Eric Guerra Wines
2005 Alexander Valley Ispiri
California: Alexander Valley
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Mission Codename: Divine Inspiration
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Investigate reports that Eric Guerra has crafted a red blend of remarkable balance, elegance and distinction. If true, procure an ample allotment for our Operatives
Mission Status: Accomplished
Current Winery: Eric Guerra Wines
Wine Subject: 2005 Ispiri
Winemaker: Eric Guerra
Backgrounder: Born of passion, inspiration and a remarkable drive to make the best wines, Eric Guerra’s wines reflect the man, delivering boastful wine with panache and even a soft side. Eric Guerra’s own unique story is inspiration, for his is not the usual tale of riches-to-wine, nor was he born into American wine royalty. Rather, Eric Guerra created his winery and his wines the hard way; He had a dream, and he followed it – all in order to bring you wines that inspire – regardless of the personal toil. His joy now realized, his wines are yours to enjoy and to draw inspiration from. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes and mission report below
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Beautiful dark burgundy, this wine has a glistening and highly-polished look to it. With a concentrated ruby color at its edges, this wine is gorgeous to look at. When swirled, the wine appears bouncy, and it settles quickly, leaving behind thick, ropey legs that take seemingly forever to emerge
Smell – Deep and aromatic with dark berries, dark plum lead off, with follow-on aromatic smoky sweetwoods, forest floor and soft spice. Also present is the unmistakable hint of candied orange peel, the sort of which you would find in Italian panettone (a Northern Italian brioche)
Feel – Ultra-round and velvet smooth on entry, then fine to medium tannins grip tenderly at the edges of the palate. Hold the wine in your mouth and it becomes mouth-coating and rich with with lush medium tannins that fade to reveal follow-on flavors
Taste – Beautiful dark fruit of earthy plum, dark mixed berry and dark cherry lead the way, yielding lovingly to soft violet, and currant with a soft minerality. Of special note, there is a delicious undertone that may be misunderstood, so please know that the next flavor is delicious and a great compliment to the other flavors found in the wine: There is a distinct flavor of Italian salty licorice lozenge. This is a tiny semi-hard candy found in Italy or in your neighborhood Italian deli. The flavor is unique and works so well with this wine.
Finish – Soft and slightly dry, this wine has a long and clean finish that tails off smoothly, while continuing to reveal new flavors as it tapers off
Conclusion – We were super impressed by this wine and we commend Eric for his inspired creation! This is a big but beautifully balanced wine with a solid backbone, terrific acidity and delicious flavors that please on so many levels. Enjoy it on its own or with a fine meal. Decant for best results, and enjoy with an open mind… You never know what a sip of this exceptional wine might inspire in you!
Mission Report – Personal Log:
Last week I was called into HQ. I was instructed to attend an ‘informal’ sit-down with Agent White. This was not a good sign. You see, we Wine Spies Field Agents are a fairly autonomous bunch – rarely do we need to have in-person meetings with HQ.
The fact that the meeting with Agent White, was also a bad sign. White is mostly relegated to analysis, computational and mission support. Where I am the chief field agent, Agent White is my behind-the-scenes analog. From a rank and paygrade perspective, we are equals.
I arrived at his office early, and was shuttled in to wait for him. After the door was closed by his assistant, I spotted an Eyes Only file sitting atop his desk. This file was for Agent White only – and so I could not resist. I peeked inside.
Wine Spies HQ deems it necessary to place Agent Red on probation. His performance, where Eric Guerra Wines is concerned, has been found severely lacking. It has taken far too long to procure Guerra’s 2005 Ispiri. It has also wasted too many company resources.
In truth, I had spent an inordinate amount of time trying to procure this particular wine…
Issue a reprimand and inform Agent Red that pending the successful procurement of Guerra’s Ispiri, he is considered to be on disciplinary probation.
I had not finished reading the document when I heard White in the outer office. I quickly replaced the sheet and sat down.
“Hiya, Whitey!” I said.
“Sit down, Red,” He replied, deadpan.
“Listen, before you tell me why you called me here, I just wanted to let you know that I think I have finally cracked Guerra. I should have the wine in hand this afternoon. But my window of opportunity is closing. I need to be in the field ASAP,” I lied.
White paused in thought for a moment before replying, “Let’s postpone this meeting until tomorrow, then.”
I pumped his hand and was out the door. I hopped in my car and sped off toward Napa. On my way, I dialed every asset I could, in an attempt to locate the very illusive Eric Guerra. Nobody knew where he was. I searched all of his reported locations, but came up empty.
I was beginning to worry, when my phone rang. I did not recognize the number on the caller ID, but picked up. The voice on the other end said, “Agent Red? Eric Guerra calling…”
I quickly interrupted, “Mister Guerra! Hi there! Listen, can I meet you right away?!”
“Red, calm down. I just got all of your messages. You have been dialing my old number. I don’t check that very often. I hear that your Operatives are eager to try my Ispiri.”
“Umm, great. How did you hear that?”
“It seems that my intel is better than yours.”
I swallowed hard and let out a nervous laugh.
We arranged our meet that day, and I headed back to HQ with samples in hand. I usually do my wine tasting and analysis in my own private safehouse, but this situation required that I show off my success to HQ.
Agent White seemed impressed. Or was it surprised? Either way, I was off the hook, and the official reprimand stayed our of my personnel file!
I conducted the tasting in the HQ lab, with Agent Sparkle and Agent White in attendance. We all really loved the wine!
Lesson learned on this mission…
What the winery says
“The wine opens up with rich vibrant aromas of ripe plums and dark stone fruits. A velvety palate of black cherries, cassis and hints of smoke delicately structure this full bodied wine. Intense flavors of chocolate and cherry cola create a long pleasant lingering finish. Drink now or be pleasantly surprised with aging.”
Awards & Accolades:
91 Points -
About This Wine:
Ispiri, or “it inspires” in Italian, is our finest effort and most prestigious wine. A wine that embodies both our mission and passion, Ispiri itself was born from a simple belief—the mountain and hillside regions of Sonoma County can offer the finest fruit with a combination of varietal character, impressive intensity and inspiring elegance rivaling the world’s preeminent blends.
Ispiri is unconventional in its personality and original in its thinking. Inspired by old world traditions, primarily the right-bank regions of Bordeaux, we follow a belief that a big, bold and full red wine can and should also have a soft, fruit-forward and elegant side. This is why Merlot is the foundation of this 2005 vintage blend, leaning most assuredly against a strong Cabernet Sauvignon back-bone. The Merlot presents fruit-forward elegance while the Cabernet provides the brawn and intensity. A two-piece arrangement with an enticing harmony offering a lingering melody upon the palate.
About The Winery:
The Moment of Inspiration – I’ll never forget it. You see, you tend not to forget those infrequent moments that define who you are and, most importantly, what your real purpose in life is.
I was on a ridge overlooking downtown Berkeley with the majestic San Francisco skyline as the backdrop. Sitting there, my head in my hands, my shoulders tense, my mind on fire, I remember asking myself “What am I going to do with my life?”
Growing up Italian in a small suburb of New Jersey, losing my father at 16 years young, you learn a few things very soon. One—emotion drives your every decision. Two—you move through life with extreme passion. Three—you just don’t give up, no matter how large or formidable the challenge. Four—pizza in California has a long way to go.
My father was an amazing man. In his early forties he passed from a massive heart attack. So if I think about it, I really didn’t know the man, only the father. As I write this, I can see his face the last day he drove away. His eyes where tired, his face drawn, his spirit almost vacant. It wasn’t till years later I realized life got the best of him. He conceded and allowed his existence to just…happen, not write his own story.
My head slowly raised out of my hands. I thought to myself, what was I doing? My life is not a script I must play out. I am the playwright and I have complete control over where I go, what I do and what drives me. At that very moment it hit me…my father sacrificed his life for his family. There was no way I was going to permit his existence to mean nothing. I needed to show him his sacrifices where for a noble reason. It was time I started to chase my dream, doing what I wanted to do. I quickly walked down the ridge, excited to get started with my life. Inspiration presented itself and I grabbed hold ready for the ride.
My Journey with Wine – Lets see, just like many other wineries, I could tell you about my family vineyards, my winemaking history or growing up in a winery. Or, my personal favorite, making a sizable fortune in another business then deciding to build a interesting winery. Well, none of these are me or this winery. I promise you, there are few people you will find that embraces wine like I do. However, you will find no-one who is more passionate about sharing this adoring relationship than I. Just loving wine is not enough, but seeing the inspiration it brings in you is my true passion.
After my mountain epiphany, I was able to start my dream and I joined Kendall Jackson as the brand marketing manager. At the time, it was the single largest and most well-known wine brand in the US. One night, I was tasked with delivering the key-note speech to over 40 industry veterans. Now, paint the picture in your mind; a young and arrogant ‘kid’ preaching to men who have been doing this for most of their career, and in some instances their entire lives. Blocking out the faces, I ripped into my speech. I talked about passion, why the consumer loved the brand and why people want to learn more about wine. Then I paused, looked down pensively for a moment. I slowly raised my head and said, “The reason people drink our wine is because it inspires them”. Faces fixated on me. Never before has this been heard about…a consumer. We in the industry were inspired, but the faceless masses?
I quickly began to tell stories of the many letters we received. Consumers falling in love, christening a new boat, celebrating an achievement, writing the next novel…all while our wine was in their hands. I explained that each letter was how our wines inspire the finest and deepest emotions in people. I ended my speech wondering if these industry veterans understood my plea. Without hesitation, they rose to their feet in a standing ovation. Later, an industry seasoned older man, who at one time sold Inglenook in ‘the day’, came to me. As he firmly shook my hand, his piercing eyes looked at me and he said, “Thank you for reminding me why I love wine for so long.”
It was at this moment I knew I had a gift and a purpose. The gift was being able to see the inspiration wine provided to many of you. The purpose was to share wine and its inspiring powers with whomever will listen. I immediately set out to craft wines that inspire people.
Starting “Eric Guerra” wines – From that pivotal day, I set out to build the greatest wine brand in the world. I lofty goal but I thought I needed to set my sights high. Of course, my future consumers would accept nothing less. I spent the next many many months building the plan and pulling together all the most talented people I could find, from winemaker, to investors, to key partners.
…ﬁrst, the Winemaker. – First, and most important, was the winemaker. Leslie and I worked closely together at Kendall-Jackson. She was there for many years and crafted wines enjoyed by millions throughout the world. What was most interesting to me was where she worked. There was a particular cellar that was a main sight for many brands, all with very different styles. From big mountain Cabs, to high-alc Zins, to the most elegant Russian River Pinots. Her experience and talents where deep in both the cellar and the vineyard, and her passion for fine wine was even deeper. Finally, she was as tough and onerous as myself, so I couldn’t think of anyone better to lead our wine. She agreed with my vision and joined as the first person on board.
…then, the Perfectionist. – Our second, and final Partner, filled a very important gap. Leslie and I had all the ability and experience needed to get things going. What we where missing was passionate wine-lovers as members to provide the necessary capital as well as senior management savvy. Basically, someone to knock us around when we get out of control.
A good friend of mine introduced me to Bob as a potential member. I can remember the day I visited his home and noticed how he built a wine cellar in the middle of his kitchen/dinning area. Clearly, this was not a normal wine-lover. I may have found a kindred wine-spirit. After listening to our story I went home that night thinking he would definitely be a member at the least. A few weeks later, Bob surprised me with a call. He was interested in joining us and chasing his own dream of going beyond a savvy wine-lover, but to own a winery and live in wine country. After considering his call, I believed he would fill our third partner spot perfectly. After some discussion, we brought Bob on as our final piece to the puzzle, completing the picture.
Over the next few years we found incredible vineyards, a cellar and many very dedicated and encouraging members. It was finally a family…and the dream I had on the mountain ridge years earlier quickly became a reality.
This is my life, this is my purpose, this is my dream…to inspire you through wine. Magical, mystical, memorable wine. I look forward to our journey together.
—Eric J. Guerra, September 2007
Region: Alexander Valley, Pine Mountain. Sonoma, California
Blend: 70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon
Cooperage: All French, 30% new
Aging in oak: 20 months
Cases Crafted: 410
Release Date: January 2008