2006 Napa Valley Zinfandel
Zinfandel • Estate Vineyard
California: Napa Valley
What we say
We always feature great wines, but today’s wine is really incredible, with a QPR that is through the roof!
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Mission Codename: The Cache of the Titus
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Infiltrate Titus Vineyards to assess their fabled Zinfandel. If the quality is there secure a cache for our Operatives
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery:Titus Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2006 Titus Vineyards Napa Valley Zinfandel
Winemaker: Philip Titus
Backgrounder: Reports have been flooding in to Wine Spies Central Command about titus Vineyards and their ability to craft wines with insane QPR. For today’s wine, we sent Agent Red undercover to the winery to taste the wine – and return with an able supply – IF it passed his test. Read Red’s Tasting Notes and Mission Report below.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Inky dark garnet in color with burgundy-purple edges, a speedy surface that settles fast when swirled, and slow skinny legs that slowly descend down the side of the glass.
Smell – Deeply concentrated aromatics of dark fruit including raspberry, black currants, licorice (fresh anisette) pepper and oak, with follow-on aromas of spice and chocolate.
Feel – Smooth and light up-front, then dry, rich and full-bodied. Tannins and acidity merge to give this wine a very interesting texture and big mouth feel.
Taste – Layered flavors of dark fruit, ripe plum, raspberry, oak and pepper that sweetens slightly as it opens up.
Finish – This wine finishes very nicely, fading with hints of its pepper, fruit and oak.
Conclusion – I was blown away by this wine. So, too, was Agent Sparkle, my tasting companion for this wine. We both found it immediately inviting – and invigorating. This is a bold and lush and bountiful wine that hold everything in perfect balance. If you are looking to impress with a great dinner wine, this Zinfandel is a sure winner. Its big and bold flavors and aromas make it a pleasure to drink, and its acidity make it a perfect food wine. Some Zinfandels tend to overpower most foods. Not this wine. Could this be the perfect Zinfandel? Please let us know after you try some.
I had the great fortune to visit Titus Vineyards a few days ago, and was able to walk the vineyards and kick the clumps of dirt with winemaker, Phil Titus.
Founded by Phil’s father, Lee, the winery started as a family affair with wife Ruth and their two sons, Eric and Phil. For several years they produced grapes for other prestigious wineries, including Charles Krug, Beaulieu Vineyards, Quail Ridge, and Pine Ridge.
Ultimately, Phil and Eric, too over the family business. Today, Phil is Titus’ winemaker, while Eric runs operations.
What follows is a transcript of my conversation with Phil, recorded as we walked through the vineyards on a beautiful Napa afternoon
Agent Red: Growing up around the vines and the business, I’m guessing that you been a wine guy your whole life. Am I right?
Phil Titus: Actually yes. I’m not good at much else. At least nothing that I could turn into a career. Wine is in my blood. As a kid, I found myself in the vineyards all of the time. Today, I could not imagine any other life for myself.
Red: What was your first family winery experience?
Phil: We’ll the most memorable and the most significant early experience came when I worked to plant a vineyard with my Mom, and Dad and brother. This vineyard is producing the Zinfandel that you will be bringing to your Operatives soon. It was our first and last full-family project and it is a very special vineyard that turns out some very special wines.
Red: And since planting that vineyard, how consistently involved have you been with these vineyards?
Phil: I haven’t missed a harvest since 1979!
Red: So, even when you were enrolled at U.C. Davis?
Phil: Yeah. And while other vineyards have come and gone, this Zinfandel vineyard has been producing great fruit and turning out great wines. The look like old vine Zin vines, don’t they?
Red: Yeah, big and gnarly. Beautiful. Tell me, what’s keeping you busy this time of year?
Phil: That could take a long time! Well, first off, we’ve just completed the bottling of our ’06 reds and our ’07 whites. Now its time to turn our attention to the coming harvest. With verasion here – the moment that first color appears in the grapes – the grapes tell us that harvest is about 6 to 8 weeks away.
Red: How are the grapes looking for this harvest?
Phil: Really great, actually. Not only is the color very consistent, the evenness of the color in a single cluster is perfect. This makes our decision on when to pick far easier. Even color means more better control over the quality of the ripening. Too much green on a cluster and you get more green qualities in the final wine.
Red: Were you affected by the recent frost?
Phil: We had the good fortune to avoid the problems that were found in higher elevations, where some growers lost half of their crops or more.
Red: So, where is your prediction for 2008 vintage wines?
Phil: Looking great! The fruit looks really fantastic, but we’ll have a better sense once we harvest and get to crush.
Red: What about your ’07 red? You must be playing with blending, right?
Phil: Yes, we have been lining up blind samples, tasting & determining the direction that the wines will take. We do this without knowing which wines are which. This helps us to have no preconceived notions about the wines, and allows us to taste for quality, regardless of which vineyards the juice came from. Its a fun time for us as it gives us a window into how our wines are progressing – and how they’ll turn out. 2007 looks very promising!
Red: And what can you tell me about your 2006 Zinfandel?
Phil: As I mentioned earlier, the grapes for the Zin were planted about 30 years ago, but my parents, my brother and me. These are special grapes that produce a very special wine. Its a deep wine with deep aromas and flavors with a solid character, but not overpowering. Your Operatives are really luck, Red, its a fantastic wine that we are all very proud of…
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the vineyard can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the winery says
About This Wine:
Aromas of boysenberry, raspberry, and fresh black and white pepper are wrapped in dark baking chocolate and spices on the nose and translate through to the palate. A solid tannin structure integrates throughout but does not overpower this nearly full bodied dark and brooding Zin. With generous complexity and red fruit concentration the long finish is enhanced by barrel spice, vanilla and coconut notes imparted by the American Oak used to age this wine. Recommended drinking time is three to five years from vintage with a maximum suggested aging time of eight to ten years from vintage. We also recommend decanting this wine for about an hour prior to drinking.
About This Vintage:
The 2006 growing season got off to a late start with a cool spring and late rains. An intense heat spike in July resulted in temporary concern that it might harm the grapes, or shut down the vines, during this critical ripening period. Thankfully, August brought cooler weather that stayed with us up until harvest. Overall, the ripening season was long and steady. Waiting somewhat patiently for the grapes to come into perfect maturity and full ripeness, 2006 proved to be a grower’s season in St. Helena because of the extended, evening ripening of each grape variety in our valley floor vineyards. All the fruit was harvested in alignment with our predictions avoiding everything coming in at once. Interestingly, harvest at Titus Vineyards began ten days later than we would typically end. The lengthy 2006 growing season gifted these wines with lively aromatics, well balanced flavor profiles with beautiful concentration, and solid structure that will benefit the wines long term.
About The Winery:
When the Titus story began, life in Napa Valley was simpler than it is today, and California’s wine industry had yet to achieve its enormous potential. The vineyard Lee and Ruth Titus acquired in 1967 was planted to Mondeuce, Burger, and Golden Chasselas, varietals all but forgotten today, but prevalent before the emphasis in Napa Valley evolved from quantity to quality and from generic to varietal wines. Also grown were ringers like Pinot Noir, poorly suited to our warm, up-valley microclimate.
Now that we have over thirty years experience working the land, our vineyard is supported with disease resistant rootstock, planted to clones and varietals tuned to fit our vineyards’ terrior, and farmed with a single purpose: to produce excellent quality wines rivaling the best in the world. Lee loved what was happening in Bordeaux at the time and decided those were the grape varieties he wanted to plant. And so it began, with Lee holding a book on Bordeaux in one hand and planting grapevines with the other saying, “you boys are going to need this some day.” At that time, planting Malbec and Petit Verdot for example, was relatively unheard of and probably considered risky. Now, Phillip and Eric absolutely appreciate their father’s foresight.
Lee Titus and his family came to California from Minnesota during the Depression. After graduating from Fresno State and serving in World War II, Lee attended medical school and became a radiologist. Meanwhile, Ruth Traverso grew up in San Francisco’s North Beach, where her parents, immigrants from the Piemonte region of Italy, were involved in the family bakery business. During family vacations in Calistoga, Ruth helped friends harvest their grapes, giving her a love for Napa Valley and a kinship with grape farming.
Years later, having fallen in love, married and settled in the town of Sonoma with their four sons, Lee and Ruth began acquiring fifty acres in three separate parcels just north of St. Helena along the valley floor. Although they hoped one day to build a family operated winery, it would be more than twenty years before they crushed fruit for production of Titus Vineyards wines. Lee and Ruth spent those years raising their sons and producing grapes for other wineries, including Charles Krug, Beaulieu Vineyards, Quail Ridge, and Pine Ridge.
Ultimately, Lee and Ruth left the creation of Titus Vineyards wines up to their sons: Phillip works as winemaker for Titus Vineyards, while Eric manages the business and vineyards. Peter and Paul are now pursuing careers in horticulture and anthropology, respectively.
About The Vineyard:
Titus Vineyards Napa Valley Zinfandel is produced from grapes grown in our family vineyard on Silverado Trail just north of St. Helena. The 30+ year-old vines are planted on St. George rootstock and grown without irrigation or “dry-farmed”. This old-world winegrowing practice produces low yields of concentrated fruit.
Following harvest, the grapes were de-stemmed but not crushed, allowing increased control over tannin extraction by minimizing the possibility of broken skins and split seeds. Following a 48-hour cold soak to extract color and flavor, the grapes underwent a warm fermentation, with pump-overs occurring twice daily, and were pressed shortly after dryness was achieved. The free-run wine was transferred to 20% new and 80% two year old American oak barrels, where it underwent malolactic fermentation. Petite Sirah was fermented and barrel aged separately, and blended into the Zinfandel prior to bottling.