Owl Ridge Wines

2004 Sonoma County Brigden Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon •Brigden Vineyard

California: Sonoma County

Offer Expired:Oct 20, 2009 at 11:59 pm
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Mission Codename: Springing West

Operative: Agent White

Objective: Visit Owl Ridge wines and secure an allocation of their delicious Brigden Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Owl Ridge Wines

Wine Subject: 2004 Sonoma County Brigden Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Winemaker: Joe Otos


The Mayacama Mountains that separate Napa and Sonoma are home to some of the finest mountain fruit available. Many of the famous and well known AVA’s fall within Napa, such as Spring Mountain, Diamond Mountain, Mt. Veeder, but just on the other side of the county line in Sonoma lies the same volcanic soil, similar mountain climates and the Sonoma County designation. The best part, is that you profit by getting wines of tremendous mountain character at half the cost of equivalent Napa wines. Today’s Cabernet Sauvignon hails from the Brigden Vineyard just west of Napa’s Spring Mountain.

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Dense and deep garnet purple that becomes burgundy along the edges with a dark almost inky core that shows the slightest ruby reflections when held to the light. When swirled, randomly spaced thin legs race down the side of the glass.

Smell – Rich and bold, with this wine’s vivid dark fruit including blackberry and cassis leading the way. Toasted and smokey herbs and spice blend with hints of vanilla and leather to add complexity to the nose.

Feel – This dry and full-bodied wine has a rich and expansive mouth-feel with mouth-coating fine textured tannins and balanced acidity. A hint of spice emerges at mid-palate. As this wine opens, the structure softens with the tannins smoothing dramatically.

Taste – Deep and extracted mountain fruit of dark berries, blackberry, black cherry, cassis and plum are well integrated with the smokey herbs, dark spices and toasted oak found on the nose. Hints of vanilla toast, tobacco, mountain minerality and other subtle classic Cabernet flavors.

Finish – Ultra-long with the mouth-coating structure supporting the vibrant mountain fruit and other complex flavors, teasing you into another sip.

Conclusion – The 2004 Owl Ridge Wines Sonoma County Brigden Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is a classic mountain fruit Cabernet that is big and vibrant but also well integrated and smooth showing lots of character. Definitely fruit-forward, but with with subtle and complex aromas and flavors. A rich but balanced structure will allow this wine to cellar for years to come, but once you open a bottle, you’ll have a hard time keeping it locked up.

Mission Report:






CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Ravenswood from 95-98, wellington Vineyards 98-01, Willowbrook 01-present, Owl Ridge 01-present

WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Find unique vineyards from amazing appellations and make a wine that will represent the area and my style, which is big fruit, big aromas and complimentary oak.

SIGNATURE VARIETAL: Cabernet Sauvignon

CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Being able to con a couple of retired business men into starting a winery with me when I was only 26.

CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Since I don’t enter my wines in for review, it would have to be going 3 for 3 gold at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair.


AGENT RED: Greetings, Joe. We are thrilled to be showing your Owl Ridge Brigdon vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.

JOE: My pleasure

RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?

JOE: It started when I moved to Sonoma County. I was nearly 21 and out hiking with some friends in Sonoma Valley. After the hike, being covered in sweat and dust, my friend asked if I’d want to go wine tasting. I told I didn’t have any money. He then told me that there was no charge, so I was all game. After visiting three wineries, it sparked an interest. I started then tasting and looking more at wine. In the next few months, after I turned 21 I started working at Ravenswood and within a year I was making wine in my buddies old chicken coup.

RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?

JOE: I’d say I’m still learning. In 2004, my business partner John Tracy, purchased a custom crush facility. And in this facility I’m working along some of the premiere winemakers in California and we all share information and give advice. I try not to get stuck with one particular philosophy and like to adapt and incorporate what I see and learn from others to help me achieve my goal with wine.

RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?

JOE: For me wine is all about aromatics. If I’m not enticed by the aromas I feel the wine is just lacking. Once I achieve this, I then look to make the seamless. Meaning to bring the fruit, body and length of finish together in a manner as to not have any abrupt changes.

RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?

JOE: There are two winemakers whose philosophies have influenced me. The first is Chris Loxton whose attention to detail and overseeing every detail and controlling the ferment taught me power on consistency. The other is Joel Peterson, who showed that making wine exclusively by the book can be a little boring at times and that to have complex and exciting wines you sometimes have to take risks.

RED: How long have you been making wine?

JOE: Commercially since 2001, as a home winemaker for 13 years

RED: Who do you make wine for?

JOE: I make wine in a style that I enjoy and hopefully others will find it enjoyable.

RED: Tell me, what makes the Sonoma Mountain so special?

JOE: Sonoma Mountain is a warmer appellation than most parts of Sonoma county, but what it gets in warmth it makes up for with wind. So the growing season is extended due to the great winds that come up through Petaluma every afternoon. These winds slow down the ripening and extend the hang time and provide the grapes with additional time for flavor development.

RED: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?

JOE: Good Luck. There are a huge amount of people who want this job and a huge amount of people who have the knowledge to be winemakers. It’s not just knowledge from a book that makes a winemaker great, it is taking that knowledge and adapting it, applying and modifying it to meet your needs. Wine changes and you need to be able to change with it.

RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?

JOE: Besides being the winemaker, I’m also the sales manager. Right now I’m working on harvest as well as trying to maintain sales.

RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today? I love it by the way!

JOE: Thanks!

RED: Please share one thing about yourself that few people know

JOE: I’m about to have my first child with my wife.

RED: Congratulations! Tell me, what is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?

JOE: Beer, IPA or Red Ales.

RED: You know what? I secretly crave beer sometimes myself! It seems to be a hazard of the job. How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?

JOE: Don’t worry about what people say is good. If it tastes good drink it and if it only 80 points, but you love it. It is a great wine to you and that is all that matters. Wine is completely subjective and it only matters how much you like it.

RED: If you could choose any one wine to drink (regardless of price or availability), what would it be?

JOE: I must say I really like Shafer Hillside Select Cab.

RED: What is the one question that I should have asked you, and what is your answer to that question?

JOE: It is a question I get asked every time I walk out my door. “ How tall are you?” I’m 6’8”

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!

JOE:Thank you and great talking with you.

Wine Spies Vineyard Check:

The location of the Owl Ridge Wines in Sebastopol can be seen in this satellite photo.

What the Winery Says

Awards & Accolades:

“Best New Winery” – 2006 Wine Literary Awards Tasting

92 PointsWine Enthusiast – “The vineyard is up in the Mayacamas between Spring Mountain and Sonoma Valley, and the wine shows quite a bit of power. Coming from this hot vintage, it’s also very ripe and fruity, in a California way. But it’s classically structured and dry, and the tannins are softly complex. This delicious, ageable Cab is a worthy followup to the ’03. — S.H. (12/1/2008)"

About This Wine:

The Brigden Vineyard is situated in the hills between Napa’s Spring Mountain and the northern Sonoma Valley. It is high in the mountains and experiences cooler days and warmer nights than vineyards in the valleys below, allowing the fruit to ripen evenly and slowly so the skins develop full flavors and soft, well-developed tannins.

Harvest was on September 17, 2004. With nearly three weeks just prior to harvest of days exceeding 100 degrees, 2004 was a notoriously hot year. Harvest took place just before dawn with temperatures already in the upper seventies, and extra effort was made to get the grapes to the winery before 10AM to keep them as cool as possible. The wine was fermented in small tanks and temperatures were closely monitored to make sure temperatures never exceeded 85 degrees. The wine was pumped over the cap of skins to maximize extraction and to realize the intensity that we have come to expect from the Brigden Vineyard.

After fermentation, the wine was barrel-aged in 100% premium French oak, with 40% new barrels, principally tight-grained oak from the Nevers and Bertranges forests. Like the 2003 Brigden, this wine has the complexity of a Bordeaux blend even though it is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. The finished wine has aromas of cured tobacco and dried cherries with some base tones of exotic brown spices. It offers intense fruit and enjoyable length of vanilla and cassis. This wine is a great balance between the two counties, bringing forward the fruit and aromas of Sonoma Cabernets while offering the dark tones and structure of some of the more balanced Napa Cabernets. While it is enjoyable now, we think it will cellar well for many years. To promote this long aging potential we have selected a heavy bottle and long cork.

About The Winery:

We began Owl Ridge Wines to take advantage of the high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay grown in Sonoma County. Winemaker Joe Otos uses 100% French oak and winemaking techniques that preserve the intensity of the fruit flavors. The resulting wines are big, but balanced.

We have now reached the point where our wines have begun to achieve the recognition they deserve. Owl Ridge Wines was voted “Best New Winery” at the 2006 Wine Literary Awards Tasting. This is a significant honor because more than 80 wine writers voted in a secret ballot at a tasting that had 1000 wines.

We have also now won 18 gold medals in the last year at major competitions. This includes two “Best of Class” awards.

Placements at restaurants and fine wine outlets are beginning and will be listed on this website from time-to-time.

We have also just begun publicizing our wine club – you will find the description and an application form on this site. We expect to have some fun with the wine club by including interesting one-of-a-kind bottlings. We will also include some wines from our sister company, Willowbrook Cellars.

Finally, we are starting a monthly newsletter. The first issue will be out soon. If you are interested in keeping up with what is going on and seeing some special offers, sign up for our mailing list on their site.

Technical Analysis:

Production: 340 cases

Alcohol content: 14.4%

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