Graton Ridge Cellars
2007 Bacigalupi Vineyard Zinfandel
Zinfandel •Bacigalupi Vineyard
California: Sonoma County: Russian River Valley
What We Say
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Mission Codename: Riding the Ridge
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Wine Spies Operatives demand great Zinfandel, but they also love a great wine at a great price. Send Agent Red to the Graton Ridge Cellars to retrieve a great Zinfandel – with a great QPR
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Graton Ridge Cellars
Wine Subject: 2007 Zinfandel
Winemaker: Nick Legg
Winery Backgrounder: Reports have been flooding in to Wine Spies Central Command about a unique winery in Sebastopol, California, and their passion for crafting distinctive artisan wines. We sent Agent Red to investigate, and he returned with a handful of cases of today’s wine. Read his tasting notes and mission report below
Varietal Backgrounder: Zinfandel is related to the Italian Primitivo grape, tracing its origin to the Croatian grape Crljenak Kastelanski. Zinfandel is one of the most versatile varietals with the ability to make wines, both rich to fruity, dark to light, and dry to sweet. Sonoma County Zinfandels are among our favorites, and for good reason; So many great California wines are made in this region. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes and mission report below.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep burgundy with an inky heart, with color that remains concentrated right to the pinkish edges of the wine. This wine has a tight and bouncy surface and thick legs that streak down the glass when swirled
Smell – A deep inhalation delivers a big rush of layered fruits of dark cherry, plum, blackberry, and currant – with follow-on aromatics of spice, sweetwoods and a wonderful earthen component
Feel – Weighty and slightly oblong on the entry, leading to a roundness on the mid-palate, where the wine shows medium tannins that lead to a slight dryness on the tongue and lips
Taste – A near-perfect mirror image of the nose, with bright acidity and additional flavors of cherry cola, very ripe strawberry and soft spice
Finish – Layers of full flavor taper slowly, leaving behind a slight dryness and sweetness that makes your mouth water
Conclusion – A great surprise from this relative newcomer! Graton Ridge has managed to craft a very approachable and fun to drink wine. Long on great flavor and an interesting feel, we enjoyed this bright wine with pizza with pepperoni and anise sausage. It maintained a perfect balance with the food, without overpowering it as many Cali zins can tend to do. This wine was built to be enjoyed with food, but we also enjoyed sipping it on its own, making it a very versatile treat. Special note: Decant this wine for at least 30 minutes for best results. You will be rewarded with softer and more full flavors.
Sometimes spies have to do things that we are not so proud of. We justify our actions easily, though, especially if the result is the discovery of great wines.
For today’s wine, I had to resort to using an innocent to help me infiltrate Graton Ridge Cellars. I have to admit, it was pretty fun, too.
While enjoying a glass of Zinfandel with Agent Sparkle recently, we overheard a man complaining to his friend that he had no idea where to go wine tasting with some friends that were coming to town. Sparkle and I looked at each other knowingly and she winked at me and then turned to speak with the man.
Pouring on the charm, and putting on a false Texas accent, Sparkle said, “Excuse me. I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation. We’re on our last day of vacation and we’re leaving town tomorrow. We spent the last few days touring local wineries, and, well, we always hoped to make it back to our favorite, Gratin Ridge. We have these free tasting coupon – do you want ’em?”
He took the bait easily. “Thanks! I work really close to that winery, but I’ve never been in. I’ll go on my lunch hour tomorrow.”
It could not have been better. Now we had a date and a time. I snapped a picture of the guy with my hidden lapel camera, and we were off.
The next morning, I called the winery, introducing myself as “Agent Red”, a move usually reserved for those wineries that already know my true identity. I explained that I was on a mission to find a great Zin, and that I would be visiting them later in the day. They happily agreed to host me for a tasting, declaring that their Zinfandel would impress me. I gave them a description of ‘myself’, by describing our mark from the previous night. They told me they would look out for me.
Agent Sparkle and my donned some simple disguises and made our way to the winery around 11am, before lunchtime. The tasting room was busy, but we found a spot at the end of the bar. We made small talk with the friendly staff, and with the other patrons.
At one point in the conversation one of our fellow tasters, a young woman from Ohio asked, “Has anyone here heard of The Wine Spies?” My heart skipped a beat, but I played it cool. Agent Sparkle seemed unfazed.
In a hushed tone, Sue, our host, said, “One of their senior agents is going to be visiting us today! He should be here any minute.”
With that, a tangible excitement seemed to fill the air. Conversation buzzed. Anticipation mounted. At least my anticipation did.
After a few minutes we heard the doors to the tasting room open. The room fell silent. Footfalls sounded from the entry.
In walked our unwitting asset.
Everyone was staring at him. He stopped in his tracks, wide-eyed. He stood there, frozen, unsure of just what he had walked into.
The silence was broken by Sue. “Agent Red?!,” she asked him.
The poor guy looked shocked. His mouth opened and then closed. He looked over his shoulder, perhaps checking to see how far he was from the nearest exit.
Finally, he spoke. “No…. Ummm, I’m just here to try some wine.”
The tension drained from the room, and Sue motioned him over to the bar, her smile offering the man some reassurance that everything was alright.
Sue explained the situation to the man, telling him that he looked just like a guest that she was expecting – from The Wine Spies. She leaned in toward the man and, in a hushed tone, said, “Its really you, isn’t it, Agent Red? Its okay, I won’t blow your cover.” With this, the man to a step back from the bar, again glancing toward the exit.
The man looked so visibly nervous that I decided to let him off the hook. I had hoped to lead the man to unwittingly get the intel I was after, by employing the Scorce Gambit, but I hadn’t the heart. This poor fellow was simply too shaken.
I stripped off my sunglasses and fake mustache. Agent Sparkle took off her blond wig. The look of wide-eyed recognition in the mans eyes was awesome. “I am Agent Red,” I declared. The man turned white. Agent Sparkle caught his arm as he buckled slightly at the knees. Gently, she guided him back to the bar. She whispered something in his ear, and he calmed visibly.
I had chosen my mark too hastily. On one hand, this was a fun experience. On the other, I could not help but feel a little guilty for using the guy. We did glean some valuable intel, sure, but…. Oh, who am I kidding? This was a hoot! So, too, was the rest of the tasting. We got to know the winery folks and we had a great flight of their wines.
The champ of the tasting was today’s Zinfandel. So was our poor ‘victim’. Don’t feel too bad for the guy, though. We bought him a few bottles to calm his nerves!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of Graton Ridge winery and tasting room can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
This wine was fermented in ½ ton open top bins by a variety of commercial yeast types. It was aged in 59 gallon oak barrels for 15 months. 30% of the barrels were new American oak. The primary aromas are all fruity; black cherry, strawberry and plum among others. There are also potent notes of cinnamon, maple and cedar from the oak aging. This wine is very aromatic. Many of the aromas come across on the palate as well. It has a lingering, sweet, spicy berry aftertaste. It is a medium weight Zinfandel by California standards.
About The Winery:
Since 1945 the Paul family has been inviting visitors to our family location for a taste of the Russian River Valley. In early years, fresh apple juice and apples enticed travelers and locals alike to stop by and fill their cars with the sweet aroma of Sonoma County’s famous Gravenstein apple. Many of those families made our ranch an annual excursion and we looked forward to visits from the folks we fondly called our regulars. As times have changed, so too has our farm; bins of apples have given way to bins of grapes, and our rustic farm stand has been refurbished into a more modern facility. Today, visitors to our ranch taste the flavor of the Russian River Valley through our proprietary wines.
As a small family operation, three generations of our family still participate in growing and harvesting our bountiful Sonoma County crops. We transform some of the best wine grapes in the region into handcrafted wines. Aged in oak, our buttery Chardonnay and fruity Pinot Noir grapes are transformed from luscious fruit to fine wine in the tradition of skilled vintners. Winemaker Nick Legg produces each vintage in small lots, minimizing air contact during the fermentation process, preserving the natural aromas and flavors. Nick brings his years of experience to our ranch, helping us to capture a bountiful harvest – and our love of the land – in a glass for your dining pleasure.
About The Winemaker:
Nick Legg is a highly accomplished winemaker with over 15 years of progressive achievement in the diverse wine regions of Sonoma and Napa counties. His experience ranges from the Villa Mt. Eden Winery in the Napa Valley to Deloach Winery in the Russian River Valley and Trentadue Winery in the Alexander Valley. With his knowledge as an assistant winemaker and cellar master, Nick has applied his considerable skills to give the Graton Ridge Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines their distinctive character.
Varietals: 100% Zinfandel
Appellation: Russian River Valley
Production: 270 cases