2005 Secolo Proprietor's Wine Selection
California: Sonoma County
What We Say
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT!
We finally got our hands on a small allocation of Sebatiani’s flagship phenom, Secolo, and we declare it to be a very special wine indeed!
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Mission Codename: The Centurian
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Infiltrate Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery, and secure their flagship Bordeaux blend – Secolo
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery
Wine Subject: 2005 Secolo – Sonoma Red Wine
Winemaker: Mark Lyon
Today’s fantastic red blend come to us from one of Sonoma’s oldest and most experienced winemaking families, Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery. Made from Bordeaux varietals, grown in Sonoma County, today’s wine is a wonderful varietal blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, and Petite Verdot. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes and mission report, below, for the the complete scoop on today’s wine
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Rich burgundy with a deep and dark heart, concentrated color right out to the edges of the wine. When swirled, this wine shows a super-tight surface that settles quickly, leaving behind stubby legs that start high up on the glass and then crawl down slowly
Smell – Layers of deep aromas! Layers of dark cherry and blackberry lead the charge, giving way to chestnut, dark plum, toasted cocoa bean, vanilla and oak
Feel – Complex and big, starting with a rich and semi-sharp feel up front, leading to a more balanced and softer experience on the mid-palate. Medium tannins take hold and grip the lips and cheeks. Overall, a very lush experience in the mouth
Taste – Intensely dark and dusky with bright cherry, smoked blackberry and dark plum are followed by dark chocolate-covered cherries, mineral and soft earthen spice
Finish – A Long and slightly dry finish, with lingering flavors of mixed berry and a slight stemmy flavor
Conclusion – A rich and robust wine that is long on aromas and deep flavor, this wine delivers a big experience. With dark fruits and firm tannins, this wine big character, a mouth-feel that makes it a pleasure to drink and a flavors that will keep you coming back for more. Pair with richer foods, such as grilled meats and hard cheeses – or enjoy on its own. At our price of $28, this wine is an exceptional value
It was my pleasure to spend some time with Mark Lyon, winemaker for Sebastiani. We chatted as we toured the winery and vineyards. Here is a transcript of the highlights from our conversations:
AGENT RED: Thanks for the tour, Mark! I’m really happy to be here with you today.
MARK LYON: Thanks for coming! Its refreshing to find a wine merchant that takes the time to get to know a winery – and our wines.
RED: I appreciate that compliment, Mark. We put alot of love and attention into choosing and reviewing each wine that we showcase. We’re very picky, which lead me to you today. How’s life at the moment? With harvest and crush behind you, are you getting a little time off?
MARK: Hmmm, let me think. Actually, I did take a day off recently.
RED: I see. The life of a winemaker is a busy one, I know. In your case, you grow grapes as well, so that must make you doubly busy.
MARK: Truly, it does.
RED: How does the 2008 crop look?
MARK: It was a challenging year, but a bittersweet one. The crop size was down by about 40%, because we lost a lot of fruit to frost and shatter. Clusters were smaller and berries were, too. The fact that we were in the second year of drought drought didn’t help either. The fruit that we did get was exceptional. This is why I call this year a bittersweet one.
RED: I keep hearing the same from other winemakers and growers. It look like 2008 will be a very sought after year. The fact that supply will also be curtailed, well, that will have an effect. We’ll have to get our futures orders in now!
MARK: It will be a small production year, but a great one.
RED: Let me get back to the topic of growing again. The fact that you are involved in the growing is a real benefit, I would imagine.
MARK: It is! By spending time in the vineyards, I get to be a part of the entire process. Its a team effort to be sure, and the vineyard team has their hands full year round, but I like to keep a close eye on the grapes.
RED: Tell me about the grapes the go into the Secolo.
MARK: Sure, but first let me tell you a little bit about the Secolo: This is a special wine that allows me to blend for perfect balance. The wine is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, and some of the grapes come from my personal vineyard, but the other grapes – the Malbec, Merlot and Petite Verdot – allow me craft a wine that is elegant and refined.
RED: I notice that the wine drinks more like a traditional Bordeaux blend. Is this intentional?
MARK: Indeed! Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa can tend to be overly muscly and sometimes even brutish. I strive for greater softness and fruit character. My oak regimens are far more restrained that some Napa Cab regimes. I use lot’s of new oak – French and Hungarian – and the wines are in barrel for a lot less time than a Napa Cab might be. This allows the fruit to shine through, but the new oak also has time to impart its wonderful qualities into the wine.
RED: Your Secolo is very good. I can see why it is so popular with wine drinkers. Its ready to drink now, but I suspect that it could become even better with more time. What are your thoughts on aging this wine?
MARK: It is ready to drink now, that’s for sure. It will probably peak in another 4 to 6 years, but I suspect that the wine will be great for far longer.
RED: Tell me, how did you get involved in winemaking? My sources tell me that you are a lifer in the business.
MARK: Your sources are well informed, then. When I was sixteen, I went to Europe with my grandparents. There, drinking wine at that age was the norm. It was a part of most meals and I was blessed to sample many exceptional wines in France and Italy. I was hooked and when I returned to the States, I knew that I would be involved.
RED: … and in 1978, you enrolled at the University of California at Davis. You graduated with other prominent winemakers like Randall Graham and Dave Ramey…
MARK: Wow, you really do have your sources. What did I do then?
RED: well, we place you with a handful of wineries in your earliest career, and in 1980 you purchased vineyard land, but your career has really been focused right here with Sebastiani.
MARK: Impressive. Yes, I was hired as a supervisor way back, and I rose through the ranks to become winemaker for Sebastiani.
RED: Let me ask you, briefly, about your winemaking style here at Sebasitani. Would you characterize yourself as a naturalist winemaker or more of a mad Scientist?
MARK: Certainly a naturalist. I am more viticulturally based, rather than scientifically. Since I own and manage vnieyards, I understand the entire process and so I am more grounded in traditional techniques.
RED: I realize that we are running late, so let me just ask you about food pairing with this wine. What is your go-to favorite with this wine?
MARK: Funny you should ask now, because I just enjoyed a bottle of this wine the other night with a nice fillet! It was wonderful. A great steak works well, but so, too, does a nice rustic pasta dish or eggplant Parmesan. Even a real ratatouille!
RED: Would you like to leave our Operatives with any final thoughts on this wine?
MARK: Only that it is a gorgeous wine that I worked hard on – in order to give it a supple balance and elegance. Like the wines of Bordeaux, this wine was crafted in the vineyard and in the cellar – without intervening overly – making it a harmonious and fabulous wine!
RED: Thanks so much for the tour and the talk, Mark. I really appreciate your time.
MARK: It was my pleasure, Agent Red. Say hello to all of your Operatives for me!
What the Winery Says
Awards and Accolades:
5 Stars & GREAT VALUE from Restaurant Wine: “A full bodied, toasty blend, with moderately rich fruitiness, good balance and a very long finish, tasting of blackberry, roasted nut, toast, cocoa, and black currant. Great Value!”
88 Points & ONE PUFF from Connoisseurs Guide to California Wines: “Over the last several vintages, Sebastiani’s Secolo has rated among the better Cabernet buys to be had. In this outing, however, it stints slightly on richness, and, while it leads with a nice mix of oak and sweet fruit, it tightens a bit and lets a hint of greenness into the finish.”
About This Wine:
The Vineyard: Meaning “century” in Italian, Secolo is a Bordeaux-style blended red wine. This wine showcases some of the best vineyard lots for Bordeaux varietals in Sonoma County. Each year, the blend and vineyard composition changes in order to achieve the style for which this wine has become known: aromatic, ripe and rich yet elegant. 2005 was a cooler, longer vintage for Sonoma County, allowing lots of hang time for the grapes. We blended Cabernet Sauvignon from the “banana belt” vineyard sites (Harp in Sonoma Valley, Lyon Vineyard in Alexander Valley) in order to achieve full ripeness in a cooler vintage. Merlot was mainly from Alexander Valley, which is a very important ingredient to use in cooler vintages, as is the case in the Medoc. The Malbec and Petite Verdot were from both Valleys and were also essential for the final blend.
The Vintage: The 2005 vintage got off to a late start with later bud break for Red Bordeaux varieties. However, spring temperatures were normal, allowing a good fruit set. Summer was mild to moderate without any heat waves. August was foggy and cool, setting the stage for larger cluster development. By the time harvest started, facing high yields, we crop thinned the Cabernet and Merlot in the Lyon vineyard. Indian Summer kicked in mid October, and we were able to pick ripe, Alexander Valley Merlot starting October 21st, followed by Petite Verdot and Malbec. Cabernet Sauvignon didn’t commence until the last week in October at Harp, finishing out with the Lyon vineyard through November 8 th . We were also fortunate to have few rains, the extra hang time giving us more depth and ripeness than is typical of the vintage. Because of the cooler, longer vintage, the wine is darker in color, with haunting, complex aromatics more akin to a great Medoc.
Winemaking: All lots were crushed and de-stemmed and underwent a warm, brisk fermentation to aid in color and flavor extraction. We only used the free run portions of the Cabernet, and it was pressed off at approximately 5 brix to manage the extremely high tannin levels. The lots were racked into mainly new and one-year-old French Oak barrels. Initial assemblage occurred the following Spring with the final assemblage occurring in late Summer. It was bottled in June of 2006.
Winemaker’s Notes: All lots were crushed and de-stemmed. However, we did more cold soaking with some pectic enzymes to liberate more color early on. Generally, cooler vintages for Bordeaux varieties need more coaxing out of color with this treatment and warmer fermentation temperatures, which was our critical vintage adjustment. The lots were then racked into mainly new and one-year-old French and Hungarian Oak barrels. A protein fining was done on the tannic lots in January thru March in order to selectively remove tannin and not color, nor aromatics. Initial assemblage occurred the following Spring with the final assemblage occurring in late Summer, 2006, as is classically done in the Medoc . After aging in barrels for 14 months, it was bottled in August of 2007.
About The Winery:
The history of Sebastiani Vineyards dates back to 1825. In that year, the Franciscan fathers of nearby mission San Francisco Solano, assisted by local native Americans, first cleared and planted land for their vineyards. These vineyards are among the oldest vineyard sites in northern California. They were acquired in 1904 by Samuele Sebastiani, the founder of our family winery, who immigrated from the wine producing region of Tuscany, Italy in 1895.
Samuele’s story is an interesting one. When he first arrived in California, like most immigrants of the time, he literally had nothing but the clothes on his back. He began working at odd jobs and finally saved enough money to purchase a horse and wagon, which he used to haul cobblestones from a quarry in the hill behind Sonoma. The stones were used to help pave the streets of San Francisco. By 1904, with the money he saved from this enterprise he was able to buy land, our original stone winery, and grow grapes. He began making fine Sonoma Valley wine, a craft he learned before immigrating to America.
Shortly after Samuele’s death in 1944, his son August Sebastiani and August’s wife Sylvia purchased the winery from his father’s estate. August increased the winery’s production a hundredfold. He was able to do this with creative ideas such as putting premium varietal wines in popularly priced magnums. He introduced “Noveau” Gamay Beaujolais to America, and he created a blush wine knows as Pinot Noir Blanc, which he called “Eye of the Swan”. The color of this wine reminded him of the pinkish color of the eyes of his Australian black swans. All of these endeavors proved to be very successful. August soon gained a reputation as one of America’s most skilled and innovative winemakers.
Sylvia Sebastiani stood tribute to the legend of her wine-pioneering husband August. Sylvia was involved in the winery and its hospitality and tasting room facilities. She often visited the tasting room to sign copies of her world famous cookbook, Mangiamo! Let’s Eat.
The third generation of the famous wine making family has taken on the leadership role with Mary Ann Sebastiani Cuneo, President and Chief Executive Officer. The daughter of August and Sylvia Sebastiani, Mary Ann guides the company in its renaissance and emphasis on becoming the leader among Sonoma Valley’s quality wineries. Mary Ann officially joined the winery in 1980, managing all winery property, real estate dealings and the hospitality department. Today, Mary Ann’s attention is focused on the ambitious two-year project to renovate and retrofit the original winery building, which was built in 1903. Mary Ann continues the management of the company’s real estate holdings. She has also been actively involved in Boy Scouts of America and Sonoma Valley Hospital.
Richard A. Cuneo has been an integral part of the winery since 1974. Having served as Vice-president, Senior Vice-president, and President, Cuneo presently serves as the company’s Chairman of the Board. He has also taken time to be involved in his local community of Sonoma by participation on the Sonoma Valley School Board, Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce and on the Board of Directors for Hanna Boys Center. An avid conservationist, Cuneo has been active in an official capacity with the California Wildlife Foundation, California Fish and Game and Ducks Unlimited. In addition, Cuneo served a number of years as a Director of the California State Fair. Mary Ann and Richard Cuneo have three grown sons, Angelo, Marc, and Josef.
The fourth generation member of the family actively involved in the company is Marc Cuneo. Marc is Director of Grower Relations at the winery. He also travels extensively throughout the country, providing seminars and tastings. Look for him in your neighborhood. In his spare time, Marc is involved in National Outdoor Leadership as a NOLS Leader. He loves bike riding, skiing, golfing, and mountain climbing. Marc also oversees his own vineyard of Pinot Noir in the Carneros Region.
Appellation: Sonoma County
Composition: 75% Cabernet Sauvignon; 18% Merlot; 4% Petite Verdot; 3% Malbec
Cooperage: 40% new French Oak, 20% new Hungarian Oak 40% 1 yr old French, Hungarian, & American Oak
Alcohol: 14.3% by volume
TA: 0.56 g/100ml
Bottling Date: August 2007
Release Dates: November 2007