Because of the excessive cost and time expended on lawsuits, the Pre-exemption Law (1841) was enacted to allowed people who could not provide proof of title to acquire their land for $1.25 per acre. Of course many of the rancheros were land rich and cash poor. Due to attorneys fees, personal debts, result of various problems with cattle prices dropping and the floods in 1862, many were forced to sell off their rancheros. These were quickly subdivided and sold to new settlers who came to California.

In 1852, a gentlemen by the name of Agoston Haraszthy, is noted to be one of the first people to plant grapes in the State of California in large quantities at Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma (also including what we now know as Bartholomew Park). Many other people also became involved in growing grapes throughout the 1870’s.

The Rancho San Miguel grape industry flourished. People from around the world, including people from Italy, Croatia, Germany, and others built up what we know today as the three largest land grants:

The Rancho San Miguel of Jesus Noe of San Francisco, 1857 at a total of 4,443 acres;
 The Olivas Ranchero, of 1874 at 4,693 acres;
 The heirs of Mark West in 1885 at 6,663 acres; and
 The Rancho San Miguel encompassing all of them from the San Francisco region to the Northern regions of Santa Rosa.

This is what is currently known as the Sonoma Wine County. Many of the oldest grapes in the State and some of the finest wines are located within this region.

Yes, you are drinking history in a glass!!

Technical Analysis:

Alcohol: 16.4%

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