2006 Family Zinfandel
Zinfandel • Estate Vineyard
California: Alexander Valley
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Mission Codename: Fifty and Fabulous
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Return to Sausal Winery and secure their 2006 Family Zinfandel for our Operatives around the world
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Sausal Winery
Wine Subject: 2006 Family Zinfandel, Alexander Valley
Winemaker: Dave Demostene
Backgrounder: Our Operatives loved the last Sausal wine that we featured, and they have asked us to return to the winery to procure an allotment of their lower-priced, Family Zinfandel. While perhaps not as robust or complex as the Reserve Old Vine Zin, today’s wine is an easy-drinker with plenty of charm. If you are looking for a budget Zinfandel that pairs easily, you might consider picking up a few bottles of today’s wine.
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. Alexander Valley Zinfandels, which are characterized by their big, extracted flavors, are gaining in popularity with our Operatives. Read Agent Red’s tasting notes and mission report below.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – When looking at this wine, sitting still in the glass, it has a somewhat garnet hue to it. Move the wine, however, and ruby color leaps out at you. Perfectly clear through its core, and showing off pinkish edges, the wine shows thin tears that cling to the glass for a moment, before the streak their way downward.
Smell – Mixed black and red fruit present up front, with soft cherry and subdued blackberry. Dried fall leaves, soft leather, mixed spice and black pepper.
Feel – Light and easy in the mouth, then soft, fine-grained tannins take hold, adding a soft and spreading dryness.
Taste – Blackberry, juicy bright cherry and plum lead the way. These are joined by soft spice, soft black pepper and a hint of smokey oak.
Finish – Long and bright, with pronounced red cherry and a hint of black pepper.
Conclusion – This wine likes a fair amount of decanting to really get the most from it. After 30 minutes of decanting, the wine was much more flavorful and had a far more balanced overall appeal. After an hour, the wine was transformed, offering the drinker a deeper, more flavorful wine that delivered better flavors, more complexity and a richer nose. Be patient with the wine and you shall be rewarded. Our tasting panel paired the wine with chips and salsa. I can think of few pairings that are more challenging for a wine, but this 2006 Sausal Family Zinfandel, made from 50 year-old vines, held up beautifully.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Dave Demostene
DATE OF BIRTH: 12/1939
PLACE OF BIRTH: Healdsburg, CA
WINE EDUCATION: After graduating from Cal Poly and completing the wine oenology program at Davis, I worked for 17 years with my father who was a winemaker
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Sausal Winery, Winemaker since 1973
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: The less you do to the wine the better
SIGNATURE VARIETAL: Zinfandel
CAREER HIGHLIGHT: 1986 Sausal Family Zinfandel was featured as the 2nd “Great Buy” in 1989 Wine Spectator. At the time it retailed for $6.75 a bottle.
CAREER HIGHLIGHT: 2003 Sausal Century Vines Zinfandel was featured as the Zinfandel of the Year with 96 pts in the Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine
WINEMAKER QUOTE: It takes good grapes to make good wine
AGENT RED: Greetings, Dave. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
DAVE: You’re welcome!
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
DAVE: I grew up in the wine business, watching and helping my father make wine… this was way before it was popular. It was just our way of life then: Growing grapes and making wine.
RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?
DAVE: I learned by watching my father and in those days if someone made a good wine you’d ask them how they made it and they would tell you. It was a small industry then and everyone shared what they did or would be happy to help you out.
RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?
DAVE: I try to get away from the heavy fruit and high alcohol wines. I like a more balanced wine.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
DAVE: My Dad
RED: How long have you been making wine?
DAVE: I’ve been making wine all my life. I started working in the winery when I was 14 years old, after school and on weekends. I did everything: Shoveling pumice, pumping over, and racking wine.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
DAVE: I make wine that I like and our customers seem to like that too.
RED: Tell me, what makes the Alexander Valley so special?
DAVE: The soil and micro climate make this a good area. We have well drained soil, warm days with cool nights and a breeze that blows through the valley. Perfect growing conditions.
RED: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?
DAVE: Get your basics at school, but then find a winery that makes wine you like to get your apprenticeship from. Work a harvest there to learn how its done.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
DAVE: We’ve just finished up some bottling in the winery. In the vineyard, buds are breaking. As of this week all of our vines buds have pushed and the 2010 vintage has begun.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today
DAVE: Sausal Family Zinfandel is a classic Alexander Valley Zinfandel, produced from estate grown grape vines averaging 50 years old. Following fermentation, the wine was aged twenty-one months in a combination of American and French oak barrels, adding complexity. The 2006 vintage is a medium bodied Zinfandel, bright with cherry and plum aromas, and a long mouthwatering finish.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
DAVE: I like to pair this wine with a creamy pasta Alfred or stroganoff, but this wine also holds up nice to chili spice like southwestern dishes.
RED: Please share one thing about yourself that few people know
DAVE: I like to hunt. Mostly pig, deer and elk
RED: What is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?
DAVE: You can’t go wrong with our Sausal Family Zinfandel
RED: How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?
DAVE: Our wines are ready to drink when they are released and are made to be enjoyed with food.
RED: If you could choose any one wine to drink (regardless of price or availability), what would it be?
DAVE: Sausal Century Vines Zinfandel. This wine is made from vines that are over 130 years old. It’s soft and elegant. A perfect afternoon sipping wine.
RED: What is the one question that I should have asked you, and what is your answer to that question?
DAVE: Can Zinfandel age? It depends on the grapes and the vintage, but as a rule old vine Zinfandel can age. The older vines, maybe because their yield is so low, make wine that ages for a long time.
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!
DAVE: Thank you very much, and I hope you enjoy our wine.
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Sausal winery can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the winery says
Awards & Accolades:
Gold Medal – Tasters Guild 2009 International Wine Competition
Highly Recommended – California Grapevine – “Medium to medium-dark ruby; attractive, smoky, briary, peppery, sour cherry and blackberry fruit aroma; full body; forward, rich, textured, toasty, peppery, blackberry fruit flavors with a supple mouthfeel; full tannin; lingering aftertaste. Developed with airing in the glass. Highly recommended.” – April-May 2009
88 Points – Wine Spectator – Fresh and lively, with plum and vanilla spice aromas and zesty dried cherry, licorice and pepper flavors that linger pleasantly. Drink now through 2011. 3,100 cases made. Red. – T.F.
About This Wine:
Sausal Family Zinfandel is a classic Alexander Valley Zinfandel. The 2006 vintage is a medium bodied Zinfandel, bright with cherry and plum aromas, and a long mouth watering finish.
This estate Zinfandel is produced from dry farmed vines that average 50 years of age. Following fermentation, the wine is aged twenty months in a combination of American and French oak barrels, adding complexity. The result is a soft and approachable Zinfandel. Pair this wine with spicy pasta, pork or grilled chicken. The Family Zinfandel will cellar well for at least six years.
This wine can be aged four to six years from its January 2009 release date. We recommend you pair this wine with a creamy cheese pasta alfredo or stroganoff. This wine will also lend itself beautifully to a heavy cheeses like a blue, or a mushroom covered fillet.
About The Winery:
Just outside of Healdsburg on Hwy 128 in the heart of Alexander Valley you will find Sausal Winery, a small family owned winery that produces award winning wine. Owned by the Demostene Family, Sausal Winery consistently produces premium estate bottled Old Vine Zinfandels (Family Zinfandel, Private Reserve Zinfandel, and Century Vine Zinfandel), Estate Sangiovese, and Estate Cabernet at reasonable prices.
The Demostene family history reads like a short course in the history of the Alexander Valley from the turn of the century. In 1901, Manuel Demostene, a native of Genoa Italy, began work on a ranch in the Valley. Soon thereafter, another Italian immigrant Abele Ferrari (pictured left) accepted work at Italian Swiss Colony in nearby Asti.
A mechanical whiz, Ferrari soon purchased the Healdsburg Machine Shop and began manufacturing winemaking equipment. Most notable was the Healdsburg Crusher for which he held 11 patents. During prohibition Abele’s business faltered along with all other wine-related industries.
Abele never lost faith and in 1923, after a steady decline in property values he seized the opportunity to purchase Soda Rock Ranch and Winery in the Alexander Valley. After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the enterprising Abele Ferrari completely rebuilt the old stone winery using recycled materials.
Romance brought the first two generations of Italian immigrants together. In 1936, Manuel Demostene’s son, Leo married Abele Ferrari’s daughter, Rose. The young couple established their new home at Soda Rock Winery where Leo took over duties as winemaker.
Leo’s dream was to have a winery of his own one day and in 1956 Leo and Rose took the first step by purchasing Sausal Ranch. A 125 acre property planted to prunes, apples and zinfandel wine
grapes. Many of the original vines were quite old and clearly established prior to the publication of an 1877 atlas of the area.
For old-timers like Leo it was a simple fact of life that the Alexander Valley was best suited for growing red wine grapes. With the help of his four children – Dave, Ed, Peachie and Cindy- scores of acres of new zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon plantings were installed over the next decade. During this time the entire family continued to help their grandfather at Soda Rock Winery aware that the knowledge gained there would be of real benefit someday.
Leo’s dreams of converting an old prune dehydrator into a winemaking facility at Sausal Ranch were not realized before his death in 1973. That same year however, after a remarkable effort from his children Leo’s sogni d’oro, his “golden dream”, was fulfilled.
This brings us to the third generation of this winemaking family. Dave, Ed, Peachie and Cindy have turned their father’s dream into a reality and each play a key role in keeping the dream alive.
Grape: 100% Estate Grown Zinfandel
Age of Vines: Averaging Over 50 Years Old
Total Acidity: 0.56
Residual Sugar: 0.0
Malolactic Fermentation: 100%
Aging: 21 Months: Blend of 50% American & 50% French Oak
Release Date: January 2009
Aging Potential: 4-6 years from Release Date
Cases Produced: 3,100