What We Say 2008 Napa Valley Zinfandel
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Mission Codename: Firm Roots
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Respond to reports that winemaker, Leonardo Martinez, who makes wine for a Wine Spies favorite winery, has created his own label. Sample his wines and, if they live up to our high standards, secure an allotment for our Operatives.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Tierra Caliente
Wine Subject: 2008 Napa Valley Zinfandel
Backgrounder: 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. Napa Valley Zinfandels, specifically old vine Zin, are characterized by their big, extracted flavors, are among the most popular with our Operatives.
Leonardo Martinez has worked as assistant winemaker for Benessere Vineyards, a wine well loved by our Operatives. Today we are proud to bring you a wine that was produced at Benessere, under Leo’s own label.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Darkest garnet, with a dark and foreboding core. Color is concentrated from center to edge, where a fine ring of ruby traces a circle around the wine. Skinny, wine-stained legs move slowly down the glass after swirling.
Smell – Dark cherry candy, blueberry pastry, blackberry bramble, dusty dried cherry, cocoa dust and raspberry sit atop roasted coffee bean, subtle baking spice, soft oak and freshly fallen fall leaves.
Feel – Smooth and light across the front-palate, the wine then becomes gently grippy and mouth-filling. After a moment, a plush dryness spreads slowly around the palate. A plush, flinty mineral rich feel is supported by structured medium tannins and balanced acidity.
Taste – Dark and flavorful, leading with earthen blackberry, darkest black cherry juice, black plum and soft spice. Layered beneath these are India black tea, cocoa, coffee grounds, soft oak and hints of fresh spice and pepper.
Finish – Long and lingering, with dark fruit slowly giving way to the earthen flavors and soft spice. After the flavors tail off, flint and spice take longer to disappear.
Conclusion – Youthful and delicious, this approachable wine is long on dark fruit flavors – balanced against a complex earthen character. Crafted by Leonardo Martinez, the dedicated and talented young winemaker that we came to know through our friendship with Benessere Vineyards (where Leo is assistant winemaker), has done a great job with this Napa Valley Zinfandel. With an emphasis on expressive fruit and a lingering finish, Leo’s years of experience with Napa Zin shines through with this release. Decant for optimal results, and pair with your favorite hearty meal! This is a wine built to be paired with a great meal.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Leonardo Martinez
WINE EDUCATION: My formal training was at Napa Valley Community College and UC Davis, but my real training has been developed over the past 18 years of working for and with some of the best winemakers in the valley like Heidi Barrett, Mike Reynolds, Gerard Zanzonico, Alberto Antonini, Chris Dearden, Jack Stuart, and others.
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: I am currently the Assistant Winemaker and Barrel Master at Benessere Vineyards in St. Helena, CA.
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: My wines are an expression of the remarkable fruit that is available in the Napa Valley, and a true reflection of my passion for food and wine.
WINEMAKER QUOTE: _"As a winery and cellar worker for many years, and now as a winemaker, it has been my dream to make wine that suits my own vision.A lush, deeply flavorful wine with depth, complexity, and a long, lingering finish. As you enjoy my wine, lift your glass to the men and women who toil to raise their families and to bring you wonderful wine, whatever label it wears." _
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: My first vintage was 2002.
AGENT RED: Greetings, Leo. We are thrilled to be showing your 2008 Napa Valley Zinfandel today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
Thanks Red, I’m glad to have this opportunity to share my wine with your clients.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
LEO: In 1993, I had the great pleasure of visiting the Napa Valley for the first time. While visiting, I stayed with the Ceja family and was exposed to fine wine for the first time. I still remember the Pinot Noir that Pablo Ceja opened as we enjoyed an al fresco dinner. Remarkable!.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
LEO: I’ve been lucky to work with many substantial names, but I think I would say that Heidi Barrett has most influenced my technique and style. Her attention to detail from the grapes, to the barrel, to the blend is amazing.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
LEO: I created Tierra Caliente so that I could use my education and experience to express my own vision of a food friendly, varietally authentic, hand crafted product.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
LEO: Tierra Caliente Zinfandel presents an exceptional interplay of luscious dark and red fruits, earthy spice notes, with a nose of chocolate, cinnamon, and vanilla. It is rich and dark, with a smooth finish.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
LEO: I serve it with grilled pork, Mediterranean style dishes, grilled beef or chicken. Fire up the barbeque and throw down some baby back ribs or a nice tri-tip roast!
RED: In your opinion, what makes St. Helena such a special place to grow Zinfandel?
LEO: St. Helena has a very Mediterranian climate, and some very unique soil types. The warm summer temperatures were the inspiration for the brand Tierra Caliente, which means “Hot Soil” in Spanish.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
LEO: Tasting, testing and maintaining the next vintage of Tierra Caliente.
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
LEO: Keep it simple. Try everything and drink what you like, not what people tell you that you should like.
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
LEO: Wine is meant to be consumed on special occasions…like a Tuesday night after work!
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 Benessere Vineyard, where today’s wine was born, can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
Tierra Caliente Cellars
About This Wine:
Tierra Caliente Zinfandel presents an exceptional interplay of luscious dark and red fruit, earthy spice notes, with a nose of chocolate, cinnamon and vanilla. It is a rich, dark, meaningful offering with a smooth finish that pairs well with Mediterranean style dishes, and grilled pork, beef or chicken.
About The Winery:
Tierra Caliente Cellars is the inspired creation of Leonardo Martinez, whose passion for wine, food and family shines through in the wines that he crafts.
With each bottle of wine that he makes, Leo pays homage to those winery and vineyard workers who contribute their hard work and dedication to the process of wine production around the Napa Valley – and around the world. Leo recognizes that, without the dedication of these people, there would be no fine wines.
Having been trained by true wine legends of the Napa Valley, Leonardo Martinez brings nearly two decades of winemaking experience to the creation of his Tierra Caliente wines. He makes wines that are delicious companions to a great meal with friends and family.
Join Leo in raising a glass to those hardworking men and women that work hard, in order to bring you the bottled wonder that is fine wine.
Vineyard: Benessere Vineyard, St. Helena, CA
Harvest Date: September 18, 2008
TA: 4.8 G/L
Production: 391 Cases