Alexander Valley Vineyards
2005 Two Barrel - Syrah Merlot
California: Sonoma County: Alexander Valley
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Mission Codename: Tasters’ Preference
Operative: Agent White
Objective: Secure a limited allocation of the wine club favorite Two Barrel blend from Alexander Valley Vineyards
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Alexander Valley Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2005 Two Barrel – Syrah Merlot
Winemaker: Kevin Hall
Alexander Valley in northeast Sonoma County is located on the western side of the Mayacamas range and extends westward to the edge of the Russian River Valley. This appellation was formerly considered a part of Dry Creek Valley but became its own appellation in November 1984. The region is best known for exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot but recently people are starting to discover its Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and Chardonnay as well.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep and dark garnet with clear ruby reflections through its dark but clear core. Along the edges, the color fades ever so slightly to a deep ruby red. When swirled, clusters of medium thick legs of varying speeds descend down the glass and then a much slower set of fat and deeply colored legs hang at the top of the glass.
Smell – Ripe and well developed aromas of earthy and spicy fruit including blackberry and blueberry with a floral touch. Subtle notes of licorice, dark chocolate and oak round out the expansive nose of this wine.
Feel – The attack on this dry and full-bodied wine is initially cool and smooth then at mid-palate, a touch of spice and balanced acidity kicks in over firm, fine tannins and coats the mouth becoming almost chewy in texture and lingering long into the finish.
Taste – Rich and intense flavors of juicy and ripe black cherry, blackberry, plum and a touch of blueberry over complex earthy-mineral notes, spice and dried herbs. Mild black licorice, dark chocolate and mild oak round out the very pleasant and lush flavor profile of this wine.
Finish – This wine finishes long with ripe plum and other fruit framed by its chewy texture and balanced acidity and tannins that define its classic Syrah and Merlot flavors.
Conclusion – The 2005 Alexander Valley Vineyards Two Barrel is a delicious and value oriented wine that blends the best character of both Syrah and Merlot, bringing out the bold spicy and juicy fruit and chewy texture of Syrah with the soft supple fruit, chocolate and other complex flavors from Merlot.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Kevin Hall
DATE OF BIRTH: April 3, 1967
PLACE OF BIRTH: Aurora, Colorado
WINE EDUCATION: MS in Food Science (Specializing in Enology) from UC Davis
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: RH Phillips, Sebastiani, Alexander Valley Vineyards
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: To use a minimalist approach to allow both the varietal character of the fruit as well as the region to show through
SIGNATURE VARIETAL: Too numerous to count, though if I had to pick one, it would be Cabernet Sauvignon
CAREER HIGHLIGHT: The internship I had a year and a half out of Davis in New Zealand. I was working with some of the varietals I ended up working with here at Alexander Valley Vineyards. That time in New Zealand convinced me I wanted to work with Bordeaux varietals
WINEMAKER QUOTE: “The #1 job of a winemaker is to try not to mess up the grapes you get from the vineyard”
AGENT RED: Covert greetings, Kevin. We are thrilled to be showing your Two Barrel today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
KEVIN: Thanks. We’re excited about Wine Spies featuring one of our wines.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
KEVIN: When I met my wife to be and her family. They were involved in grape growing in Germany.
RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?
KEVIN: On the job, including the internships I had in Germany and New Zealand.
RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?
KEVIN: Grow the grapes correctly and do not be too heavy-handed in the cellar. And never take any short cuts.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
KEVIN: Rod McDonald who was my boss at Vidal Estate in New Zealand. I liked the approach he took with making wines from Bordeaux varietals in New Zealand. He also believed that you really needed to pay close attention to what you were doing in the vineyard.
RED: How long have you been making wine?
KEVIN: 15 years
RED: Who do you make wine for?
KEVIN: I make wines to be enjoyed ever day of the week with dinner and not just to bring out on special occasions
RED: Tell me, what makes the Alexander Valley so special?
KEVIN: The region has so many different soil types and a climate that is so conducive to growing high quality premium grapes. As a result, you can grow a lot of different varieties well, not just Bordeaux varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, but also Syrah and Zinfandel and Chardonnay.
RED: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?
KEVIN: Taste as often as you can. Get as much experience working in the cellar as you can and don’t try to move up too fast because it will always be important to draw on your past experiences.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
KEVIN: Preparing for harvest. We’re making sure the equipment is ready, hiring people and I’m walking the vineyards to see how the grapes are faring.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today
KEVIN: As you mentioned, the Two Barrel was inspired by a wine created by our Wine Club members who annually create a blend out of different varietals. The first year we produced this wine, it was literally from Two Barrels, a barrel of Cabernet and a barrel of Syrah. But the following year, we decided that Merlot actually worked better with the Syrah. Because Alexander Valley Merlot has so much structure and backbone, it really balances the up-front fruity qualities of the Syrah. And it works really well in the proportions of the blend, 50-50. Each of the varietals fills in for what is missing in the other varietal. The Syrah is aged in French oak and the Merlot in American barrels before we blend the two.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
KEVIN: Anything off the grill. Our winery chef, Jeff Young, does spicy ribs that go great with the Two Barrel. But this wine would even work well with ribs with a sweeter barbecue sauce.
RED: Please share one thing about yourself that few people know
KEVIN: I’m a huge 80s New Wave fan. That’s the thing I love about satellite radio in the car. I can push a button and find my music.
RED:What is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?
KEVIN: For me, that’s a seasonal question. Right now, I’m drinking a lot of our dry Rosé of Sangiovese. It’s my go-to wine right into fall.
RED: How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?
KEVIN: Wine doesn’t have to be complicated. People don’t need to put it up on a pedestal. It’s a wonderful beverage that you should enjoy every day with a meal.
RED: If you could choose any one wine to drink (regardless of price or availability), what would it be?
KEVIN: Any Mosel Riesling from 1990. The wines are still holding up very well. They show a lot of purity of fruit and the minerality is incredible.
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!
KEVIN: Thanks again. We’re sure all of your operatives will enjoy the 2005 Two Barrel.
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Alexander Valley Vineyards winery can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
There are folks who like a velvety, lush Merlot. And then there are those who prefer the gumption of a Syrah. For each, we offer Two Barrel, a wine that blends the best of both in perfect harmony.
Two Barrel was originally inspired by our Wine Club. Each spring, club members would come together to create their own special blend. The wines were made in small quantities and generally available only at the winery. To bring the concept to a larger audience, we conceived Two Barrel, proving that the whole is just as brilliant as the two parts.
The 2005 is half Syrah and half Merlot. The Syrah side offers some floral notes along with elements of blueberry and a bit of earthiness. For its part, the Merlot contributes black cherry, plum and chocolate notes.
About The Winery:
Welcome to our family-owned wine estate, once the original homestead of Cyrus Alexander, the namesake of this prominent viticultural appellation, Alexander Valley. We purchased the land from the Alexander’s heirs in 1962, planted vineyards, and in 1975 built our winery. Here we grow grapes and produce delicious wines that complement food and enrich your dining experience.
Alexander Valley Vineyards is located on Highway 128 in northern Sonoma County, just 75 miles north of San Francisco, 6 miles from the sleepy town of Healdsburg and 16 miles from Calistoga in the Napa Valley.
Visit our historic property, taste our award-winning wines including our Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and our renowned Sin Zin, bring a picnic and enjoy beautiful vistas of our peaceful, rural valley. Our winery tasting room is open daily, 10am to 5pm.
About The Winemaker:
Kevin Hall has studied wine and winemaking techniques across the globe, but the AVV winemaker says his philosophy has always been to respect the inherent qualities of the estate grapes right at his doorstep. “I get beautiful fruit from here on the property,” he says, “and my main focus is to preserve the flavor of the varietal and the terroir.”
Kevin, who has a Masters of Science in Enology from the University of California–Davis, joined the winemaking staff at AVV in 1998. Before that, he spent a year exploring the world’s major wine regions with his wife Paula. “My wife’s family is from the Mosel region of Germany,” he says. “Her grandparents made wine and sold it to their village cooperative.” The pair worked at wineries in Bingen, Germany and Hastings, New Zealand. Between assignments, while traveling through Italy, Spain and all the major wine regions of France and Australia, they talked to as many winemakers as they could, learning key techniques that other winemakers used to produce their best wines.
Under his direction, Alexander Valley Vineyards has won numerous prestigious awards including Best of Show at both the Atlanta International Wine Competition and the Houston Rodeo International Wine Competition, Best Red Wine at the Eastern International Wine Competition and the Florida State Fair and Best Bordeaux Blend at the California State Fair.
Appellation: Alexander Valley