White Cottage Ranch Winery (CLOSED)
2005 ‘Risa’ Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon •Estate Vineyard
California: Napa Valley: Howell Mountain
What We Say
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
Today’s wine is so exceptional, that we issued this special alert. If you love Napa Cabs, but long for balance over boldness, this is a great choice
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Mission Codename: The Laughter
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Comb the Napa Valley and secure the most delicious and best balanced Napa Valley red blend possible
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: White Cottage Ranch
Wine Subject: 2005 “Risa”, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Winemaker: Rudy Zuidema
Backgrounder: The Howell Mountain region in the Napa Valley is the birthplace of some of our very favorite wines. We fell in love early on and we have not been disappointed by a high-elevation Howell Mountain wine yet. Today’s wine is a made from a blend of mountain fruit and fruit from the floor of the valley, imbuing the wine with a balanced best of both worlds flair. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes and mission report below
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep burgundy, with a darker heart of concentrated black plum, with garnet hued-edges. When swirled, this wine has a great springiness to it that leaves behind intriguing legs that start off fat and slow, but then turn quickly skinny as they speed down the glass
Smell – Bold intensity with aromas of ripe black plum, sweet cherry, raspberry and ripe blackberry. These are all layered atop floral aromas of violet, earthen sweetwoods, and flinty minerals. A few people on my impromptu tasting panel independently detected banana and walnut!
Feel – Smooth, light weight and dry on the attack, this wine digs in, revealing a medium-body with medium-firm, but fine and well-structured tannins and a balanced acidity
Taste – Bold and delicious, finely balanced with well integrated flavors of ripe black cherry, plum, ripe blackberry and smoky mocha with a hint of licorice and softest spice
Finish -Clean and ultra long with lingering ripe blackfruit, soft minerals and a hint of smoky plum. The wine coats the mouth for a spell, then as flavors tail off, the mouth waters – and it time for another delicious sip!
Conclusion – BIG WOW! This wine blew me away. After an asset left samples for me at our dead-drop, I learned that this wine was biodynamic. This pleased me, but my old-school thinking also put me on a slight alert; I should know better by now, having featured some really remarkable biodynamic wines here. This wine is astoundingly good, providing big juicy mouthfuls of fruit-forward yumminess, a mouthfeel that is as intriguing as it is exciting, and aromatics that kept this spy sniffing for a solid 5 minutes before ever even taking a sip
Agent White first met Rudy Zuidema, winemaker and general manager of White Cottage Ranch winery, while undercover at a recent tasting event in Southern California. Agent White loved Rudy’s wines so much, that he dropped his cover and secured an allotment of today’s wine right there at the event. Agent Red later caught up with Rudy at the winery, where they had the following conversation:
AGENT RED: Hey, Rudy. Thanks for meeting with me today. The winery is buzzing today. What’s happening here at the moment?
RUDY ZUIDEMA: Hi, Red. Thanks for coming out. We’re ramping up for bottling. I’m also out in the vineyards as much as possible. Have you seen the buds?!
RED: Some of the leaves are huge already. The size of my hand, some of them!
RUDY: Yeah, its a fun time.
RED: I’ll keep this talk brief, but I wanted to ask you a few questions that our Operatives are keen to know. Firstly, please tell me, who do you make your wines for?
RUDY: For my wife and myself! I makes wines that we will enjoy.
RED: I love that answer. Can you elaborate?
RUDY: You know, we want to be able to drink a half bottle, each, without getting beaten up by hugh alcohol or bowled over by overpowering over-extraction. I strive to make wines that are honest and balanced. The wine should work well with on its own or with food, even it that’s a delicate meal – or just a bowl of popcorn.
RED: Amen to that! I find that the best wines are those that are made for the winemaker. In your case, you add a nice touch of romanticism to the mix.
RUDY: Yeah, all I need is my wife, a bottle of my wine, and a sunset!
RED: Awesome. Tell me about the 2005 Risa.
RUDY: First of all, you are lucky to have gotten your hands on any. When we retire it to our library – and we’ll only have a little of it left – the price will be going up.
RED: Once again, we come through for our Operatives. Thanks to you!
RUDY: Its my pleasure. This wine, the 2005 Risa Cabernet Sauvignon, is a great wine. 2005 was an unusual year. It wasn’t very hot, and the fruit had some extra ripening time. The wine is fruit-driven, that’s for sure, but its acids are subtle. This is a wine which is not flashy.
RED: I love it. I heard that you ran out at your tasting in L.A.
RUDY: You know, its always the first wine to run out at a tasting. People love it.
RED: I know why. Its great! Listen, thank you, Rudy. My Operatives are certain to love the Risa – and I look forward to our next encounter. Be well.
RUDY: Thanks, Red. You, too!
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
Meaning “laughter” in Spanish, our Risa has grown in distinction over the last several years. This wine is designed to reflect qualities of both the mountain and valley floor Cabernet Sauvignon. There is a 13% blend of Rutherford Cabernet added to our Howell Mountain Cabernet, with a finishing 3% dash of our Howell Mountain Merlot and Cabernet Franc. This vintage definitely reflects the best of both worlds. Great extraction has given this wine a dark ruby color, with the aromas of black and red fruit on the nose. This wine has robust forward fruit on the palate with just a hint of the minerality for which Howell Mountain is so well known. A long and full finish rounds out this unique Cabernet blend and it is sure to bring a smile to your face!”
About The Vineyard:
“Block 1”, shown here was the first portion of White Cottage Ranch to be planted back in 1989. Currently, these are the oldest vines on the property, which produce luscious, complex and hearty fruit. Many of the characteristics indicative of Howell Mountain grown wines shine through the produce of these vines. Deep, rich, full flavors develop and mature with the influence of soil minerality and distinct weather patterns. With property elevations here ranging from 1500 to 2000 feet above sea level, it is here where mountain soils meet semi-alpine skies. Milder mountain summers and rugged foothill winters help shape the growing season here, defining this unique growing region.
About The Winery:
Dennis and Adele Johns grew up together as high school sweethearts in St. Helena, the heart of Napa Valley. As the winemaker at St. Clement Vineyards for twenty years, Dennis established his reputation as an innovative and highly respected winemaker.
In the search to begin their own vineyard and winery, Dennis and Adele discovered that the last 65 acres of White Cottage Ranch, a historic 5000 acre cattle ranch dating from the 1800’s, was for sale.
The most outstanding factor of the property was that this land was on Howell Mountain, an area recognized for growing exceptional red wine varietals for over 100 years. Dennis and Adele’s firm belief that fine wines are ‘grown’ and not just vinted, coupled with plans to produce high quality red wines, forged the 1989 purchase of White Cottage Ranch.
In 1990, five different variations of resistant rootstock were planted based on the soil profiles. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc were budded in 1991. The first crop was in 1993. Subsequently, they have added Sangiovese, Zinfandel and Syrah.
A new winery was finished in the summer of 2005 and is now open by appointment to taste.
The family produces small amounts of artisan crafted wines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Zinfandel and a Sangiovese-Zinfandel blend they call “Ezivese”.
About The Winemaker:
Rudy Zuidema has quickly worked his way up the ladder of a winemaking career. After graduating from U.C. Davis in 1991 with a degree in Plant Science and Agricultural Management, and a harvest with Wirra Wirra, Australia under his belt, he started as an entry-level cellar man at St. Clement Vineyards. There he found the ultimate mentor, then winemaker Dennis Johns. At that point, Rudy decided that he would be making wine for the rest of his life, and also discovered and began to develop a winemaking style that embraces a balanced fusion of concentrated fruits, rich aromatics and seamless textures.
After St. Clement, Rudy took his next steps in cellar management at Cuvaison Winery, and then moved on to an assistant winemaking position at Honig Winery, followed by a seven-year stint as head winemaker for Robert Craig Wine Cellars. Working with specialized varietals from each of these spectacular properties, and exploring the range of growing and winemaking techniques a single grape can inspire, Rudy finds his work a labor of love.
At White Cottage Ranch, Rudy also manages the estate organic and biodynamic-farming program.