2008 Old Vine Zinfandel
California: Napa Valley
What We Say
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
Once again legendary winemaker Nils Venge is blows us away with his latest vintage of his exceptional Old Vine Zinfandel. If you have not yet enjoyed one of Nils’ wines, and you love Zinfandel, this is a wine you won’t want to miss.
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Mission Codename: Blazing Saddles
Operative: Agent White
Objective: Visit Saddleback Cellars and winemaker Nils Venge to acquire a limited quantity of the latest vintage of their highly esteemed Old Vine Zinfandel.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Saddleback Cellars
Wine Subject: 2008 Napa Valley Old Vine Zinfandel
Winemaker: Nils Venge
Zinfandel is often aptly named California’s grape. Its history and lore and the wines that result are often the makings of legend. In this case, famed winemaker Nils Venge selected the best old-vine grapes from a two vineyards, one in Napa’s Calistoga with 86 year old vines and a small lot from the Russian River Valley’s Monte Rosso vineyard’s 120 year old vines.
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. Old Vine Zinfandel, which are characterized by their refinement and balance, are extraordinarily popular with our Operatives.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep and dark garnet with a dense but clear core that barely lightens along the edges of the glass. When swirled, tightly spaced chubby legs hang on the side of the glass before slowly descending to the wine below.
Smell – Tangy and spiced red brambly fruit leads off in this redolent and vibrantly aromatic wine and evolves to ripe and earthy in character. Toasted oak and spicy pepper follow immediately along with black licorice and soft caramel mocha hints.
Feel – Expansive, chewy and highly textured in the initial attack, this full-bodied sturdy dry wine has lively acidity and youthfully firm and finely grained tannins that grasp the palate and linger with an etched dark mineral feel.
Taste – Tangy, bold and youthful red bramble fruit including red cherry, plum and other small red berries with spicy pepper, black licorice and toasted oak flavors leading the way and are followed by brambly herbs and dark mineral earthiness.
Finish – Extremely long with its bramble fruit, cherry and plum lingering on the palate and are framed by this wine’s sturdy textured tannins and minerality that holds tight on the palate and tries the tongue begging for another sip.
Conclusion – The 2008 Saddleback Cellars Napa Valley Old Vine Zinfandel follows closely behind the previous exceptional vintages of this wine that we’ve featured in the past. Simply a top-notch Zinfandel in every sense. Great tangy and ripe bramble red fruit, spice and balanced other flavors on the nose and palate; a sturdy, expansive and chewy mouth-feel; generous and flavorful and a long clean finish. A fantastic wine to serve with grilled steaks or burgers or even pizza or pasta with tangy red sauce. Enjoy this wine tonight after letting it open or cellar for five plus years.
AGENT RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
NILS VENGE: Old Vine Zinfandel a mix of pre prohibition 120+ year old vines from Calistoga and 90+ year old vines from Russian River Valley. The vines are head trimmed so they look like mini trees. If you are ever driving up to Calistoga you’ll recognize these distinct vines from Frediani vineyards. The property has been in the family for well over 90 years.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
NILS: BBQ anything especially Mesquite Smoked Ribs.
RED: In your opinion, what makes the Calistoga region (in the Napa Valley) so special a place for Zinfandel?
NILS: Calistoga is perfect climate for Zin because the warmer weather lets the grapes fully ripen faster.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
NILS: Waiting for the grapes to come around. Visiting the same vineyards over and over watching the grapes ripen during this cool season.
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 approximate location of the Saddleback Cellars can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
Nils Venge has been making Zinfandel since 1992. The majority of each vintage has come from Zinfandel grapes grown on the floor of the Napa Valley near St. Helena, California. In 1994, an additional small lot of grapes came from the Monte Rosso vineyard in Sonoma which is owned by the Martini Family. Nils always blends a little Cabernet Sauvignon into each vintage to add depth. Our Zinfandel is always treated to 100% brand new American oak and is no exception to the rule of “meal-in-a-glass” Zinfandels. The Saddleback Zinfandel has gained quite a reputation as a “monster Zin” and is in great demand. This wine has a track record of selling out within 30-45 days of release.
Our Zinfandel is always treated to 100% new American oak barrels. This meaty giant is no exception to the rule of “meal-in-a-glass” Zinfandels.
About The Winery:
Established in 1982, Saddleback Cellars is a small winery located in Oakville, in the heart of the Napa Valley. 14.8 total acres are planted to 8.4 acres Cabernet Sauvignon, 2.9 acres Chardonnay, 1.75 acres Merlot, 1.1 acres Pinot Blanc, 0.3 acres Pinot Grigio and 0.3 acres Zinfandel.
Known as “The King of Cabernet,” legendary winemaker and owner, Nils Venge, has been making stellar Cabernet Sauvignon, along with many other varietals here since its establishment. Nils’ philosophy on making wines for Saddleback is that they must reflect the best qualities that Napa Valley has to offer; sometimes a single vineyard, sometimes a single appellation, or a blend of appellations to make the best wine in a particular vintage. Despite his reputation as “The King,” Nils is a down-to-earth, cheerful, full-of-life kind of guy whose wines not only reflect the character of their region, but also seem to reflect his personality – bold, yet approachable, friendly and fun yet with layers of complexities.
In 1939, Lady Liberty welcomed the Venge family, Nils’ grandparents and his father, Per, into New York harbor from Denmark. Grandfather, Kund, was asked by his company in Denmark, George Jensen Silver, to oversee the New York City enterprise. The small family thrived in this fast paced new world. Per attended New York City College and studied business administration. When Knud retired from the silver jewelry business, the Venges looked westward, and Southern California is where they headed.
The family bought a home in the Hollywood Hills where Per was able to indulge in his love of horses. He worked at North American Aircraft as an efficiency engineer during World War II and was a member of the Sheriff’s Posse of Los Angeles County. One day, on horseback, Per spotted Gudrun Ingwersen, also a member of the Posse. When their eyes met, he knew he was looking at the woman he was destined to marry. Soon after, Gudrun gave birth to twins, Nils and his twin sister, Karen.
After the war, Per started a wine, beer and spirits distributor business in Los Angeles which specialized in Danish and European products. While growing up, Nils worked for his father on weekends and the summer holidays. When he graduated from San Marino High School, it was Per’s wish that young Nils would take over the family venture. They both agreed that they really needed to know more about wine. So, Nils enrolled at the University of Davis where he went on to earn his Bachelor’s Degree in Viticulture with a minor in Enology in 1967. When he returned to Southern California, Nils enrolled at L.A. State College to work toward a degree in International Business Law. At the same time, Nils signed up as a Navy Reservist which sent him on a tour of duty in Danang, Vietnam.
When he returned in 1970, Nils decided that what he really wanted to do was put his degree to work in the Napa Valley and not to take over the family business.