Optima Winery

2007 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon

California: Sonoma County: Alexander Valley

Offer Expired:Jan 26, 2012 at 11:59 pm
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What We Say


Today’s wine is nothing short of stupendous! Taste it and see for yourself why Optima, and the Alexander Valley, are producing wines that rival the best that the Napa Valley has to offer.


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Mission Codename: Oh, Seven!

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Return to Optima Winery, a long-time Wine Spies Operative favorite. Procure their 2007 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, the fantastic successor to the previous vintages that we’ve showcased, here.

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Optima Winery

Wine Subject: 2007 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Winemaker: Mike Duffy

Backgrounder: Today’s Cabernet Sauvignon comes to us from one of our favorite new wineries, Optima Winery, in Healdsburg. Grown in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley, today’s wine is a delicious Cabernet Sauvignon from select premium vineyard sources

The Alexander Valley AVA in northeast Sonoma County is located on the western side of the Mayacamas range and extends westward to the edge of the Russian River Valley. This appellation was formerly considered a part of Dry Creek Valley but became its own appellation in November 1984. The region is best known for exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.1984. The region is best known for exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Darkest black cherry hues, with a darker, inky core. At the edge of the glass, a line of fine burgundy runs a fine ring around the wine. When swirled, the has a dense and springy look. When the wine settles, skinny legs glide slowly down the glass.

Smell – Bold and lush, with black cherry, currant, dried mission fig, blackberry and spicy toasted oak. As the wine opens up, softer aromas of bramble, dried fall leaves, bramble, clove and dried red flower petals begin to emerge.

Feel – Crushed velvet on entry, then big and weighty as the wine settles onto the mid-palate. Gradually, the wine takes on a dry and darkly mineral feel as structured tannins add complexity.

Taste – Bold, dark and complex with bold black fruit out in front. Black plum, blackberry, spiced blueberry and dried current takes the lead. Beneath these are black cherry, toasted oak, spice, dried black flower petals and espresso bean.

Finish – Very long and vibrant, with black fruit gradually giving way to the secondary flavors. As the wine dries the palate, spice, soft oak and minerals emerge.

Conclusion – The 2007 Optima Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is a bold and darkly delicious wine that delivers a rich, concentrated and complex Cabernet experience. The Alexander Valley is home to vineyards that are composed of gravel, clay, and volcanic soils – and Optima does a fantastic job of getting the most from their grapes from this region. 2007 has been such a stunning vintage, and today’s wine is richer, darker and more bold than many of the Cabs from this vintage. Enjoy this big boy Cab with a well-marbled, grilled to perfection, steak!

Mission Report:


SUBJECT: Mike Duffy



WINE EDUCATION: Graduate of UC Davis in Enology

CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: When I finished my Enology degree from UCD in 1981, I was already employed as the Assistant Winemaker at Trefethen Vineyards in Napa Valley. "I was very motivated to earn my degree and start working after being a broke college student for so long. I moved to Field Stone as winemaker in 1988, studying under the legendary Andre Tchelistcheff. For nine years, I worked full-time at Field Stone, saving weekends to tend to my own fledging winery, Optima.

SIGNATURE VARIETAL: Cabernet Sauvignon


AGENT RED: Greetings, Mike. I know how busy you are right now, so I really appreciate the opportunity to talk with you – if even for a few scant minutes, today.

MIKE: My pleasure, Agent Red.

RED: Tell me, was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

MIKE: Yes, I was raised around wine. My first job in High School was helping my parents, Bill and Della, at their wine shop, that is what sparked my interest. Later I played with making wine out of anything I could get out of my parents garden. I would take flats of strawberries, peaches and blackberries and craft them into wine. One time I even raided the rose bushes in the neighborhood so I could make a rose petal champagne

RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?

MIKE: UC Davis gave me an excellent technical background. It was the basis for my ability to solve problems when they arise. The experience of making wine came from getting in and getting dirty at my internship at Trefethen in 1980. That’s where it all came together for me. I have a unique work ethic and a strong mechanical background, both of which I have my father to thank for. Both those qualities served me well when I left the academic world and helped distinguish me from other classmates and co-workers.

RED: Great places to get your footing! What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

MIKE: Andre Tchelistcheff was the biggest influence on how I make Cabernet, and the greatest source of perspective, history and wine knowledge that I have been fortunate enough to have enjoyed. He approached the entire winemaking endeavor, from the vineyard in the spring, to harvest, and through barrel aging, as one integrated whole. I learned to take Alexander Valley Cabernet and to use its brilliant fruit as the basis for my wines. “Don’t bother making one of those huge Cabernets like many do in Napa, Mike. Anyone can make wines like those.” Andre would say. He inspired me to make a Cabernet that spoke to the virtues of Alexander Valley. A wine with an intense core of fruit and coco, balanced with vanilla and oak. Complex and powerful, yet subtle and soft. He also impressed on me the critical concept of not manipulating the wine, rather helping it become its best.

RED: You don’t know how many winemakers mention Andre as an influence! How long have you been making wine?

MIKE: Well one could say since I was a child but 2009 was my 30th harvest in Napa and Sonoma. I still enjoy the “seasonality” of winemaking.

RED: Who do you make wine for?

MIKE: I began making wine for my own creative satisfaction. I worked for several top wineries that produced Cabernet, and there was always some step in the process when I said to myself, “If this were my wine I would do this differently”. That need to satisfy my own creativity from beginning to end is why I started my own winery when I was 25. My approach to winemaking combines art and practicality. "I always liked the honesty and hard work of agriculture and to me, winemaking is the ultimate fusion of agriculture and art.

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

MIKE: Like I said, we are in the thick of Harvest and it feels great, this is one of my favorite times of the year. When things slow down I hope to continue working on some old cars that I am restoring. I know that the two sound dissimilar, but a restoration embodies some of the same qualities needed to make great wine. Patience, attention to detail, craftsmanship and pride. When you finish restoring an old car, people can appreciate the quality and craftsmanship just by looking carefully. Wine is the same, but you’ve got to pop a cork.

RED: Please share one thing about yourself that few people know

MIKE: I enjoy cooking; to me this is another form of taking an ingredient and using your creativity to make something incredible. My wife thinks I cook so well that she refuses to cook anymore. I love watching all of the cooking shows on TV, especially Iron Chef. I just can’t get enough, they are very inspiring.

RED:What is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?

MIKE: I enjoy drinking a dry Gewurztraminer from Sonoma County, Anderson Valley, or from the Alsace region of France. It’s a wonderful wine that you can drink alone or with Thai, Asian or Mexican food all of which I enjoy cooking and eating. The best examples have a depth and a perfume that is unbelievable.

RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and about your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans. Your Alexander Valley Cab is stupendous!

MIKE: Thanks, very much, Red. Now, back to the grapes!

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of Alexander Valley vineyard where today’s exceptional wines was born can be seen in this satellite photo.

What the Winery Says

About This Wine:

The 2007 Optima Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is characterized by a wonderful forward, rich nose with generous bright fruit and deep, concentrated, multi-layered aromas of black cherry, boysenberry, raspberry, espresso, chocolate and lavender. Elements of well-integrated sweet oak and vanilla carefully complement the ripe fruit flavors and the round, rich mid-dle. The result is rich and silky on the palate. Supple, yet with a weighty, very fruity mouthfeel and a medium tannic finish. The wine will cellar for years to come adding roundness and complexity.

Our goal is to highlight the special characters of Cabernet while showcasing the distinct benefits and attributes associated with these magnificent vineyard. The Cabernet Sauvignon was picked October 28, 2007 at 25.5 degrees brix. The grapes were fermented 10 days to dryness, then macerated an additional twenty-one days to soften and develop the tannins. Following pressing 90% of the wine was moved to 60 gallon French Oak barrels, 10% into American Oak where it received four gently barrel to barrel racking’s. These racking’s clarify the wine naturally, and eliminate the need for filtration. This vintage was barrel aged for twenty-two months prior to bottling. Optima is hand crafted, utilizing the best possible resources available. The result is an exceptional richness and balance that are the hallmarks of world class wines.

About The Winery:

Optima began as a dream producing just 400 cases in 1984, now, the winery is continuing their tradition of producing premium, world class wines. Optima specializes in Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel Port, and Chardonnay. Join us in our Tuscan style tasting room and don’t miss our monthly specials.

Mike Duffy born in Salem, Oregon and raised in Redding, CA, Mike seemed destined early in to pursue a career in the wine business. As a youth his dad was an avid home-winemaker, Mike was fascinated by the process and would often times help his dad. When Mike was a sophomore in High school, he had already declared his intention to major in enology at UC Davis.

In 1980, during his last year at Davis, he landed an opportunity to intern at Trefethen Winery, where he had worked briefly during a crush one year. He was soon offered a job as Assistant Winemaker, so he decided to accelerate his schooling by jamming his entire last year into just 2 quarters.

In 1983 Mike moved over to Sonoma County to pursue is own dream of one day owning a winery. He took a job at Field Stone as the winemaker working along side with the Anfre’ Tchelistcheff, a world renowned winemaker, for nine years while crafting his Cabernet for his Optima label. In 1984, Mike purchased grapes of his own, leading to his first production of 400 cases of Cabernet.

Today, Mike along with his wife Nicol and four boys celebrate Optima Winery’s twentieth year, while continuing the tradition of producing premium world class wines.

Nicol was born and raised in Santa Rosa, CA had also always dreamed of being in the wine business. After attending college with an accounting degree she tried to break into the wine business. She soon came to realize that most wineries were family run. So she focused on Public Accounting for eight years until 2000.

Nicol and her son Tyler moved to Healdsburg where her son tried out for a traveling soccer team. Mike was the coach. Mike picked Tyler and so the three of them traveled quite a bit. One night she invited Mike to dinner and pulled out a bottle of Optima Russian River Chardonnay.

Mike explained to her that, that was his winery and he made that wine. Well she knew she had to marry him so in 2001 Mike and Nicol and the four boys married at a winery in Healdsburg.

Technical Analysis:

Appellation: 100% Alexander Valley

Alcohol: 14.5%

pH: 3.77

Total Acid: 6.04g/L

Residual Sugar: NONE

Composition: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon

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