2007 Napa Valley Sangiovese
Sangiovese •St. Helena Estate
California: Napa Valley
What We Say
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Mission Codename: Well-being
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Benessere Vineyarrds, secure an allotment of the newest vintage of the winery’s 2007 Sangiovese. Previous vintages of this wine were purchased by our Operatives in record numbers.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Benessere Vineyarrds
Wine Subject: 2007 Napa Valley Sangiovese
Winemaker: Jack Stuart
Backgrounder: The most widely planted grape in all of Italy, Sangiovese is used in everything from blended inexpensive table wines like Chianti, to the finest Super Tuscans. Italian immigrants introduced this varietal to the U.S. in the 1800’s. First plantings of this grape in the Sonoma County region were in California. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes on this great wine, followed by his mission report, to learn more about today’s fantastic wine.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Dark ruby hues with even coloring. At the edge of the glass, a ring of pink makes a fine circle around the wine. After swirling the wine, skinny legs move slowly down the glass.
Smell – Sweet and bright with aromatic cherry, blueberry, blackberry and toasty vanilla out in front. These are followed by soft cinnamon, violets, cigar box, young strawberry, spicy barrel character, dried orange peel and black cherry candy.
Feel – Soft and light at the tip of the tongue then the wine takes on a medium weight at the mid-palate. Soft tannins and a bright acidity give the wine a lively, exciting appeal.
Taste – Bing cherry, young strawberry, blueberry and sweetwoods are in the driver’s seat, here. Just behind, soft fresh violets, subtle cinnamon and clove mix with subtle minerals.
Finish – Softly dry, with blueberry, cherry and strawberry slowly give way to earth, spice and dark minerals.
Conclusion – This 2007 Benessere Sangiovese is a really delicious wine. Made from a dozen different Sangiovese clones that are grown in the winery’s own estate vineyards, this wine shows great depth and complexity. Expressive, approachable and delicious, this wine is easy to drink and fun to discuss. Built to pair with with your favorite meals, this wine is flexible enough to be served with almost anything. We loved sipping our sample bottles all on their own, and with a spicy penne pasta dish. Drinking beautifully now, you can cellar this superstar for a few more years. Personally, we’ll be drinking ours over the Holiday’s.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Jack Stuart
WINE EDUCATION: At my mother’s knee (age 4, in an Italian restaurant); my father’s first interest in Cabernets (when they were $3 a bottle); early underage experience in San Francisco bistros (back when you could get served); extensive travel in France and Italy; Robert Finnegan’s Private Guide to Wine (he was the Parker of the 1970s and an early booster of Domaine Dujac); Hugh Johnson’s World Atlas of Wine; an assorted case of European wines given to my wife and me as a wedding present by the father of a college friend; and two years of graduate school in the Master’s program at UC Davis.
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: First commercial winemaking position: Durney Vineyards, Carmel Valley, 1978 and 1979; my first Cabernet won a Gold Medal at the Orange County Fair. Longest-held position: Winemaker & General Manager of Silverado Vineyards, Stags Leap District, 1980 to 2004; in 1987 I was the first American to receive the Robert Mondavi Trophy for Winemaker of the Year award from the International Wine & Spirit Competition in London. Most closely held position: Winemaker & Partner of Trivium Wine, a local partnership making 400 cases of St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon. Most recent position: WM & GM, Benessere Vineyards, since January.
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Let the variety and the place speak (or sing!) in the wine. Not overripe, not over-alcoholic, graceful, flavorful and balanced.
WINEMAKER QUOTE: “If two glasses of that wine will land you in the pokey or in the ditch, then it’s too damn alcoholic.”
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: 1978 Durney Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, released 1981. Recently opened a bottle of this wine to celebrate my son-in-law’s birthday (he was born that year), and it was amazing: still purple red, primary fruit aromas, lovely flavors and balance!
AGENT RED: Greetings, Jack. We are thrilled to be showing your 2007 Napa Valley Sangiovese today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
JACK: Thank, Red. Great to be with you, again.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
JACK: Martin Ray Saratoga Cabernet Sauvignon, 1960-something, tasted in the late sixties or early seventies; my first experience with new French oak in a California wine. Two wines from 1970: Ch. Mouton, bought for $20, and BV Private Reserve, bought for $8.33; both rich, elegant, pure expression of Cabernet Sauvignon.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
JACK: Myself, and consumers who appreciate what I’m trying to do. Chasing reviews destroys the soul.
AGENT RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
JACK: Beautiful ruby color, perfume and red fruit laden aromatics, along with soulful and palate pleasing flavors are the major descriptors of our 2007 Estate Sangiovese. The clean core of acidity and lingering finish with substantial yet supple tannins are hallmarks of a wine that is drinkable now, but will last for a decade or more.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
JACK: This wine is a versatile partner with foods ranging from barbecue-grilled chicken to porcini rigatoni and marinated pork tenderloin.
RED: In your opinion, what makes your estate vineyards so special?
JACK: We continue to utilize our outstanding “stable” of Sangiovese clones to produce and bottle a wine that is 100% varietal without the addition of other varietals. 2007 was picture-perfect with respect to ripening, yield and balance of flavor in the fruit. Gentle treatment is paramount to the production of fine Sangiovese, and we spare no expense in the hand sorting, manual punch-downs of the cap during fermentation and gravity/nitrogen decanting during the birth and barrel life of this wine.
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
JACK: Come visit our tasting room at 1010 Big Tree Road in St. Helena, and you can try them. Expect wines that don’t taste like what you had last night. In a world of Cabernet, we’re doing something different. There is nearly infinite variety in the world of wine, which is what makes it more interesting than vodka, so keep trying new wines from people and places you’ve never heard of.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
JACK: HARVEST 2011!
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
JACK: Yes. The two most important things you need to know about wine is (1) what you like and (2) where to find it. Don’t be buffaloed by critics or intimidated by waiters—drink what YOU think is good. Red wine with fish is okay. The only rule is: Don’t drink and drive.
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 Vineyards winery can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
Gentle treatment is paramount to the production of fine Sangiovese, and we spare no expense in the hand sorting, manual punch-downs of the cap during fermentation and gravity decanting during the life of this wine. Fining and filtration are unnecessary and leave more flavor and color in the wine.
Benessere continues to craft an elegant and beautiful wine with this extremely fickle and delicate varietal.
About The Winery:
“Benessere” is the Italian word for well being and prosperity. This is the feeling we try to embody at Benessere Winery. We are a small family owned, high end producer of Italian varietals, located in the north end of Napa Valley on the valley floor where the soil is well suited for growing excellent wine.
The property was purchased in 1994 by John Benish. At that time it had been abandoned for some years. It has now been restored and everyone who visits comments on our beautiful setting. The buildings are sunny yellow, the flowers are breathtaking and visitors like to linger to enjoy the ambiance while sipping our exquisite wine. Because we are small, we pride ourselves on individual attention to all our visitors. Everyone who comes is treated as company and we hope you will feel this when you visit us.
In 1998 we harvested our first crop. Sangiovese is our signature wine. This beautiful deep-ruby colored, aromatic wine pairs well with all foods. We are continuing in our quest to produce the finest Sangiovese possible through gentle handling of the fruit and of the resulting wine. The Black Glass Zinfandel is exceptional and can be drunk for special occasions or for every day. You will enjoy it immensely. We make a Pinot Grigio, loved for its clean crisp taste, with fruit that has been purchased in Carneros. Every year we sell out of this very quickly.
We have expanded our selection of varietals to include Zinfandel, Merlot, Syrah and Muscat di Canelli. We also produce an outstanding blend called Phenomenon.
The wine club is open to new members. Some of our wine can be bought only through the wine club. Although we have a large group we give them all individual attention, and even have several parties a year open only to our members. They are very festive affairs and our members always enjoy these events.
In addition to our beautiful property and beautiful wine, we also have the distinctive possibility of being the only place where the late Luciano Pavarotti, the world famous tenor, made his only movie, “Yes, Giorgio”. The movie company installed a tennis court especially so Luciano could play tennis in that movie.
We would be honored to have you visit our winery.
Vineyard: St. Helena Estate
Harvest Date: September 9 – October 3, 2007
Brix at Harvest: 24.6 – 26.4
Finished pH: 3.54
Finished TA: 0.63
Alcohol: 14.4% by volume
Production: 1236 cases