2006 Estate Reserve Zinfandel
California: Sonoma County: Dry Creek Valley
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Mission Codename: Backside of the Barn
Operative: Agent White
Objective: Find a delicious Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Wilson Winery
Wine Subject: 2006 Estate Reserve Zinfandel
Winemaker: Diane Wilson
Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley is a treasure trove of great wines, but it is Zinfandel that is king in this region. Zinfandel is one of our operatives favorite grape varietals, and for good reason, so many wonderful California wines are made from this varietal. Related to the Italian Primitivo grape and 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.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep and dark purple with garnet highlights that barely shine through this wines inky dark core. Slightly lighter along the edges and when swirled the color hands and then drops with alternating slow fat and fast thin legs.
Smell – Medium in intensity and aromatic in quality with dark bramble berries, mild cracked black pepper and hints of smokey tobacco, floral violets, herbal wild anise and mocha coffee.
Feel – An initially smooth and dry attack, this full-bodied wine’s ripe and plush tannins are supported on the back of the the palate with medium acidity and spice that balances its richness through its tanginess.
Taste – Dense and ripe dark red and black fruit including plum, briary blackberry and red cherry. The plush fruit is well integrated and layered over mild smokey oak, mocha coffee, herbal anise, a hint of earthiness and mildly spicy black pepper.
Finish – Long and smooth and rich with great fruit, spice and a touch of minerality and the lingering tanginess from the initial attack.
Conclusion – There is a reason that Dry Creek Valley is so well known for exceptional Zinfandel and today’s 2006 Estate Reserve Zinfandel from Wilson Winery demonstrates that reason. A lovely aromatic nose, smooth and rich but still with great structure, balanced deep fruit with complex layers of spice, earth and herbal notes and a finish that invites ever larger gulps. This wine is perfect for your next barbecue and will certainly cellar well for several years to come.
In continuing with our special Women Winemaker Week on The Wine Spies, we are proud to present Agent Sparkle’s interview with Diane Wilson:
AGENT SPARKLE: Hi Diane. We are big fans of your wines and it is a pleasure to talk with you! Here’s my first question: What inspired you to become a winemaker?
DIANE WILSON: Ken and I had been growing grapes for several years and one of our contracts ran out, so we thought it was a good time to venture into making our own wines… and there is something very tempting about growing the grapes, picking them, and keeping them to make the wine and have a finished product; all the fruits of our own labor.
SPARKLE: How long have you been making wine?
DIANE: My first commercial vintage was in 1994 with a Reserve Cabernet. It won a Best of Class and a Gold Medal in the 2000 Sonoma County Harvest Fair, which was very exciting!
SPARKLE: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?DIANE: I make very big, bold, rich-mouth-feel style wines, making the most of what the grapes have to offer. I mostly use natural yeast, and let the wines come into themselves without fussing with them too much.
SPARKLE: Who do you make wine for?
DIANE: Myself! Wilson Winery is our family’s flagship winery, so the wines I make here are establishing our family heritage…
SPARKLE: Do you think that women winemakers have an advantage over their male counterparts?
DIANE: I don’t know…I think that many people have a good sense of smell and taste, and you finesse the wines you have made by using those senses. You also want a basic understanding of the chemistry what you are producing, and my science background definitely has helped…
SPARKLE: What is the biggest obstacle you have encountered in your career, and how have you overcome it?
DIANE: Marketing, making great wine is only one part of the wine business, you also need to sell the wine. When you are new and unknown, it is a lot of work to get your name out there and create a following of your wine.
SPARKLE: Who is your favorite woman winemaker and why?
DIANE: That’s a tough question, there are so many out there, but who first comes to mind is Carol Shelton. She works incredibly hard both making her wine and putting herself out there in marketing world. She has an amazing palate and creativity to her.
SPARKLE: What is the one question that you would ask another woman winemaker – and what is your answer to that question?
DIANE: What is your favorite aspect of winemaking? For me it is harvest. Harvest is like a new year with all that unknown potential and anticipation of what the new grapes will bring – will this year be the best yet?
SPARKLE: What is one piece of advice that you would give to a woman that is considering a career as a winemaker?
DIANE: Take the opportunities afforded to you and learn all you can from everyone! Ask ten winemakers a question and you will get ten different answers, so you need that basic experience to figure out what path will work for you and your personal philosophy of winemaking.
SPARKLE: In the eyes of consumers and the eyes of those in the wine business, is there gender equality among winemakers?
DIANE: For me, I have to say I have only found only equality, I can even say I think being a women in this business has been a positive.
SPARKLE: What is your current favorite wine?
DIANE: My favorite wine can change from week, but right now I think my favorite wine is the 06 Reserve Zin, in fact it has been my “flavor of the month”, and this is not because you are featuring this wine.
SPARKLE: What was the last wine you drank and did you enjoy it?
DIANE: The last wine I drank was a wine I bottled just over a week ago called Wilson Family Red which is a blend from our different family named estate vineyards. It is comprised Zinfandel, Cabernet, Petite Sirah, and Syrah. I am very happy with how it turned out. This is a new wine for us, I think people are going to like it.
SPARKLE: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
DIANE: With the 2006 Reserve Zinfandel, I love to pair a portabella mushroom soup! The flavor pairings are really delicious…
SPARKLE: Please share one thing about yourself that few people know
DIANE: I was planning on going to medical school before I got caught up in the wine culture!
SPARKLE: What is the one question that I should have asked you, and what is your answer to that question?
DIANE: What is my favorite wine to make: It’s like children; I don’t really have a favorite, but every year a different one needs a little extra attention. I do have fun tinkering with each year’s Petite Sirah — we have such a small amount planted and it is so terroir-driven that we get something unique and different every year!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Wilson Winery in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
Opulent aromas of ripe blackberry and cherry mingle with spicy pepper, plum and a touch of oak. Rich, spicy dark fruit – blackberry and dark cherry – melds with cocoa notes and hints of coffee and eucalyptus. The integration of fruit, tannins and oak create a compelling Zin that is drinkable now or is a great cellar candidate.
The 2006 Reserve Zinfandel is the merger of equal parts of her single vineyard designates, representing a low-altitude Zin (250 ft), a mid-altitude zin (1500ft), and the highest altitude Zin (we ‘re pretty sure) existing within the Dry Creek Valley appellation (2540 ft). Add to this some richness of 10% Petite Sirah, and you have Zinfandel perfection!
Winemaking: Hand-harvested and fermented in open-top vats with three daily punchdowns. Aged in 43% new oak barrels from various top French coopers for approximately 15 months.
About The Winemaker:
Diane Wilson – Wilson Winery is fortunate that Diane Wilson has always been a quick study. Combining her passion for cooking with her educational background in biochemistry, Diane’s style of winemaking is equal parts of science, passion and art.
Approaching winemaking with the same proven techniques that have wowed people with her culinary skills, Diane uses common sense along with her other senses to craft her wines. “Looking at the color, smelling the wine each step of the way and tasting it throughout the process are my best tools, just as they are in my kitchen,” says Diane. “My philosophy of winemaking is to maximize the fruit flavor in the grape. Make sure each wine has a front, a middle and a back so you produce a full, rich mouth feel.”
“To do this, it is all about balance–having the right amount of skin contact during fermentation to extract flavor and color without getting too much tannin, leaving the wine to age in barrels for the ideal length of time to soften the tannins and add the flavor of oak without overpowering the delicate flavors of the fruit.
About The Winery:
The old tin barn on Dry Creek Road has been a local landmark for over a century. Once the Fredson Winery, the historic building was reborn in 1993 when we bought it to pursue our dream of making wine from our own grapes. Wilson Winery is proof that dreams do come true.
We began purchasing vineyard land in Dry Creek Valley in the early 1980s and planted our first vines in 1988. Today we farm 220 acres of prime Dry Creek Valley hillside vineyards. The varietals planted include Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Merlot.
With our vineyards established, we began fulfilling our dream—making our own wine. Our first wine was a 1994 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from their Sydney Vineyard. Shortly after releasing the wine, we entered it into the 2000 Sonoma County Harvest Fair. We were thrilled to be acknowledged with both a gold medal and Best of Class honors. Realizing that not only did we have great vineyards but could produce award-winning wines, we began expanding our operations.
Restoring the old barn and getting county permits took a few more years, but by 1998 the complete winemaking operation was housed in our own winery. Slowly the operation grew to include additional varietals and the annual production reached 3000 cases.
In 2001, we opened a tasting room on the backside of the old barn. When you think “backside of the barn” you don’t picture a breathtaking panoramic view of Dry Creek Valley. But that is what you will find behind this barn. As you relax on the tasting room veranda, it is easy to lose track of time as you soak in one of the finest views of the valley while sipping a glass of Wilson wine.
We invite you to visit our tasting room, enjoy the magnificent view and sample our delicious wines.
Diane and Ken Wilson
Composition: 30% Sawyer Vineyard Zinfandel, 30% Carl’s Vineyard Zinfandel, 30% Tori Vineyard Zinfandel, 10% Ellie’s Vineyard Petite Sirah
Acidity: .68 grams/100 ml
Production: 599 cases
Release Date: September, 2008