What We Say 2007 Alexander Valley Zinfandel 'The Caboose'
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Mission Codename: A ride on the Night Caboose
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Operatives have been clamoring for a big, juicy and delicious Alexander Valley Zinfandel, worthy of their exacting tastes. Send Agent Red to Northern Sonoma County to secure an ample cache of the best Zinfandel he can find
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Starry Night Winery
Wine Subject: 2007 The Caboose Zinfandel
Winemaker: Todd Graff
Winery 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. Napa Valley Zinfandels, which are characterized by their big, extracted flavors, are gaining in popularity with our Operatives. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes and mission report below.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Darkest burgundy with a nearly midnight heart that lightens to a dark violet at the edges. When swirled, this wine shows a fast-settling surface that leaves behind a cascade of skinny legs that streak down the glass
Smell – Bold and deeply aromatic, with dark stonefruit, mixed berries with pronounced overripe blackberry, dried meats, toasty caramel and soft spice
Feel – Medium-weight and medium-round on the entry, then a bigger and more full-bodied feel emerge with a slight mid-palate heat and ripe tannins
Taste – Rich and delicious, with not-too-sweet candied black cherry and a beautiful balance of both bright and slightly dusky flavors with nettle, toast, soft tar, blackberry jam, plum, smoky strawberry and a gorgeous spice that really adds to the overall flavor and complexity of the wine. Spices include, pepper, clove and subtle cinnamon.
Finish – This wine finishes with big structure intact, with an ultra-long tail with balanced flavors of its fruit, spice and a touch of earthiness
Conclusion – This is a big stunner of a Zin! With bold fruit flavors and elegant earthen flavors, this wine is richly layered and deeply delicious. If you are looking for a Zin which is filled with character and long on aromatics and flavors, this is a wonderful selection. While the wine is big and bold, it has enough acidity to make it food-friendly. Starry Night always impresses us, particularly with their Zinfandels. If you are a fan of their Zins – or any_ great Zinfandel, this wine is certain to please and impress you!
As a dedicated Operative, you know that The Wine Spies have a special affinity for Starry Night Winery. You also know that, while all Starry wines are great, it is their Zinfandels that we go bonkers for.
It took many months to infiltrate the winery, but our persistence and perseverance paid off. Big time! Today we enjoy a special relationship with Starry Night that allows us access to their wines and their key personnel.
I recently spent some time at the winery, learning even more about their philosophy and approach to winemaking. I was extraordinarily heartened to get this insiders look, especially at a time when I have been puzzling over the ways that some wineries seem to build wines for a handful of reviewers, rather than for wine drinkers.
When asked what sort of wine they make, Starry Night Winery told me, “We make wines that we like to drink”. I was so happy to hear this that I told them so. And they, in turn, were pleased. Starry went on to say, “We make wines that showcase the fruit – and the vineyard. We try not to have too much of an influence on the wine. Rather, we let nature guide the way.”
In the case of today’s wine, which grows out in the Alexander Valley at a vineyard that was formerly owned by Ridge, the fruit really does shine through. World-famous Ridge recently scaled back on the number of vineyards it owns, and I have to scratch my head over their letting this particular vineyard go. As the winemaker told me, “They owned the vineyard for 11 years and had just come to perfect the wines from this particular source. Who knows why they let it go – but I’m glad that they did!”
The vineyard, which sits atop a hill overlooking the gorgeous Alexander Valley, surrounds an old railway caboose. This name was given to today’s wine, which, rather than being the end of something, is really just the beginning. Starry Night’s new Zinfandel from this vineyard is superb. That successive vintages could be even better is a thrilling prospect!
Wine Spies Winery Intel:
The location of the Starry Night Winery, which you can visit by appointment only, can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
Starry Night Winery
About This Wine:
BIG – Yes, this is a big wine, you know, big as in like “The Caboose”.
This wine is deep and complex with ripe, rich, fruit driven dark stone fruit aromas and flavors of black cherries and plum with a hint of cassis on the finish.
As you walk this vineyard, Nervo Station Vineyard in the Alexander Valley, you crest a fairly steep hill, and there it is, in your face, a retired Santa Fe Railroad caboose!!
Ed Nervo, whose family originally purchased the Nervo Ranch in the 1890s, grew up on his family’s winery on the Northwestern Pacific main line and fell in love with railroads and all things railroad related. He somehow was able to move the caboose up the hill; where it stands today.
About The Winery:
Starry Night Winery became a bonded winery in 1999 and our first commercially available wines were introduced in November of 2000. The story of how we came into existence though starts many years earlier when the four of us, Wayne Hansen, Bruce Walker, Mike Miller and Skip Granger started making wine at an amateur level. Our motivation for this came from a shared life long passion for wine and an increasing disdain for the over priced and often mass-produced wines found in the market.
In our first year we crushed several hundred pounds of grapes and produced about fifty cases of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay in Wayne’s basement. This worked well since with his food processing background, Wayne was destined to become our winemaker. By combining the best of both new and traditional methods we found that we could make outstanding wine. We also spent time researching wine making methods, taking classes at UC Davis and received the advice of some very helpful commercial winemakers.
We are excited to announce that as of December, 2006, Nimrod Kovacs, a citizen of Hungary and the US, joined the management team of Starry Night Winery. Mr. Kovacs has a substantial background in both domestic and international marketing, communications, advertising and management. He has also been instrumental in the growth of cable and satellite media delivery in Eastern and Central Europe. Nimrod is the owner of Monarchia Winery of Eger, Hungary, the new sister winery of Starry Night Winery! You can learn more about Monarchia Winery in the Newsletter section or in the Links & Associations section of the website.
At Starry Night Winery, our goal is to produce the finest wines possible that accentuate the regions from where the grapes are best grown. We currently produce Chardonnay, Syrah and Zinfandels from the Russian River Valley, a Sauvignon Blanc from Dry Creek Valley, Zinfandel from Amador and Lake Counties and Zinfandel and Rhone varietals from the Lodi appellation. In 2006 we also produced a Petite Sirah from the Lodi appellation and a Cabernet Franc from High Valley which will be released during 2007.
Many people ask us why we are in Novato and what kind of grapes do we grow there? Well; we don’t grow any grapes. What we do is find the best grapes and growers that allow us to produce the finest wines. We have now worked with one of our growers for nine harvests and two of our growers for six harvests. We have added seveal new growers in the last three years and we are very excited about sharing our new wines and new releases with you!
Our primary focus at Starry Night Winery is Zinfandel, which accounts for over 60% of our production. We think Zinfandel, which is uniquely American, is not only a great wine, but also offers a significant value when compared to many other grape varietals. In 2001 we became a member of Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP), which promotes Zinfandel education worldwide. Bruce currently serves as Vice President of ZAP and is a member of ZAP’s Board of Directors.
We are also excited by Rhone varietals, which we believe are making significant gains in popularity. We make a Russian River Syrah, and in 2001 introduced our Adara, which is a blend of wines made from grapes found in the Rhone region of France. Because we love Chardonnay, we also produce a barrel fermented, 100% malolactic, and well balanced Chardonnay.
The vastness of Sonoma County with its diverse climate and topography allows growers to produce grapes for distinct wines from the same grape variety. Various areas are known by Appellations. Appellations reflect unique climate, soil and other conditions which tend to produce wines unique to those areas.
With the best combination of natural resources and climate, Starry Night Winery’s key viticulture philosophy is to maintain a small berry size to more concentrated fruit. Our grapes realize bud break often several weeks earlier than other Sonoma Country Wineries, promoting a longer growing season. The rocky soils, comprised of silt loam on top of broken shifts allow the vineyards to deplete water early in the season so there is greater concentration in the berry by the time of harvest.
Our viticulture practices also reflect our desire to put forth optimal flavor in all of our wines. These practices sophisticated trellising system, over cropping early in the season then thinning later in the season to contribute to pH and acid balance and promote higher skin surface to grape ratio.
Varietals: 100% Alexander Valley Zinfandel
Cooperage: Combination of American and French oak barrels
Harvest Date: September 3, 2007
Sugar at Harvest: 27.7º brix
TA: .504 g/100ml
Production: 210 cases