What We Say 2005 DFV Claret
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Mission Codename: Life is a CabClaret!
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Donati to investigate claims that their Claret blend is a knock-out. If true, secure an adequate allocation for the enjoyment of our Operatives
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Donati Family Vineyard
Wine Subject: 2005 Claret
Backgrounder: In traditional terms, a Claret wine is a dry red blend made from Bordeaux varietals. Today’s wine, grown in the Paicines hills above Hollister, along the San Andreas fault, is a wonderful Bordeaux varietal blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petite Verdot. It is also a very pleasant surprise, given the low price of the wine. If you love red blends, today’s wine is a real pleaser.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Rich burgundy with a deep and dark heart, concentrated color right out to the edges of the wine with long spindly legs high up on the glass
Smell – Bright cherry and chocolate dust at first, followed closely by darker fruits of dark plum and blackberry
Feel – Interestingly, the wine exhibits a roundness and a smoothness up at the front of the mouth, but the its medium tannins kick in at the rear
Taste – A big and bright cherry with smoked blackberry and dusky plum are followed by dark chocolate-covered cherries
Finish – A Long finish, with lingering flavors cherries, chocolate and ripe dark fruits linger
Conclusion – As an Operative, you know that wines that we focus on are the best that we can sleuth out. You also know that we tend to highlight wines that cost $25 to $35 on average. When we come across a ‘budget’ wine that sells for under $25, we are thrilled! This Claret from our friends at Donati was a surprise hit with our Agents. In this wine you will find a richness that gives the wine great character, a mouth-feel that makes it a pleasure to drink and a deliciousness that will keep you coming back for more.
What follows is a retransmission of our original mission to Donati, submitted for our intel-hungry Operatives
Time: 13:00 Hours
Location: Paicines, California
Temperature: 105 Degrees, fahrenheit
Agent Red reporting:
After a few days in the 100+ degree heat of Paso Robles, where the Donati Family Vineyards tasting room and vineyards lay, I was happy to be heading out to investigae their vineyards in Pacines, California, nearly 100 miles almost straight north.
Agent White, who had been along with me on the missions in Paso, flew southward in the Spy Plane, I drove north. Driving through the hills, I was cooled by the mountain air, relieved to finally be out of the heat. And then, as I got closer to Paicines, the heat came back.
On a stop for gas, a native of the area made sure to tell me, “It sure does feel like earthquake weather. Did you know your standing right over the San Andreas fault?”.
I knew about the fault line, but, earthquake weather? I had never considered that some weather was more favorable for playing host to an earthquake than others. I soothed my mind by returning to thoughts of grapes and I postulated that this earthquake weather notion was similar to the notion that some regions grew better cabernet or merlot grapes than others. I took this theory and ran with it, all the way to my next stop: The Paicines vineyards of the Donati Family.
Yes, the temps were soaring, but it was a beautiful day and the vineyards here were beautiful. Situated in a valley the vineyards here had a serene and natural look, without feeling artificial as with some of the larger ‘corporate wineries’ of Napa or Sonoma.
Matt Donati met me and casually began the tour. He explained that the Donati Family Estate Vineyard site enjoys a variety of soils from limestone to decomposed granite to clay loam, and access to the cooling ocean breezes of the Monterey Bay. Like much of southern Napa, Sonoma, and Monterey counties, Paicines has long warm days followed by cool nights. “It’s a lot cooler than people think it would be here,” says Matt. “On the UC Davis scale of growing areas and heat where Region I is the coolest and V the warmest, Paicines is a cool Region II.” With rivulets of sweat from my forehead stinging my eyes, I was unconvinced. Still I was having a great time on my tour.
The vineyard here is planted with various select clones of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Syrah, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Blanc and Petite Verdot.
Matt Donati is hands-on, year round, which he believes is necessary to create an environment where the grapes can be left alone to thrive during ripening.
Inside, Matt opened up a bottle of his 2004 Merlot. We swirled, sniffed and admired. As I lifted the glass to my mouth and the first taste of wine touched my lips, the ground beneath my feet gave a small wobble. I looked at Matt, my eyes wide.
“Did you feel that,” I asked.
With a sly smile, he said, simply, “My wines have that effect on people”.
Donati Winemaker Dan Kleck has been producing premium wines for the past 28 years. He began his career in the mid-1970’s, in the Long Island region of New York. In 1998, he migrated west to California, crafting elite Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from select premium estate vineyards in Monterey County.
The Donati Family Winery in Paso Robles is designed to capture the quality of the estate fruit in a state-of-the-art facility. The winery is a great place to enjoy a beautiful day at the vineyard.
Wine Spies Vineyard Background Check:
Vineyard – The Donatis selected a unique site for their vineyard plantings. They diligently researched and identified clones and blocks that would be capable of developing into Spy-worthy wines in the cellar. With perfect fruit health and absolute ripeness, the wines crafted from the Donati Estate Vineyard are rich in character and nuance.
Numerous Paicines vineyards can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
Donati Family Vineyard
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About The Wine:
As our youngest vineyards begin their journey of growth and prosperity, we separate their fruit into our Claret program. These younger vines produce fruit that offers up-front flavors with modest complexity and forward fruitiness. Crafting a Bordelais blend that is approachable early can be a challenging task for a winemaker, particularly when the grapes have great intensity of flavor. For this vintage, we selected lots of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petite Verdot that offer this balance with supple fruit and structure. The resulting blend shows ripe red fruit on the nose, with dark fruit, chocolate and dusty notes on the palate. Well-integrated tannins give the wine an easy-drinking style that will satisfy now, and continue to improve in bottle for several years to come.
About The Winery:
FAMILY. ESTATE. VISION. That’s the Donati Family, as is evidenced upon first glimpse of their spectacular estate vineyard.
The Donatis came to Paicines (pronounced pie see ness), in California’s Central Coast, in 1998 when they purchased land that would soon become home to Matt Donati and his family. Since then, Matt and his father Ron, engaged in planting the family vineyard and planning their state-of-the-art winery.
Today, the guiding principles of quality and cooperation, along with a steadfast work-ethic, underscore all that is accomplished in the busy days on the family vineyard.
“Our philosophy is to grow grapes of the highest possible quality, so that wines made from our fruit can meet the quality expectations of our customers,” says Matt. “This requires attention to detail, evaluation of new grape growing and winemaking methods and technologies, and a passion for serving our customers.”
This is done in a groundbreaking environment, as the Donatis expect to establish the Paicines AVA (American Viticultural Area) as a growing region with the potential of neighboring Mt. Harlan AVA (Calera Winery) and Chalone AVA (Chalone Vineyard).
About The Vineyard:
The Donati Family Estate Vineyard site enjoys a variety of soils from limestone to decomposed granite to clay loam, and access to the cooling ocean breezes of the Monterey Bay. Like much of southern Napa, Sonoma, and Monterey counties, Paicines has long warm days followed by cool nights. “It’s a lot cooler than people think it would be here,” says Matt. “On the UC Davis scale of growing areas and heat where Region I is the coolest and V the warmest, Paicines is a cool Region II.”
The vineyard is planted to various select clones of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Syrah, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Blanc and Petite Verdot. Vine selections are carefully screened for viral diseases prior to planting, ensuring that the future of the vineyard is secure, and that vine health and fruit integrity remain intact from planting through harvest.
Matt Donati believes in hands-on year-round vineyard management to create an environment where the grapes themselves can be left alone to thrive during ripening.
Regular, judicious thinning of shoots during the growing season, attention to every detail of vine canopy training and light management within the fruiting zone, pre and post-veraison green fruit removal, along with scientific analysis of soil and leaf moisture throughout the growing season ensures that every aspect of the Donati Estate viticultural program contributes to the success of the vintage.
Primary efforts are directed at sustainable farming, allowing for natural predators and reduced use of pesticides to provide a clean, hospitable environment for vine growth and fruit maturation. Of course, this path of action requires extreme diligence in scouting for possible problems. But, with active personnel regularly hand-tending each and every vine, the family is gradually learning that effective and efficient sustainable practices can indeed make a significant difference in both the local environment and in the ultimate grape and wine quality.
Winemaker Dan Kleck enjoys working with the fruit that results from these practices. “For any serious winemaker, it is a great pleasure to work with a team of dedicated professional vineyardists whose vision for quality matches ones own. Donati Vineyard not only has selected a unique and superior site for its vineyard plantings, but has done an extraordinary job of identifying those clones and blocks that are capable of developing into stellar wines in the cellar. With perfect fruit health and absolute ripeness the goals of that vineyard team, I am readily able to craft fully expressive wines, rich in character and nuance. It is sincerely an exciting prospect to work with grapes of such high quality and distinctive personality.”