2007 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel
Zinfandel •Biglieri Vineyard
California: Sonoma County: Dry Creek Valley
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Mission Codename: The Power of Concentration
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Infiltrate Ottimino, a winery with a growing reputation for producing California Zinfandels of superior quality. Sample their wines and, if they pass our stringent quality review, procure an allotment for our Zinfandel-loving Operatives.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Ottimino
Wine Subject: 2007 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel Biglieri Vineyard Zinfandel
Winemaker: William Knuttel
Backgrounder: The Dry Creek Valley, across the Russian River from Alexander Valley, has a generally cooler and wetter climate which makes the growing season longer and more flexible than neighboring appellations. This is an area best known for producing rather remarkable Zinfandel.
Zinfandel is related to the Italian Primitivo grape, tracing its origin to the Croatian grape Crljenak Kastelanski. Zinfandel is one of the most versatile varietals with the ability to make wines, both rich to fruity, dark to light, and dry to sweet. Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel, which are characterized by their balanced flavors, is among the most popular wines of our Operatives.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep, dark purple with a deeper, dark core. At the rim of the wine, a fine ring of dark crimson encircles the glass. After swirling, tall, medium-width legs move slowly down the glass.
Smell – Boysenberry and black plum compote, with soft spice are the first to rush up to greet your nose. These are followed by luscious black cherry, red plum, bramble and dusty dried earth. After some swirling, sweet oak and black pepper emerge, rounding out the aromas beautifully.
Feel – Light across the palate on opening, this wine really transforms as it breaths and opens up. Allowed to decant for at least 30 minutes, the wine softens significantly, giving it a sultry feel across the entry and mid-palate. Soft tannins and a slowly encroaching dryness give the wine a round, voluptuous feel.
Taste – Generous and jammy, with gorgeous fruit that leads with blackberry, boysenberry and softly braised black plum. Here, too, the wine benefits from some decanting. Fruits become fuller and earthen flavors of bramble, dried leaves and mild spice emerge.
Finish – Long and flavorful, with ripe fruit gradually yielding to dried leaves, spice and oak. At the very tail end, an earthy mineral dryness and the softest black pepper remind you to take another delicious sip.
Conclusion – The 2007 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel Biglieri Vineyard Zinfandel is a fantastic and delicious wine that showcases potent combination of careful farming, great fruit and a highly skilled winemaker. The wine absolutely brings all three into a deliciously fine focus. Ottimino’s Biglieri Vineyard Zinfandel is fruit-forward, but the fruit is dark and brooding. The oak is soft and softly toasty contributing to the fruit and spice, rather than distracting from it. Enjoy this wine now or cellar for five to seven years. Be sure to decant for at least 30 minutes and you’ll be rewarded with a much finer wine than you found on opening. Pair this food-friendly delight with your favorite summer BBQ – or a enjoy sipping it all on its own.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: William Knuttel
WINE EDUCATION: UC Davis masters program
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Winemaker and Owner for William Knuttel Winery 2001-present, Winemaker and Owner/Partner with Ottimino 2000-present,
Winemaker at Saintsbury 1983-1996, VP/Winemaker at Chalk Hill Estate 1996-2003, Winemaker and Owner/Partner with Tria 1993-2001, Executive Winemaker at Dry Creek Vineyard 2003-present; consultant to numerous wineries and negociants in Sonoma, Napa and the Central Coast
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Balance in all respects makes for age-worthy, food-friendly wines
WINEMAKER QUOTE: If you properly build a wine for the long haul, you’ll have a wine that is delicious upon release and after many years of aging!
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: 1983 (first Ottimino release was 2000)
AGENT RED: Greetings, William. We are thrilled to be showing your 2007 Zinfandel Biglieri Vineyard today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
WILLIAM KNUTTEL: My pleasure!
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
WILLIAM: I’ve been fascinated by wine ever since I watched my grandfather making fruit wines in his cellar at home—and that goes back to as far as I can remember!
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
WILLIAM: I came to winemaking via a previous career as a Chemical Engineer. Winemaking, oddly, is a similar profession in that it involves converting raw materials into a finished product—albeit with a bit more input from the artistic side. After some “remedial” training (secret code for adding some biochemistry and food science to my arsenal) at UC Davis, I stepped right into the fray at Saintsbury, helping to build the winery and getting involved immediately with pioneering the first attempts at Burgundian style Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. While there were a few other winemakers up to similar things, and we talked amongst ourselves, it really felt like we were figuring it out as we went along. Only later did I begin to identify with a few other winemakers and their styles.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
WILLIAM: Even though I make a lot of different wines for myself and various wineries, as well as for consulting and negociant clients, everyone is made to a style that fits the project. From my early work at Saintsbury and then Chalk Hill Estate, I essentially became addicted to barrel to barrel combat. Every aspect of the production of a wine is important—-the devil is really in the details. For Ottimino in particular, we are committed to making Zinfandels in the so-called claret style: fully extracted, often with extended maceration, aged up to 24 months in French oak and racked quarterly, and bottled with as little fining as possible. We also extend bottle aging prior to release, so our Zins are really built like Cabernets! It’s a very different style than many Zins that are fruitier and released early, but it’s the hallmark of Ottimino Zinfandel.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
WILLIAM: In one respect, this release from the Biglieri Vineyard is an outlier for us: it’s in Dry Creek Valley, whereas all of our other single-vineyard releases are from Russian River Valley. We are based in Russian River because we prefer to fully ripen our fruit, but can achieve the ripeness without the high Brix maturity and consequent high alcohol. Biglieri Vineyard, however, is in the very south of Dry Creek Valley, just outside of the Russian River Valley—so it is relatively cool, too! The vines are nearly 50 years old, and the character of the fruit is distinct from any other Zinfandel we harvest.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
WILLIAM: Roasted or barbecued meats—your choice!
RED: In your opinion, what makes the Russian River Valley such special place for Zinfandel?
WILLIAM: As I said above, because it’s a cooler appellation, we can achieve full ripeness at lower alcohols!
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
WILLIAM: There’s never a dull moment. We are beginning to look at vineyards to get ready for the 2011 vintage, racking the 2010 Zins, prepping the 2009s for bottle, etc. With a number of vineyards to deal with, there’s plenty to do, and even when things slow down a little there’s always sales and marketing to deal with, in its many facets.
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
WILLIAM: Never be afraid! Try any pairing that occurs to you, and see how a wine—red or white—holds up to the dish (or not). Find out what YOU like, find out which winemakers consistently make you happy with wines that are versatile with food and that age well—and stick with them.
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
WILLIAM: Thank you for trying Ottimino’s Zinfandel!
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
Awards & Accolades:
90 Points – Wine Enthusiast – A classic Dry Creek Zinfandel, dry, medium bodied and spicy, with wild berry fruit and that inimitable briary note to the mouthfeel. Really pleasant, with rich, ripe berry, licorice and cedar flavors. Ideal with barbecue. – S.H.
About This Wine:
Aromas of blackberry syrup and pomegranate interlace with black cherry and spicy French oak. The entry on the palate is juicy, adding flavors of boysenberry and ripe raspberry. The tannins are smooth and round and the expansive mid-palate leads to a firm and persistent finish. The balance of this quintessential Zinfandel allows great versatility with food, and its deceptive heartiness will reward experiments with exotic pairings.
Winemaking: Ottimino consciously set out to produce Zinfandels from cooler regions, thereby allowing more time on the vine to concentrate flavors and at the same time keep alcohols at more reasonable levels. To that end, all the releases to date have been from the Russian River Valley—and, even more specifically, to the Green Valley sub-appellation in the west part of Sonoma County. All the while, however, we have experimented with Zinfandel from other regions where cooler weather prevails. This Biglieri Vineyard Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel is our first release from an appellation other than Russian River.
The vineyard lies at the very southern end of Dry Creek Valley, where the Russian River itself still wields an influence. Pio Biglieri planted the vines in the early 1960s, making them not quite 50 years old. The vineyard is dry-farmed and pruned in the classic head-trained goblet. The origin of the budwood is unknown, but the rootstock is the old classic, St. George. Pio’s neighbor Harold Hoskins now tends the vines with a meticulous touch. His approach is a hands-off one, but as the harvest date nears he thins the crop on a cluster by cluster basis, retaining only the most evenly colored and ripened fruit. On picking day, additional clusters are eliminated through hand sorting. Given Zinfandel’s propensity for uneven ripening, it is always incredible when the Biglieri Zinfandel hits the crush pad looking better than everything else.
We cold-extracted the crushed fruit for two days with vigorous irrigations, which coaxed color and tannin from the must early in the fermentation. The pumpover rate was lessened when peak fermentation had passed, but the new wine stayed on the skins for three weeks. After pressing, the wine was racked to French oak, where malolactic fermentation occurred naturally over the next four months. The wine was aged entirely in French oak for twenty months, with many of the new barrels custom coopered for us by Keith Roberts in Cloverdale. Quarterly rackings softened the tannins and integrated the oak, and no fining was required at bottling.
About The Winery:
Ottimino’s land is a land of dreams. When he came to America in 1913, “Little Eight,” so called because he was the last of eight children and the smallest, had big ambitions. He made his home on a beautiful ridge above Green Valley and forged a life on new soil. He planted the land, especially proud of the vines that nurtured the grapes made into wine for his family’s table. Ottimino became a favorite in the area, and always spoke proudly of his vines.
Eventually Ottimino’s time came to pass, as all things must. But along the way one of the friends he made was Brad Alper, who had a dream similar to Ottimino’s. Brad’s first grapes grew as Ottimino’s time was coming to an end, and the legacy was passed on. Brad eventually expanded his vineyards, and he consulted with other grape growers on Ottimino’s ridge. In time, he knew that all these grapes would need a winemaker to bring their uniqueness to light. His inquiries led him to veteran winemaker Bill Knuttel, who instantly knew that Brad’s (and Ottimino’s) dream would soon become Brad and Bill’s passion. They have built slowly on Ottimino’s legacy, as befits the traditions of Old World quality and craftsmanship, but the results are now for all to see…and taste and enjoy!
Blend: 100% Zinfandel
Harvested: September 10, 2007
Vineyard: Biglieri (49 year old vines)
Appellation: Dry Creek Valley
Cooperage: Francois Freres, Roberts (custom-built)
Barrel Age: 50% new & 50% 1- & 2-year-old
Aging: Twenty months
Bottled: July 30, 2009
Production: 556 cases produced