2008 Russian River Valley Zinfandel
California: Sonoma County: Russian River Valley
What We Say
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Mission Codename: Reality
Operative: Agent Red
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Perception Wines
Wine Subject: 2008 Zinfandel Russian River Valley
Winemaker: Mark Ray
Backgrounder: 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. For today’s wine, Agent Red infiltrates Perception Wines, to bring you their bold, delicious Russian River Zinfandel.
Vineyard Backgrounder: The Bacigalupi family has been growing some of the finest – and most famous – fruit in California for nearly a half century. The family’s vineyards earned notoriety in the 1970’s when their grapes caused a worldwide sensation. With wine made from Bacigalupi grapes, Chateau Montelena of Napa Valley stunned the world by winning the prestigious Judgement of Paris, beating out wines from France, the traditional winners of the competition. Today’s wine is made from the finest Bacigalupi fruit, and to great effect. The Wine Spies love this bold, jammy, spicy and very delicious Zinfandel.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep garnet with perfect clarity, right through the slightly darker center. Color is evenly concentrated, and a fine ring burgundy runs around the edge of the glass. After a hearty swirl, ultra-fine legs form quickly, and then streak down the glass.
Smell – Blackberry jam leaps from the glass, setting the stage for dark cherry, plum and braised black fig. These are balanced against dusty bramble, exotic spice, darkly toasted oak and black pepper. After some time, the wine opens up to reveal sweet strawberry and a hint of white pepper.
Feel – Soft and round, all the way across the palate. The wine coats the mouth and then becomes grippy and dry, as ripe tannins take hold at the front of the palate. After a moment, a mineral-driven dryness spreads all around the mouth.
Taste – Bold and jammy with darkly concentrated blackberry, black cherry, smoky blueberry and dried cranberry. As the tannins dig in, black chocolate, bramble, sweetwoods and a hint of dried herbs appear. At the tail end, black pepper adds a spicy zing.
Finish – Long, jammy and fruit-driven, the fruit flavors dwindle slowly, gradually replaced by a high note of sweetwood and a mineral black pepper.
Conclusion – This wine is really outstanding! We have never been disappointed by a wine made with Bacigalupi fruit, and we are always thrilled at the various interpretations that we have the pleasure to sample. Mark Ray has crafted a bold and juicy wine that strikes a lovely balance between fruit-driven and earthy. Everything works in harmony, making the wine a real pleasure to drink. Pair with your favorite meat dish or grilled burgers. We are thrilled to have uncovered this gem, and we give the wine our heartiest recommendation. Keep an eye out for future offerings from Perception, and be sure not to miss this one!
This time of year, winemakers can prove quite elusive. The next time we showcase a Perception wine – and the will most certainly be a next time – we’ll have a full interview to share with you.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
The 2008 Russian River Valley Zinfandel is made from fruit grown by the Bacigalupi family on one of their Westside Road vineyards. The Zinfandel, which is grown on an east-facing slope above the Russian River, is a selection of plant material from the DuPratt Vineyard and produces rich wines of distinct varietal character.
The 2008 Russian River Valley Zinfandel shows nice black fruit (boysenberry, black cherry and plum) on the nose, that linger on the palate along with hints of spice and mocha on the finish.
About The Winery:
Perception Wines is dedicated to producing small quantities of the finest quality Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Zinfandel, using fruit from prestigious family-owned vineyards in the Russian River Valley and on the Sonoma Coast. The Perception portfolio includes a trio of appellation-inspired Russian River Valley wines, and a handful of vineyard-designated wines. The appellation-focused wines feature Perception’s flagship Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, as well as exceptional appellation-designate Chardonnay and Zinfandel bottlings. Representing the heart of the Perception winemaking program, these elegantly layered wines are made in small lots and limited quantities, and are released each year during the spring.
In the autumn of each year, Perception releases its vineyard-designate wines, as well as its premier Pinot Noir bottling — Charlatan. Where Perception’s Russian River Valley appellation wines explore the rich complexity of individual grape varieties through a diversity of sites and clones, the single-vineyard bottlings capture the terroir-focused essence of prized sites. These wines are made only when merited by the quality of teh vineyard and the vintage, and production is extremely small — often less than 100 cases per bottling. While many wineries reserve their finest fruit for their vineyard-designate wines, Perception takes a slightly different approach by dividing the very best lots and barrels between the appellation-focused wines and vineyard designates. “Our Russian River Valley wines are the core of our portfolio,” says Founder and Winemaker Mark Ray. “We want them to be compelling and complete. So instead of stealing all of the best fruit away from our appellation bottlings, we divide the fruit and make significantly less of our vineyard-designates.”
Though every wine is a unique expression of its variety, vineyards and vintage, there are common threads that run through each, from a balanced house style that champions harmony and depth to a belief in maintaining the authentic character of each wine by bottling without the use of filtration, fining, or the additions of adjuncts, enhancers, or chemical sterilants. Most important, every wine released by Perception is made entirely by Mark.
In an era when words like “handcrafted” and “artisan” have largely lost their meaning, Mark keeps the production extremely small so that he can personally oversee every detail of the winemaking. This includes being in the vineyards and tasting the grapes constantly in the run-up to harvest, so that he can make picking decisions to accentuate a more elegant and sophisticated style. He is also present for the harvesting and field sorting for every lot of grapes. In the winery, he monitors all of the fermentations, personally punches down the caps by hand, and does al of the winery’s cellaring and racking himself. “Unless you’re making wine solely by the numbers, you can’t phone it in. And why would you want to?” says Mark. "This is what I love to do. This is my dream job. By doing the punch downs by hand and actively managing the fermentations and elevage, I can see and smell every change, every step in forward in the evolution of the wines. I touch every barrel, and know their stories. There’s an intimacy that comes from working in small lots. You know when you need to to do something: and maybe more importantly, you understand that sometimes the best thing to do is show restraint, and to leave an already perfect wine alone.
Perception Wines is a partnership between winemaker, Mark Ray, and his two long-time friends Shane MacNicholas and Dean Felber. The dream of making these wines began in Charleston, South Carolina in 1998. The first small amounts of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay & Zinfandel were crushed in the fall of 2007.
Varieties: Zinfandel (89%), Petite Syrah (11%) – co fermented
Clones/Selections: Zinfandel – DuPratt; Petite Syrah – Foppiano
Harvest Date: September 18
Barrel-aging: 18 months in 60-gallon French oak barrels (25% new)
TA: 5.5 grams / liter
Alcohol: 14.2% by volume
Bottling Date: March 1st, 2010
Cases Produced: 260