2006 Scout's Honor Zinfandel
California: Napa Valley
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Mission Codename: Honorary Spy Dog
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Operative favorite, Venge Vineyards, and return with their Scout’s Honor Zinfandel, a wine that among the most popular at the winery
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Venge Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2006 Venge Scout’s Honor Zinfandel – Napa Valley
Winemaker: Kirk Venge
Backgrounder: Earlier this year we were very pleased to bring you another spectacular Venge Vineyards wine. Today’s Scout’s Honor Zin is a truly spectacular and singular wine.
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. Napa Valley Zinfandels, which are characterized by their big, extracted flavors, are among the most popular with our Operatives. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes and mission report below
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Dark garnet with color that is deeply concentrated, right out to the pink edges of the wine. Clear but with a darker core, this wine shows a very tight surface that snaps to stillness, rather than settles. This is a unique attribute that we spent many a swirl investigating! Also unique was the fact that the wine developed three distinct sets of legs on becoming still. The first set is slow to appear, and then streaks down the glass. Legs are evenly-spaced and medium-width. After about 30 seconds, I discovered a second set of legs – and then a third! Each time, these are slow to emerge and then they streak down
Smell – Dark and original, with musky aromatics, dark fruit of ripe blackberry, blueberry, and soft plum, with raspberry, bright red cherry and soft cassis. These sit gently atop aromas of dried meats, dried herbs, soft fresh fennel, dark minerals (slate) and clean potting soil
Feel – Soft and slightly dry on the attack, then lush and rich with a medium-big body, but well-integrated – without being overpowering. Plush tannins take gentle hold at the edges of the palate, drying the lips
Taste – Dark, rich and delicious, with a beautiful dense fruit flavors of over ripe blackberry, tart cherry, plum, and jammy smoked blueberry. these are beautifully integrated with dried fall leaves, soft spice, subtle sweetwoods, dried herbs and darkly smoked dried meats
Finish – This wine finishes ultra-long with balanced flavors of its fruit, spice and a touch of earthiness and soft smoke
Conclusion – This is a fantastically delicious wine that pushes at the boundaries of traditional Napa Valley Zinfandel! Filled with rich and darkly gorgeous flavors, this is a wine that is a pleasure to taste – over and over. Each time you sip, new flavors are revealed. Also revealed are the deeply layered aromatics and evolving feel of the wine. With a truly unique character, this is one most exciting Zinfandels I have tasted in a long time. When we showed another Venge wine earlier this year, our Operatives responded, snapping up the limited number of cases that we had available. For today’s wine, we were able to secure a bigger allocation. Don’t wait, though,this wine is certain to go fast!
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Kirk Venge
YEAR OF BIRTH: 1976
PLACE OF BIRTH: Napa, CA
WINE EDUCATION: UC Davis – Enology & Winemaking
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Proprietor & Winemaker
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Greatness begins in the vineyards
SIGNATURE VARIETAL: Multiple
CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Purchasing the Venge brand from my father Nils and buying 12.6 acres in Calistoga to build a new winery and caves, set to complete in 2010
WINEMAKER QUOTE: “The vineyard determines the destiny of the winemaker.”
AGENT RED: Greetings, Kirk. We have been tracking your career for the last few years and we have featured several wines made by you. We are thrilled to be showing your Scout’s Honor today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
KIRK: No worries
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
KIRK: My earliest childhood memory was riding on the tractor with my dad through our Oakville Estate vineyard. By the time I was 11, I was running the growing crews.
RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?
KIRK: In the cellar at my father’s winery, Saddleback Cellars, and travelling the great winegrowing regions of Europe.
RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?
KIRK: To use nearly a half century of family knowledge to push the envelope on varietal correctness and expression given the growing environment.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
KIRK: I would say it is my experience working the vineyards and my time at UC Davis conducting QC analysis that most influenced my winemaking style
RED: How long have you been making wine?
KIRK: Since as long as I can remember. I am 33 years old now, so 20 years plus ought to suffice
RED: Who do you make wine for?
KIRK: That’s an interesting question. I make wine for the varietal – and that is, I make wine that will express the varietal’s potential in the Napa Valley climate, pushing the envelope of balance.
RED: Tell me, what makes the Napa Valley so special?
KIRK: Napa Valley has many growing regions that have thousands of micro-climates. We have sought out only the best areas in which to grow each varietal, which translates into about 14 vineyard sites throughout Napa Valley, two of which are estate owned.
RED: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?
KIRK: It has to be in your DNA. If you get into it for something other than the love, you are not going to make it. It’s a very challenging profession that tests you every day.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
KIRK: Use and building permits, lot’s of legal issues, and managing my clients’ winemaking demands and our demands for achieving perfection in winemaking.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today
KIRK: This wine is a real crowd pleaser and is named after our late, beloved winery dog, Scout. It’s a blend of old vine Zinfandel, old vine Charbonno, Syrah, and Petite Sirah and offers something for everyone – approachability and superior complexity that keeps you coming back for another sip.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
KIRK: A good grilled burger or flat iron steak. A hearty red sauce pasta. And, it is outstanding on its own
RED:What is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?
RED: How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?
KIRK: With an open mind. We are very technical and detailed in the making of our wines, but at the end of the day, the joy is being able to share something that brings a smile to those around you. One should approach wine in this way, to bring pleasure into the lives of those most important to you.
RED: If you could choose any one wine to drink (regardless of price or availability), what would it be?
KIRK: I don’t want to single out one wine or varietal and price is really not my consideration for greatness in wine. I have travelled extensively and have tasted many a great table wine and many a great first growth. They are all equally compelling for what they offer.
RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and about your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!
KIRK: Peace and thanks my man.
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Venge Vineyards winery can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the winery says
Awards & Accolades:
Robert M. Parker, Jr. – The Wine Advocate – “This meaty, peppery effort is reminiscent of a Rhone Valley red. Good acidity, soft tannins, and plenty of berry fruit are offered in a heady, seductive style. Drink it over the next three years.”
About This Wine:
Yet another spectacular vintage in honor of our beloved winery dog, Scout. 2006 was a lighter yielding year as compared to its predecessor, 2005. The vintage was very mild and even tempered as well. This allowed for wines of wonderful concentration and stature in both the barrel and bottle. It was a vintage similar to ‘05 in many respects but with about 1/3rd less yield. We like to call that a winemaker’s vintage.
I’ve changed up the blend a bit in 2006. Never before have I introduced to the Scout’s Honor one of my favorite varietals, Syrah! I love Syrah for so many reasons on its own but it doubles wonderfully as a blending varietal. The colorful Petite Sirah and Charbonno in this blend have been workhorses along with the Zinfandel for several years. Weighing in at 63% this year’s blend is primarily Zinfandel with the balance shared by 15% Petite Sirah, 15% Charbonno and 7% Syrah. In every vintage one or two particular varietals or vineyards will outshine the others. Fortunately with the 10 different components that make up the Scout’s Honor it is easy to find a great fit of the best parts.
Tasting Notes: This vintage is an eclectic assemblage with light violets, crushed herbs, red cherry and licorice scents in the nose. The palate is driven with femininity from the Zin with loads of ripe red berry and cherry and enveloping masculinity of mineral, char and tannin flavors from the Syrah, Charbonno and Petite Sirah. This is a largely structured wine and not for the weak of heart nor imagination. With time this wine will certainly find itself developing wonderfully and finding even more harmony.
Vineyard Notes: Fruit was sourced from several areas of Napa Valley. The majority of Zin and a small component of Petite Sirah are from our former Venge Vineyard aka. Rossini Ranch, in St. Helena as well as Zinfandel from the Moss Creek Vineyard in the gorgeous Cappelle Valley in the eastern reaches of Napa Valley. The Charbonno is 60 years old and is entirely sourced from the noble Frediani Vineyard in Calistoga. The Baranek Vineyard in Clarksburg supplies us Petite Sirah and lastly, the Syrah is from the Muhlner Vineyard in Napa’s Chiles Valley.
About The Winery:
My Journey began on the shoulders of a giant within the California winemaking community – my father, Nils Venge. Like many in his generation of wine producers, he cut his teeth in Napa Valley in the ‘70s and ‘80s as the region was establishing notoriety and nobility amongst the world’s great wine producing regions. His establishment as a force in the production of world class wines occurred at Groth Winery, with the production of the 1985 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, scoring a perfect 100 points from wine critic Robert M. Parker, Jr.—the first ever awarded to a California producer. He started his own winery in 1988, Saddleback Cellars, where as a young man, I grew up with the winery as the backdrop for what would become my life’s work.
Today, I carry the Venge heritage forward, building on the experience and guidance instilled in me by my father, while embracing an era of experimental and technological advancement in winemaking. Never before have the standards been as high as they are today. Greatness is no longer the byproduct of mastery of one’s craft, it is the expectation.
At Venge Vineyards, we believe the vineyard provides the foundation for achieving greatness in winemaking. In essence, site determines the winemaker’s destiny. As such, we strive to find and farm only the best vineyard sources at perfectly balanced yields, pushing the bounds of our expectations surrounding viticultural management and varietal composition. In the cellar, minimalist intervention carries our vineyard selection and management forward with balanced macerations, clarification without filtration, and aging in a combination of new and used barrels to gently support the natural tannins we find in each fruit source.
These efforts aid in the achievement of growing complex, rich sources of fruit and producing wines that are characteristically distinct. Together, when grown, produced and blended, our wines sing the song of greatness.
Kirk P. Venge – Proprietor & Winemaker
Appellation: Napa Valley
Varietal: 63% Zinfandel, 15% Petite Sirah, 15% Charbono, 7% Syrah