2006 Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon •Uvas Creek Vineyard
California: Santa Cruz County
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Mission Codename: Proprioception
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Sensorium Wines and acquire their 2006 Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Sensorium Wines
Wine Subject: 2006 Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon
Winemaker: Jeff Ritchey
The Santa Cruz mountains, located in the northern portion of California’s Central Coast (north of the town of Santa Cruz) is heavily influenced on the western side by the Pacific Oceans persistent maritime fog and cool breezes while the eastern side finds balance from the warmers and dryer Santa Clara Valley. This combined with the region’s unique shale soil and long growing season produces wines of exceptional character and quality.
In 2006, Jeff Ritchey became a Wine Spies favorite. Seemingly prolific, Jeff makes his own great wines – while also managing to act as consulting winemaker for many prominent wineries throughout California. Jeff’s Sensorium wines are the embodiment of his years of experience, delivering balance, sophistication and – most of all – wines that enliven the senses. Read Agent White’s tasting notes below for more details.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep garnet hues that darken at the core of the wine. Color is evenly concentrated from core to edge, where a cherry-red ring of color encircles the wine. After swirling, slow skinny legs hang for several seconds before moving slowly downward.
Smell – Bold and dark, with an initial spicy rush blackberry and brown spice, black plum and black cherry. Beneath these sit dark cassis, dark chocolate, sweet tobacco, toasty oak, black pepper and a hint of fresh fennel.
Feel – Smooth and round on entry, the wine takes on a very lightweight feel as the wine passes across the mid-palate. Fine tannins, a balanced acidity and a touch of spice all work together to add a little bit of grip and a soft dryness.
Taste – Bold and dark, with spiced black plum, red plum, black cherry juice and brambly blackberry. Just beneath, dried herbs, tobacco and braised fig mingle with soft black pepper and toasty oak.
Finish – Medium length, with spice and dark fruit that slowly gives way to brown spice, pepper , soft oak and dried herbs.
Conclusion – The 2005 Sensorium Wines Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon is a delicious Cabernet Sauvignon that delivers the dark fruit, spice and herbs that we have come to expect from Santa Cruz Cabs. Very aromatic, this wine is warm on the nose, as it leads with spiced blackberry and plum. Soft and light in the mouth, with a softly dry, spiced finish, this is a fun wine to sip. Delicious, too, with ample dark fruit, spice and soft oak. This wine is drinking wonderfully right now and it should continue to develop for a few more years. Pair with Mediterranean food, lamb shank or a juicy steak.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Jeff Ritchey
WINE EDUCATION: Master’s Degree in Winemaking from UC Davis
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: 17 years of experience in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Napa Valley and the Central Coast. Currently running Sensorium, consulting for a few small brands in the SCM area and growing his Solar PV company Clean Solar in San Jose helping homeowners conserve electricity and saving the planet.
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Creating balanced, elegant and nuanced wines through gentle treatment of the grapes and wine. Wines that pull the taster into the glass to enjoy all the layers and flavors.
WINEMAKER QUOTE: I love to create ‘wines you can feel.’ When all of a wines components (fruit, acid, tannins, oak, etc.) are in balance and seamless, they create a feeling that goes beyond simple tasting.
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: (DATE) 2/2004 (2002 Vintage)
AGENT RED: Greetings, Jeff. Welcome back to Wine Spies HQ. We are so happy to have you back with us and we are thrilled to be showing your * 2006 Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon* today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
JEFF RITCHEY: Hi Agent Red, it’s great to be back.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
JEFF: I can’t say it was a specific experience, but I remember being a student in Geology at UCSB and being on a field trip. We hiked all over the desert and ended the day around a campfire sipping wine (I think it was white zin, but don’t tell anyone) and I felt a revelation that winemaking would be a great career and really connect me to the earth. This continues today with Sensorium and my efforts in the Solar PV industry.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
JEFF: There are lots of experiences and people along the way. Gundlach Bundschu (I worked there 1996 -1997) and their spirit, humor and sense of family and community is a big influence. My first ‘I get it’ moment was with a 1991 Mt. Veeder Reserve at a wine conference in Oregon. I ‘felt’ that wine.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
JEFF: [poss answers: myself, consumers, wine reviewers] It starts with me. If I can’t make wines I love, it’s hard to stand behind them. You have to believe in your product and when you do, consumers know it and can easily jump on board.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
JEFF: This comes from a small, four acre vineyard in the southern Santa Cruz Mountains (Uvas Valley Vineyard). It’s farmed by Bill Holt and he’s the best grower I’ve ever worked with. He’s in the field at sunrise every day and knows each vine by name. We’ve been working together since 2003 and the vineyard keeps getting better and better.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
JEFF: Rib-eye steak, hands down.
RED: In your opinion, what makes the Santa Cruz Mountains such a special place for Cabernet Sauvignon?
JEFF: There are parts of the SCM that make it a special place. The SCM is very diverse with lots of different soils, exposures and climates since it lies between the Pacific Ocean and Silicon Valley. It’s a very cool appellation, so you have to seek out the warmer places. The southern part by Gilroy (insert garlic joke) and up in Cupertino/Saratoga by Ridge and Mt. Eden are the best places.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
JEFF: Getting ready to bottle the 2009 Santa Cruz Mountains CS before harvest!
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
JEFF: It really comes down to drinking what you like. There are no wrong answers. Please yourself and don’t worry about what anyone else says.
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
JEFF: With eight vintages at Uvas Valley Vineyard under my belt, I can confidently say that this will be known as one of the premier vineyards in California. Jump aboard now, before the word gets out.
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 intense aromas of blackberry, currant and cherry are framed with subtle notes of vanilla, toast, smoke and barrel spice and sit atop beautifully rich, mouth-filling tannins.
Vineyard Notes: This amazing vineyard is hands down, one of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Located on a river bench below the Uvas Dam, it produces grapes of incomparable depth and flavor. Expertly tended and manicured, the resulting grapes create wine with a concentration rarely seen in wines from the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Winemaker / Vintage Notes: This impressive Cabernet Sauvignon was grown in a new vineyard on the eastern side of the Santa Cruz Mountains just west of Morgan Hill and is carefully tended by Bill Holt and Ted Medeiros. These two growers meticulously farm their vineyard to maximize quality. The 2006 growing season was late in California allowing for a long hang time on the vine. This wine has layers of complex dark fruits, oak tones and balanced tannins.
About the Winery:
Our wines are made using traditional techniques. After harvesting the fruit at peak ripeness, the grapes are hand sorted, gently destemmed, crushed directly into open top fermenters and left to cold soak on the skins for 3-5 days. As the indigenous microflora begin to show activity, cultured yeast is added to the fermentation. Throughout the fermentation the must is hand punched down twice daily. Towards the end of fermentation 60% of the fermenters are chosen to be pressed at dryness, usually 2-3 weeks. The remaining 40% of the fermenters are selected for extended maceration of up to 6 weeks to add complexity. All lots are pressed directly into barrels via gravity where they age for 20 months.
About The Winemaker:
Jeff Ritchey – Sensorium’s award-winning winemaker, was previously winemaker at Clos LaChance Winery in San Martin, California. With his guidance, Clos LaChance increased production from 10,000 to 30,000 cases and built a new, state-of-the-art, 30,000-square-foot winery. Jeff’s wines have won numerous awards and acclaim from critics and the press. As a consultant, Jeff’s expertise has served several wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountain and Monterey areas.
Jeff holds a Master of Science degree in Enology from UC Davis, one of the world’s leading schools for enology and viticulture.
Varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon
Appellation: Santa Cruz Mountains
Harvest Date: October 22, 2006
Aging: 20 months in 70% new French and American Oak
Bottling Date: July 17, 2008
Alcohol: 14.3% (13.8)