California: Calaveras County
What We Say
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
We only showcase wines that we love. While our emphasis is on quality first, every now and again we come across a real standout wine that rises above. When we do, we issue alerts like this one.
SECRET SAVINGS ALERT:
Subscribe to our Daily Dispatch (above) and you’ll always know what our Top Secret coupon code of the day is. Every day we issue a new members-only code that entitles you to have Ground Shipping included on orders of six or more and, sometimes, an added discount!
Mission Codename: Xeres
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Raid the private stash of the enigmatic and elusive El Jefe, proprietor of Twisted Oak Winery and return with a few cases of his Top Secret library wines
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Twisted Oak Winery
Wine Subject: 2009 Graciano
Winemaker: Mark Künz
Backgrounder: Wine Spies Operatives have been clamoring for the return of Calaveras County winery, Twisted Oak. Their irrelevant and off-beat style, coupled with their bold wines, make for very happy wine-drinking spies. For today’s wine, we sent Agent Red back to infiltrate the private wine cellar of winery owner and head honcho, El Jefe. Read Red’s mission report and tasting notes below to see if he was successful on his mission!
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Beautiful, luminescent magenta, with light purple edges and a slightly darker core. After spinning the wine, tall, skinny, wine-stained legs start high up on the glass wall, before crawling slowly downward.
Smell – Heady and full, with bold aromas of cherry pie, young wild strawberry, raspberry, bramble and brown spice.
Feel – Initially soft and round, this wine quickly takes on a more plush, crushed velvet feel. After a few moments, bright acidity and plush tannins form up and provide an elegant frame for the delicious fruits.
Taste – Braised Bing cherry and grilled red fig take the lead. These are quickly followed by blackberry, wild strawberry, raspberry jam, plum, subtle dried red flower petals, sweet brown spice and a hint of savory sage.
Finish – Very long, juicy and packed with red and black fruit, leading to a softly spreading dryness that culminates with puckered lips, a dry tongue – and a strong desire to take another large sip.
Conclusion – This highly recommended wine is a delicious treat! With just a few dozen cases available to the world, we got our hands on every last one. This juicy, vibrant, delicious wine was a huge hit with our tasting panel and we could not stop sipping and discussing the finer nuances of this unique wine. Graciano, originally a native of Spain, as grown in Calaveras County and interpreted by Twisted Oak, is a truly wonderful treat. This wine is bright and juicy, making it an easy and obvious companion for most meals. We really enjoyed ours with a spicy chorizo paella dish. Enjoy this 2009 Twisted Oak Graciano now, or cellar for the next few years. Just don’t miss out!
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Jeff Stai
WINE EDUCATION: The Wine School of Crushing Knocks. Or something like that.
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Owner, Vintner, and El Jefe of Twisted Oak Winery in Vallecito, Calaveras County, Calif.
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Get the best wine you can produce into the bottle, and then let all %#&@! break loose!
WINEMAKER QUOTE: “Once you let rubber chickens into your vineyard, they’ll take over everything.”
FIRST COMMERCIAL WINE RELEASE: July 2003.
AGENT RED: Greetings, Jeff. We are thrilled to be showing your 2009 Graciano today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
JEFF STAI: Hi Red! Congratulations, you finally landed me! Today the Operatives are getting a peek at a variety of grape that is not often seen by itself, our 2009 Graciano.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
JEFF: A long time ago I got invited to go to a winemaker dinner with a friend who had moved up to the Santa Clara Valley (I grew up in Lo Cal). One of the first courses was a Gewurztraminer – it was floral, fruity, crisp, and peppery, everything that a good Gewurz should be. I had enjoyed wine before in a casual way, but this wine got my attention. Even though it took me many more years to learn how to say Gewurztraminer, I was hooked.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
JEFF: Most people who know us would instantly say Randall Graham – Bonny Doon, and they would be right. The first time I spotted Le Cigare Volant in the wine store aisle I was gobsmacked that anyone could put such a funny story on a back label. Again, I was hooked.
But, there were others… the Rhônes made by Clendenen and Lindquist and others at Zaca Mesa in the Santa Ynez Valley exposed me to varieties like Syrah and Viognier for the first time (I learned to say Viognier much more quickly this time). And Markus Bokisch in the Clements Hills turned me on to the potential for Spanish varieties in this part of California – including this Graciano.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
JEFF: We make wine for people who enjoy a structured, balanced wine that doesn’t wrestle your tongue to the ground. We make wine for people who prefer wines that are not overripe. We make wine for people for whom fun is a part of wine drinking. And of course, we make wine for people with large piles of cash.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
JEFF: Graciano (pronounced with that sort of Castilian lisp: “grath-ee-ah-no”) is one of the key components of the great red wines of Rioja, Tempranillo of course being the main component. In our Spaniard blend, the Tempranillo sets the tone with the core flavors, the Garnacha adds lighter notes and a floral character, while the Graciano comes with deep colors, earthy flavors and a long finish.
Graciano by itself is in that earthy, robust group of wines that includes Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
JEFF: Graciano goes great with hearty stews, duck, goose, well-aged cheeses, anything with a rich earthy flavor. Actually, now you have me craving duck confit, darn you!
RED: In your opinion, what makes your Vallecito Estate vineyard such a special place for Graciano?
JEFF: Our Mediterranean climate and volcanic soil, of course. Actually, that particular block – we call it the Willow block – is in a transition between a white volcanic tuff and your basic Calaveras red clay. Pretty much the same kind of soils you see in Spain.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
JEFF: “This winery won’t run itself!” Seriously, we’re finally getting to the place where we can start trying some things that we have wanted to try. We have 120 acres stretching over a really nice hilltop with a view of the surrounding foothills. It’s a really nice place to have a few hundred folks up for an evening of music. So, we started a full concert series this year with jazz, blues, folk, bluegrass – and artists you may have actually heard of!
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
JEFF: With a pointed stick. You can’t be too careful.
In other words, approach wine with a sense of fun. I’m not saying you should put wine on corn flakes, but if you want to, do it!
RED: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
JEFF: Just that the next time you are thinking about going to wine country, why not come to Calaveras County? We have over two dozen small family wineries to choose from. Most of those wineries can be experienced by walking down Main Street in Murphys, without ever getting into a car. Then come out to Twisted Oak and enjoy our vineyards, views, and of course the world famous Rubber Chicken National Forest. And when you are done wine tasting, you can go for a hike in the redwoods, or fishing, or kayaking, or…
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 Twisted Oak Winery can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
Rarezitas Torcidos (rah-ruh-ZEE-tas tor-SEE-dos), [SP] n pl.
- Literally, Twisted Little Freaks. You’re holding one of those Freaks in your hand. A Freakish wine so Freakishly rare, only a few dozen Freakish cases were made.
This chewy Graciano comes from our own Estate vineyard on Red Hill at the winery in Vallecito. The Willow block is used for our Spaniard program but we felt that the 2009 vintage of Graciano was worthy of its own bottling. The logical thing to do was bottle a small amount for the wine club so we developed the Twisted Freaks club just for occasions like this.
It may be Graciano but it’s not a boxer and it ain’t Italian either. Still, you’ll find punchy aromas of plums, blackberries and jam with a wallop of dried spicy characters. Then a powerful jab of deep sweet blackberries and a one-two finish with blackberries, dried herbs and spices. Come to think of it, this Twisted Freak is quite the knockout, isn’t it?
Food Pairing Notes:
Duck Duck Goose! Or ham, Manchego, anchovies, roast pork, and all sorts of hearty, legume filled stews.
This Graciano comes from our own Estate vineyard on Red Hill at the winery in Vallecito. The Willow block is used for our Spaniard program but we felt that the 2009 vintage of Graciano was worthy of its own bot-
tling. The logical thing to do was bottle a small amount for the wine club so we developed the Twisted Freaks club just for occassions like this.
At the winery, we gently destemmed and crushed the fruit into open-top fermenters leaving approximately 30% of the berries uncrushed. They fermented over a period of 12 days. The cap was punched down 3 times a day during the early part of fermentation, reducing to twice a day in later stages. We wanted to make sure we were not overextracting harsh tannins in this wine as it is normally very dark, very tannic and plenty of natural acidity. Just before the completion of fermentation, the must was pressed and then racked into barrels for secondary fermentation. The wine was racked two more times and then bottled unfined and with one light filtration.
Varietals & Vineyards: 100% Graciano from the Willow Block, Twisted Oak
Harvest Date: September 7, 2009
- 40% New European oak
- 20% New American oak
- 40% Neutral oak
Residual Sugar: 0.01%
TA: 0.072 g/100 mL
Brix (harvest): 26.0˚
Age (before bottling): 28 Months