Wine Last Sold on: October 7, 2008
2003 Petite Sirah, Estate Reserve
|Region:||California: Russian River Valley (Sonoma)|
|Total Allocation:||The Wine Spies World Exclusive|
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The Winery Says:
About This Wine:
Dark purple color clings to the glass leaving a magenta hue; a visual testimonial to this glycerin endowed giant. The aromatics are deep and ever changing. Toasty oak notes focus on the blackberry and vanilla at first, but, as it unwinds in the glass, elements of airy chocolate mousse, kirsch and touches of smoke prevail. The palate is intoxicating. Big black fruits intertwine with lavish tannins; blackberry and chocolate bar tend to linger as the wine indelibly stains your palate. The old vines at Foppiano have developed for nearly a century and show their maturity in each glass. This is nothing short of a blockbuster new world wine with endless food pairing potential. Try with seared Ahi Tuna or braised short ribs.
About The Winery:
More than 100 years after its founding, Foppiano Vineyards continues to do what it did at its outset: create outstanding red wines with genuine varietal character on its 200-acre Russian River Valley estate. This tradition is the foundation of and the future for the Foppiano family’s commitment to their second century of excellence.
Foppiano Vineyards was founded in 1896 by Giovanni Foppiano, a native of Genoa, Italy. Giovanni emigrated from Italy to San Francisco in 1864, walking across the isthmus of Panama en route. He hoped to find his riches in the gold fields of California. It was Giovanni who founded Foppiano Vineyards after moving to Healdsburg, California when his search for gold proved to be unrewarding. He purchased a working winery called “Riverside Farm” on the same land where today’s Foppiano Vineyards still stands and operates.
Giovanni was joined in his winemaking pursuits by his son, Louis A. Foppiano. Together they worked the vineyards and developed a market for their wines among the local Italian families and in San Francisco’s Italian North Beach District. Over the years, the founding Foppiano and his son began to deviate from their common vision on how the winery should be managed. In 1910, Louis A. purchased the family winery from his father. The father and son did not speak to each other again until just before the founder’s death.
For the next eight years, Louis A., along with his wife Mathilda, built Foppiano Vineyards into one of the area’s most prosperous wineries, and the Foppiano name became among the most prominent in Healdsburg. Among the varieties planted on the estate was Petite Sirah, a grape which produced hearty, rich, deep reds; the kind of wine Foppiano Vineyards’ customers demanded. Other varieties were planted, but at the time the wines were not identified by the variety in the bottle. It was simply Foppiano’s renowned wines which customers desired.
Go East, Young Grape! – The demand for wine dried up in 1919, when the Volstead Act and Prohibition went into effect. Louis A. kept the family business going by farming prunes, apples, and pears for the local market. Louis A. continued to grow wine grapes and took part in the wine grape boom. The Volstead Act allowed individuals to make 200 gallons of their own homemade wine. The result was tremendous numbers of refrigerated rail cars heading east loaded with grapes. The price of grapes increased, which helped to keep Foppiano Vineyards in business.
The Creek in front of the Foppiano Estate ran red in 1926 when federal Agents forced thousands of gallons to be dumped.
Louis. A. died in 1924, leaving his winery and vineyards to his first son, Louis J., who was born in 1910. It was Louis J. who saw the effects of Prohibition up close when, in 1926, federal agents “raided” the Foppiano Estate. Agents forced the family to open the tank valves, and watched as over 100,000 gallons of the 1918 vintage flowed down the creek in front of the winery. The result was a run on the winery. People came from miles around with cups, mugs, and jars and drank from the creek running red with wine.
New Start – With the end of Prohibition in 1933, Louis J. proposed to start up winery operations immediately. He was lucky that he still had a working winery; many others who had been making wine prior to Prohibition lost everything. What Foppiano Vineyards did not have were distribution and marketing networks. So at the young age of 23, Louis J. found himself making trips to New York to sell his wine and find marketing agents.
In 1937, a new winery was built on the site of the old winery. With the new facility, Foppiano Vineyards became one of the first Sonoma County wineries to bottle its own wines. When World War II cut off the import of wine supplies from France, Louis J. found himself in a boom market for California wines. By 1941, Foppiano Vineyards was sending six rail cars a week to the east coast filled with wine, and increased its production to over 800,000 gallons of wine annually.
The early 1940s were important years for both the Foppiano family and the wine industry. The regulation of the industry which came with Repeal led California wineries to create The Wine Institute, a trade organization established to deal with industry and political matters. Louis. J joined the Institute in its second year, serving as a Director for 45 years. Inspired by the Wine Institute, Louis J. went on to help found the Sonoma County Wine Growers Association in 1946, along with 14 other wineries.
Foppiano Vineyards expanded in 1945 when Louis J. purchased the Sotoyome Vineyard, which adjoined the Foppiano Estate. The family was further expanded the next year when Louis J. married. Louis J. and Della Foppiano celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1996.
From Jugs to Bottles – The 1940s and 1950s were a profitable era for Foppiano Vineyards. Their jug wines were well known throughout California and in many states across the nation. As the industry began to undergo a change in the 1960s, Louis J. embraced the change.
By the mid 1960s, jug wines became very competitively priced, making it difficult for the lower yielding coastal vineyards such as Foppiano to compete with the central California valley vineyards. In the Central Valley, more tons of grapes per acre could be produced. This situation led Louis J. to remove the remaining fruit trees on his estate, along with some vines. He planted varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and others. Only the old Petite Sirah, Louis J.’s favorite, stayed in the ground during the replanting. Stainless steel tanks, oak barrels and tanks and new equipment were purchased in order to move into the “premium” wine business.
Generations – After the winery transformation, the fourth generation of Foppiano’s began to work in the family business. Louis J.’s sons, Louis M. and Rod, began to take over winemaking and marketing responsibilities. Later, Louis J.’s daughter, Susan, would take over the growing hospitality side of the business. When Rod Foppiano died in 1984, Louis M. took over all day-to-day operations of the winery, although this father continued to arrive at the winery every morning. Bill Regan, Rod’s assistant, was offered the position of Winemaker in 1985.
The 1970s through the 2000s has been a period of growth for Foppiano Vineyards on a number of fronts. Two brands were added: Riverside Vineyards, for the production of North Coast “fighting varietals,” and Fox Mountain, for the production of super premium white wines. Of the three, the Foppiano Vineyards brand remains the best known and most admired by the industry and consumers. Petite Sirah, the family’s favorite wine, has become the winery’s signature wine, and is known nationwide as one of the country’s top Petites year-in and year-out. Export sales have grown significantly in this era with 15% of all wines now produced sold overseas and in Canada. Finally, the coincidence is not lost on anybody that in 1996, on the 100th anniversary of the estate’s founding, the family decided to produce only red wines under the Foppiano Vineyards label – the same circumstance that existed in 1896.
The 100-year history of Foppiano Vineyards confirms that through the strength of the family and a commitment to quality, tradition can be maintained and can thrive.
Appellation: Russian River Valley Estate
Varietal Content: 100% Petite Sirah
Cooperage: 12 months in French and American oak barrels
Case Production: 650 six packs
Total Acidity: 0.59 grams/100ml
Release Date: Fall 2008
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The Wine Spies Say:
WORLD EXCLUSIVE ALERT!
Once again, The Wine Spies demonstrate their superior wine sleuthing and infiltration skills by bringing you another wine – before it becomes available anywhere else!
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT!
All of us here at Wine Spies HQ agree: today’s Foppiano Petite Sirah is the best we have tasted this year.
SECRET SAVINGS ALERT!
Purchase 6 or more bottles of today’s superb wine, and we’ll reward you with Free Ground shipping. Just enter secret savings code SPYSONOMA and your savings will be shown at final checkout.
Mission Codename: Perfection, FOUND!
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Secure a stellar Petite Syrah for our demanding Operatives
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Foppiano Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2003 Reserve Petite Syrah
Winemaker: Natalie West
Backgrounder: Several months have passed since we presented a great Petite Sirah. Our Operatives have been clamoring another. Great Petite Sirah is available in California, but it can take some clever sleuthing to find a really great example. When we put out the call for a killer Petite, the consensus among our Operatives was nearly unanimous: Infiltrate Foppiano. Agent Red was dispatched, and, while undercover there he discovered that their 2003 Reserve Petite Sirah was about to be released. What he did not count on, however, was how difficult this winery would be to thoroughly penetrate!
Through clever planning, skillful maneuvering, and advanced subterfuge, Red was able to eventually scoop the wine, bringing it you before it is available anywhere else! Read Agent Red’s tasting notes and mission report below to see how he accomplished this feat
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep and inky burgundy with a dark heart and a speedy surface (when swirled) that settles very quickly, leaving behind 2 levels of chubby legs that move down the glass at varying speeds
Smell – A big rush of perfumy and ripe dark berries is followed by dark stonefruit, casis, subtle licorice, gentle herb, mild oak and a hint of sweet fresh strawberry
Feel – Velvet smooth at entry, then mouth coating and slightly drying as the wines supple medium tannins bite down gently at the mid-palate, drying the lips, tongue and cheeks
Taste – Richly layered and beautifully concentrated without overpowering, with flavors of dark mixed berries, ripe black plum, jammy seared raspberry (sounds weird, but its delicious!), dark cherry and mildest exotic spice
Finish – Long, lush and slightly dry, the flavors and feel of this wine saty with you a while, before tapering off slowly
Conclusion – This wine REALLY impressed me! Softer and more refined than any other Petite we have ever featured here, this great wine from Foppiano is a beautifully balanced and ultra delicious treat. With lush flavors and a medium weight, this wine finishes dry, but does not suck the life out of your mouth or kick you in the palate like some overly-oaked Petites can tend to do. If you are loooking for a really impressive wine that pairs well with richer foods – or is fun to drink and discuss on its own – this special wine is certain to please you
Sometimes penetrating a winery can be extremely difficult. This cab be particularly frustrating when the winery in question is holding on to some fantastic goods.
In extreme cases, we have had to resort to rather dastardly tactics. Such was the case with Foppiano Vineyards, where we had to place our own sleeper within the organization. Compound the difficulty with the fact that this sleeper didn’t even know he was our creation. He had no idea that he was even working for us.
In order to pull off this remarkable feat of subterfuge, I called upon one of my best assets, wine industry veteran Agent Smith. You’ll recall from previous missions that Smith has worked in the most parts of the biz.
I expressed to Smith the frustration over my lack of success with Foppiano. Immediately, he hatched a plan! Weeks later he directed an asset of his own to interview for a newly created position at Foppiano. How this senior position came into existence I did not ask, but the asset – codename: Afterburner – was hired on the spot.
From there, it was just a simple matter of waiting while Afterburner got up to speed in his new position at the winery. Once he found his legs, Agent Smith put in a call and I had my meeting! A few days later and I had secured today’s incredible Foppiano. Not just secured, actually, but scooped!
Today’s wine is available here – before it is being made available to the public!
We love this wine, confidently declaring it the BEST Petite Sirah we have tasted in 2008.
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Foppiano Winery and Vineyards can be seen in this satellite photo.