2007 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
California: Sonoma County: Russian River Valley
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Mission Codename: Smooth Transitions
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Infiltrate Segue Winery and recover an ample quantity of their remarkable 2007 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Segue Winery
Wine Subject: 2007 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley
Winemaker: Stephen Yafa
Backgrounder: The Russian River Valley in Sonoma is particularly well suited to producing exceptional Pinot Noir. This AVA was officially designated in 1983, but many of the wines in the region used the designation as early as the 1970s (early in California’s wine history) with the many of the vines having been first planted in the early 1900s. In today’s wine, Olson Ogden Wines presents their own delicious take on Russian River Valley Pinot Noir by delivering a wine of bold and delicious character. Read Agent Red’s mission report and tasting noted below for the full intel on this very exciting wine
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – This gorgeous wine has the look of dark cherry juice, changing color from ruby red at the edges to a slightly darker garnet at it’s heart. When swirled, the surface of the wine appears tight and bouncy but it settles quickly, leaving behind a slow tears that take a long time to appear before they move slowly down the glass
Smell – This wine delivers a rich aromatic wave of bold dark cherry, raspberry, strawberry, and cassis, with integrated aromas of earthen oak, soft spice, British black tea, chocolate powder and soft minerals
Feel – Plush and soft with a velvety roundness, at first. Then, after a moment, the wine grips in at the edges of the palate as firm medium tannins emerge, drying the cheeks and lips with soft minerals
Taste – Darkly complex, balanced against brightly delicious, this wine integrates dark cherry, black tea, black cherry, ripe blackberry and smoky raspberry – with earth, soft spice and softer oak
Finish – Very long, this wine starts slightly tart and dry – then goes sweet as dark-flavors and a gentle minerality emerges – as flavors fade slowly
Conclusion – Bright and delicious, balanced against darkly deep fruit, this wine is complex yet also fun to drink. With bold flavors and deep aromatics, this wine is lush and vibrant, with concentrated character and an easy feel. With bright acidity, this wine is a wonderful food companion. I enjoyed my review bottle with a meal of Spanish Tappas, including Spanish Tortilla (egg and potato), mixed olives, tomato and onion salad and fresh spinach. The wine was an easy companion, enhancing the dining experience beautifully. I am very impressed with Steve Yafa’s wines. His delicious 2007 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is a wonderful treat!
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Stephen Yafa
DATE OF BIRTH: 5/41
PLACE OF BIRTH: Lowell, Mass
WINE EDUCATION: No formal wine education. I’ve apprenticed to artisan winemakers, and learned what I know over the course of twenty-plus years making a variety of wines with friends, and now commercially. The best teachers by far are the vines themselves. When they’re happy there’s an excellent chance they’ll produce wine that makes you happy. That doesn’t happen by chance, in my experience as winemaker and now a vineyard owner.
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: The name of my winery says it all: Segue. I segued from being a writer about wine—among other things— for Wine Enthusiast, Saveur Magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle and numerous other publications to making my own commercial Pinot Noir in 2005. In the process I became a cellar rat for one crush to learn from the ground up. I spent hours in the vineyard with Pinot Noir master Greg LaFollette learning about correcting mineral deficiencies, leafing, pruning, leaf architecture, all those things that take huge amounts of time and labor to do right, but pay off in the glass. Shortcuts? I wish. A full accounting of my leap into the fermentation tank, so to speak, can be found at http://www.seguecellars.com/about.htm. Click on “Going Pro”, a 3-part series I wrote for Wines&Vines. It includes an episode where I get locked in the barrel room of DeLoach Vineyards at night. It could have been worse. I was surrounded by 5000 gallons of delicious vino.
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Pinot Noir is a delicate lady with many hidden talents. Do not force yourself on her, encourage her to reveal her talents and attributes in her own time, naturally, and be thankful for the gifts she delivers to those who treat her with respect.
SIGNATURE VARIETAL: Pinot Noir, if that’s not already apparent. I love the Russian River Valley’s earthy, cola complexity, and the lively black fruit of the Anderson Valley, Mendocino single-vineyard biodynamically grown Pinot that I make from Filigreen Vineyards.
CAREER HIGHLIGHT: I was invited to pour my organic, biodynamically grown ‘07 Filigreen at an exclusive donor’s event at the Chicago Public Library honoring author Michael Pollan. The Segue Russian River received a 93 score from the Connoisseur’s Guide to California Wine, and those guys are tough. I know. I’ve tasted with them. By the way, they taste blind. They’d even give their own wives a low score if they happened to make wine that didn’t meet their standards—and yes, probably wind up sleeping in the car.
CAREER HIGHLIGHT: One of my Pinots tied for second among women out of 355 entries into the ‘08 Pinot Summit Shootout. It placed 5th among men.
WINEMAKER QUOTE: ” As in life, love, and the Tao, in wine balance is everything.”
AGENT RED: Greetings, Steve. We are thrilled to be showing your Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
WINEMAKER: Hit me with your hardest.
RED: Don’t worry, Steve, I’ll go easy on you. This time.
RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?
STEVE: On the ground, running. Also from interviewing hundreds of winemakers as a journalist.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
STEVE: Aside from Gevrey-Chambertin, and closer to home, a few of the “sauvage” Pinots made by Greg LaFollette for his winery, Tandem. Greg makes wine in a style, that in the words of another winemaker, is like standing on the corner waiting for the next accident to happen. By which he means that if you make unfiltered, unfined Pinot Noir, you are inviting Brett and every other contaminating yeast and bacterial strain to run you over. True enough. But if you succeed you come out with a wine that delivers an infinite mouthful and noseful of Pinot character. And that’s what I do. I play on the edge, where the stakes are high and the rewards are , to me, worth the risk. So far, no accidents—and if I see one looming I know who to call—Greg.
RED: How long have you been making wine?
STEVE: Informally—over 25 years; commercially, 4 years.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
STEVE: Myself. Only.
RED: Tell me, what makes the Russian River Valley so special?
STEVE: Russian River follow the fog. Cool foggy nights and mornings Goldridge volcanic, well-drained soil = earthy, loamy, cola-scented Pinot Noir. Anderson Valley: marine-influences organically rich soil = pure dark berry fruit, Indian spices.
RED: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?
STEVE: Have a rich father-in-law who wants to keep his daughter happy.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
STEVE: Getting my ‘08 Filigreen in shape; smoke taint from forest fires contaminated a lot of ‘08 Mendocino wines. I’m just about clear of it now.
RED: Challenging! Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today
STEVE: It’s non-filtered, non-fined; it’s Russian River all the way for better or worse. Forest floor, bright fruit, dense, and it keeps on giving and changing as you work your way through a bottle.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
STEVE: This Segue like all my wines, is meant to be drunk with food. That’s why there’s enough acid in it to make it mouth-watering and non-competitive with what you’re eating. It’s meant to accompany salmon, light cheese and chicken dishes, mushroom dishes, even veal. I don’t recommend drinking it with spicy foods or tomato-based entrees. A mushroom risotto or halibut with a minced hazelnut crust? Mais oui.
RED: Please share one thing about yourself that few people know
STEVE: I am working my way back to being a teenager as I get older. I now fly down trails on my mountain bike again and alpine ski my ass off as fast as possible. It’s not on the menu for recommended after-50 activities.
RED:What is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?
STEVE: A brambly Zin or Montepulciano with pasta. Pinot with everything else I eat. I eat only veggies and fish, so my palate is limited for wines with food. I love opulent Cabs and such; I just don’t drink them daily. Whites: Honig Sauvignon Blanc. A Weingut Brundlmayer Gruner Veltliner. And the sleeper-rosés. Lymar Winery in particular, also Spanish grenache-based (granacia) rosés.
RED: How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?
STEVE: Sip by sip, smile by smile.
RED: Excellent advice. If you could choose any one wine to drink (regardless of price or availability), what would it be?
STEVE: Jean-Louis Trapet ‘04 Gevrey Chambertin Clos Ostrea
RED: What is the one question that I should have asked you, and what is your answer to that question?
STEVE: Is it an act of pure folly or enlightened passion for a wine writer to segue into making his own commercial wine? In other words, does love conquer all? Only in the movies. In the vineyard and winery diligence and hard work do the heavy lifting, but to make a delicious wine that sings in the mouth and embraces your senses like a warm hug, ah, yes, that’s worth all the effort and more.
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!
STEVE: As a writer, you generally massage people’s heads before you touch their hearts. Making a wine, that sequence in exactly reversed. Vive la difference.
What the winery says
About This Wine:
The 2007 Segue Russian River Pinot Noir integrates dark berry, cola, and smoky flavors with a velvet mouthfeel. The region’s unique Goldridge soil and cool climate contribute to the wine’s combination of round lush fruit, earthiness and spice.
Balancing moderate daytime heat, marine influences provide ideal conditions for the delicate, temperamental Pinot Noir grape, which needs a wink from the gods to fully ripen and to develop the ripe blackberry, raspberry, and dark cherry components found in this Segue. Layers of rich mocha aroma, cassis, cinnamon and black tea will continue to develop with cellaring. The dry ‘07 season, with no spring rains, produced smaller berries with more concentrated flavor, bolstered by excellent tannic structure and acid balance, resulting in a Segue Russian River Pinot Noir with exceptional aging potential.
Using only native wild yeast to ferment, I punched down gently by hand and aged eleven months in 40% new French medium light toasted oak. As in my previous Russian River blends, I crafted this wine to achieve a balance between round, ripe fruit, layers of smoky spice, a hint of cola, and mouth-watering acidity as in my previous vintage.
Like all Segue wines, the’07 Russian River is styled for pure pleasure as an accompaniment to fine cuisine. The balance between acidity and ripened fruit brings out full flavors in food, and is in turn enhanced by the food it accompanies.
Serve through 2012.
About The Winery:
Pinot Noir for me is a miraculous journey. It begins with a bud the size of a pea and ends with a glorious wine unmatched for its silky texture , subtle layers of aroma and delicious flavors. For Segue’s 2007 vintage I am proud to be releasing my first organic, pesticide-free Pinot Noir made from grapes grown at Filigreen Vineyard in Anderson Valley, Mendocino — as well as my Russian River blend. Full of bright, pure berry liveliness, the eco-friendly Filigreen is also the first single-vineyard release of this Pinot. I’ve already harvested three time as much for 2008, it’s impressed me that much.
Using Burgundian winemaking techniques (no fining or filtering), I shape my wines to fully express the elegant, tantalizing character of the delicate Pinot Noir fruit; at its best it exquisitely balances bright berry acidity and deeply satisfying lushness. Like a smooth transition between sunset and twilight or musical movements, all the wine I make is created to segue fluently from grape to glass.
The Segue Story:
I call my new label “Segue” to reflect my transition from wine lover and writer to commercial winemaker—not recommended for the faint of heart. In this three-part series for Wines & Vines magazine, I describe the journey.
Going Pro: Part One
I knew I was in trouble. I was a man with graying hair who had just come through a health crisis… but all I cared about at the moment, standing in the pouring rain, high on a narrow aluminum catwalk suspended across an open-top fermenter that held 10,000 pounds of mashed grapes, was summoning the strength seeds and fruit pulp, more than a foot thick, that formed a tight, cement-hard seal above the juice….
Going Pro: Part Two
They sounded like the starting lineup for the French soccer team—Demptos, Cadus, Remond, Damy, Billon— the guys who Zinedine Zidane left out to dry when he head-butted his way to a red flag ejection in that unforgettable World Cup championship. Seasoned winemakers know otherwise….
Going Pro: Part Three
The guy on the other side of the desk in his cramped office high above Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco was waiting to taste one of the thousand or more wines he’d sampled in the past eleven months. Seated directly across from him, I removed a full bottle of Segue Cellars ’05 RRV Pinot Noir from my shoulder bag, produced a corkscrew, and proceeded to pour a small amount into the two burgundy glasses he placed before me…
Appellation: Russian River Valley
Winemaking: Unfined, native yeast
Total Acidity: 5.75 g/L
Barreling: 40% new French oak;11 months in barrel
Vineyard sources: 85% RRV Balletto LHT; 15% Keller SC
Case Production: 105 cases bottled August, 2008