2009 Dry Creek Valley Riesling
California: Sonoma County: Dry Creek Valley
What We Say
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Mission Codename: Optima Prime
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to our friends, Mike and Nicol Duffy, and retrieve their perfect summertime refresher, a delicious dry Dry Creek Valley Riesling.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Optima Winery
Wine Subject: 2009 Dry Creek Valley White Riesling
Winemaker: Mike Duffy
Backgrounder: Riesling is a white grape variety which originated in the Rhine region of Germany. Riesling is an aromatic grape variety displaying flowery, almost perfumed, aromas. The varietals high acidity makes it a wonderful food companion.
Riesling is used to make dry, semi-sweet, sweet and sparkling white wines. Riesling wines are usually varietally pure and are seldom oaked. As of 2004, Riesling was estimated to be the world’s 20th most grown variety at 48,700 hectares (120,000 acres) but in terms of importance for quality wines, it is usually included in the top three white wine varieties together with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Riesling is a variety which is highly terroir-expressive, meaning that the character of Riesling wines is clearly influenced by the wine’s place of origin. Today’s Dry Creek Valley Riesling is a refreshing, crisp and well-balanced wine that deserves your consideration.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Glinting yellow gold hues, with perfectly even coloring, right out to the edge of the glass. After the wine is swirled, small clusters of slow skinny legs cling appear slowly – and move slowly.
Smell – Tart-sweet aromas of green apple, apricot, pear, subtle orange blossom and a hint of green apple, right out in front. As the wine breaths for a little while, white flowers and vanilla custard emerge.
Feel – Zesty at the tip of the tongue, then smooth, fresh and crisp across the front and mid-palate. As the wine settles all around the palate, a flinty dryness radiates outward to all corners of the mouth.
Taste – Focused, bright and bursting with flavor, the wine leads with white peach and apricot. Yellow apple, pear and mingle with acacia flowers, flinty minerals, subtle spice and a hint of soft white spice.
Finish – Clean, semi-dry and long, with the fruit eventually giving way to flint and soft spice at the tail end.
Conclusion – The 2009 Dry Creek Valley White Riesling is a refreshing, delicious and intriguing wine. Our previous favorite Rieslings have hailed from Monterey and Mendocino Counties, so today’s Dry Creek Riesling was a unique and wonderful surprise. Fresh, lively, approachableand deliciously complex, this wine delivers a bigger drinking experience than we had expected. The wine is fresh and easy-drinking, flavors that are complex and layered. A great, semi-dry wine, with a semi-dry wine, with a hint of white spice at the end make this wine a delight to drink. A fantastic summertime refresher, enjoy this wine on its own, or with a tangy BBQ chicken or spicy Asian food.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Mike Duffy
DATE OF BIRTH: May 1959
PLACE OF BIRTH: Oregon
WINE EDUCATION: Graduate of UC Davis in Enology
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: When I finished my Enology degree from UCD in 1981, I was already employed as the Assistant Winemaker at Trefethen Vineyards in Napa Valley. "I was very motivated to earn my degree and start working after being a broke college student for so long. I moved to Field Stone as winemaker in 1988, studying under the legendary Andre Tchelistcheff. For nine years, I worked full-time at Field Stone, saving weekends to tend to my own fledgling winery, Optima.
SIGNATURE VARIETAL: Cabernet Sauvignon
_ Below is Agent Red’s recent interview with winemaker Mike Duffy._
AGENT RED: Greetings, Mike. I know how busy you are with harvest right now, so I really appreciate the opportunity to talk with you – if even for a few scant minutes, today.
MIKE: Yeah, we have been plenty busy. We crushed thirty tons of grapes today!
RED: Wow. Again, thanks. Tell me, was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
MIKE: Yes, I was raised around wine. My first job in High School was helping my parents, Bill and Della, at their wine shop, that is what sparked my interest. Later I played with making wine out of anything I could get out of my parents garden. I would take flats of strawberries, peaches and blackberries and craft them into wine. One time I even raided the rose bushes in the neighborhood so I could make a rose petal champagne
RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?
MIKE: UC Davis gave me an excellent technical background. It was the basis for my ability to solve problems when they arise. The experience of making wine came from getting in and getting dirty at my internship at Trefethen in 1980. That’s where it all came together for me. I have a unique work ethic and a strong mechanical background, both of which I have my father to thank for. Both those qualities served me well when I left the academic world and helped distinguish me from other classmates and co-workers.
RED: Great places to get your footing! What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
MIKE: Andre Tchelistcheff was the biggest influence on how I make Cabernet, and the greatest source of perspective, history and wine knowledge that I have been fortunate enough to have enjoyed. He approached the entire winemaking endeavor, from the vineyard in the spring, to harvest, and through barrel aging, as one integrated whole. I learned to take Alexander Valley Cabernet and to use its brilliant fruit as the basis for my wines. “Don’t bother making one of those huge Cabernets like many do in Napa, Mike. Anyone can make wines like those.” Andre would say. He inspired me to make a Cabernet that spoke to the virtues of Alexander Valley. A wine with an intense core of fruit and coco, balanced with vanilla and oak. Complex and powerful, yet subtle and soft. He also impressed on me the critical concept of not manipulating the wine, rather helping it become its best.
RED: You don’t know how many winemakers mention Andre as an influence! How long have you been making wine?
MIKE: Well one could say since I was a child, but 2009 was my 30th harvest in Napa and Sonoma. I still enjoy the “seasonality” of winemaking.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
MIKE: I began making wine for my own creative satisfaction. I worked for several top wineries that produced Cabernet, and there was always some step in the process when I said to myself, “If this were my wine I would do this differently”. That need to satisfy my own creativity from beginning to end is why I started my own winery when I was 25. My approach to winemaking combines art and practicality. "I always liked the honesty and hard work of agriculture and to me, winemaking is the ultimate fusion of agriculture and art.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
MIKE: Bottling and more bottling!
RED: Please share one thing about yourself that few people know
MIKE: I enjoy cooking; to me this is another form of taking an ingredient and using your creativity to make something incredible. My wife thinks I cook so well that she refuses to cook anymore. I love watching all of the cooking shows on TV, especially Iron Chef. I just can’t get enough, they are very inspiring.
RED:What is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?
MIKE: I enjoy drinking a dry Gewurztraminer from Sonoma County, Anderson Valley, or from the Alsace region of France. It’s a wonderful wine that you can drink alone or with Thai, Asian or Mexican food all of which I enjoy cooking and eating. The best examples have a depth and a perfume that is unbelievable.
RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and about your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans. Your Alexander Valley Cab is stupendous!
MIKE: Thanks, very much, Red. Now, back to the grapes!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The approximate location of the Optima Winery can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
Aromas of pineapple, white peaches, lemon-grass, and cantaloupe, a bit of slate minerality rounds out the finish. This wine pairs seamlessly with Asian, Indian, or Fusion cuisine, and is also the absolutely best wine to sip while cooking or having someone cook for you. Served chilled
About The Winery:
Optima began as a dream producing just 400 cases in 1984, now, the winery is continuing their tradition of producing premium, world class wines. Optima specializes in Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel Port, and Chardonnay. Join us in our Tuscan style tasting room and don’t miss our monthly specials.
Mike Duffy born in Salem, Oregon and raised in Redding, CA, Mike seemed destined early in to pursue a career in the wine business. As a youth his dad was an avid home-winemaker, Mike was fascinated by the process and would often times help his dad. When Mike was a sophomore in High school, he had already declared his intention to major in enology at UC Davis.
In 1980, during his last year at Davis, he landed an opportunity to intern at Trefethen Winery, where he had worked briefly during a crush one year. He was soon offered a job as Assistant Winemaker, so he decided to accelerate his schooling by jamming his entire last year into just 2 quarters.
In 1983 Mike moved over to Sonoma County to pursue is own dream of one day owning a winery. He took a job at Field Stone as the winemaker working along side with the Anfre’ Tchelistcheff, a world renowned winemaker, for nine years while crafting his Cabernet for his Optima label. In 1984, Mike purchased grapes of his own, leading to his first production of 400 cases of Cabernet.
Today, Mike along with his wife Nicol and four boys celebrate Optima Winery’s twentieth year, while continuing the tradition of producing premium world class wines.
Nicol was born and raised in Santa Rosa, CA had also always dreamed of being in the wine business. After attending college with an accounting degree she tried to break into the wine business. She soon came to realize that most wineries were family run. So she focused on Public Accounting for eight years until 2000.
Nicol and her son Tyler moved to Healdsburg where her son tried out for a traveling soccer team. Mike was the coach. Mike picked Tyler and so the three of them traveled quite a bit. One night she invited Mike to dinner and pulled out a bottle of Optima Russian River Chardonnay.
Mike explained to her that, that was his winery and he made that wine. Well she knew she had to marry him so in 2001 Mike and Nicol and the four boys married at a winery in Healdsburg.
Appellation: 100% Dry Creek Valley