2005 Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon • Uvas Creek Vineyard
California: Santa Cruz County
What we say
SUPERIOR WINE ALERT:
Today’s Cabernet Sauvignon is a fantastic wine of quality, character and finesse made by Sensorium Wine’s Jeff Ritchey. If you have yet to try a Cab from the Santa Cruz Mountains, make this the one you try.
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Mission Codename: The Sensorium Emporium – Part Two
Operative: Agent White
Objective: Return to Sensorium Wines and acquire their 2005 Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Sensorium Wines
Wine Subject: 2005 Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon
Winemakers: Jeff Ritchey
The Santa Cruz mountains, located in the northern portion of California’s Central Coast (north of the town of Santa Cruz) is heavily influenced on the western side by the Pacific Oceans persistent maritime fog and cool breezes while the eastern side finds balance from the warmers and dryer Santa Clara Valley. This combined with the region’s unique shale soil and long growing season produces wines of exceptional character and quality.
In 2006, Jeff Ritchey became a Wine Spies favorite. Seemingly prolific, Jeff makes his own great wines – while also managing to act as consulting winemaker for many prominent wineries throughout California. Jeff’s Sensorium wines are the embodiment of his years of experience, delivering balance, sophistication and – most of all – wines that enliven the senses. Read Agent White’s tasting notes below for more details.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Deep and dark purple and burgundy with plum hues. When held to the light garnet reflections shine through this wine’s dark but clear core. Along the edges the color lightens ever-so-slightly to a deep purple and garnet and when swirled, randomly spaced slow and fat legs descent to the wine below.
Smell – Fresh and bold, with perfumed aromatics of sweet and ripe dark fruit including blackberry and black cherry that are layered over toasted oak that shows hints of vanilla, mocha coffee and sweet toffee. Floral violets, subtle herbal aromas and earthy notes round out the complex and very pleasant nose of this wine.
Feel – Soft and rich, this dry full-bodied wine has velvet smooth and well developed ripe tannins. Coupled with its balanced acidity and a touch of minerality, this wine’s supple feel is warm, inviting, spreading across the palate and frames the flavors perfectly through to the finish.
Taste – Sweet, ripe and dense blackberry, black-cherry and other dark bramble fruit are well integrated with flavors of toasted oak, soft exotic spice and a hint of smoke. These flavors are coupled with a mocha coffee, vanilla sweetness, subtle herbal and earthy notes that is both complex and elegant.
Finish – Soft, clean and long with flavors of soft and warm dark fruit that lingers long with this wines rich and supple tannins.
Conclusion – The 2005 Sensorium Wines Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon is a delicious Cabernet Sauvignon that rivals the best of Napa Valley. Deeply aromatic, a soft and rich structure supported by ripe tannins and classic Cabernet flavors that linger from the initial attack long into the finish. This wine is drinking wonderfully right now but will continue to develop for at least 5 to 10 years, assuming you have the patience, for once you taste this wine, you’ll be very tempted to enjoy it immediately.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: JEFF RITCHEY
DATE OF BIRTH: September, 1968
PLACE OF BIRTH: Stanford, CA
WINE EDUCATION: MS Enology UC Davis
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Winemaking at Buena Vista, Gundlach Bundschu, Clos LaChance, Senorium, Blue Cellars, Consultant for San Saba, Wrath, Vino Tabi, Downhill, Boa Vida, Barranti Vineyards, Picchetti
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: I strive for balance in all wines. By creating balance, you transcend flavors and create a feeling in the wine.
SIGNATURE VARIETAL: Cabernet Sauvignon and Viognier
CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Help design and build Clos LaChance as a brand and facility
CAREER HIGHLIGHT: Made over 30 wines that have scored 90 or better in wine ratings
WINEMAKER QUOTE: Wine is about enjoyment whether it’s getting caught up in the details of production or just sitting back, taking a sip and saying ‘wow, that’s good.’
AGENT RED: Greetings, Jeff. We are thrilled to be working with you again, and to be showing your flagship Cab today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
JEFF RITCHEY: You are very welcome. It’s a pleasure to be back.
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
JEFF: It’s hard to say that there was one event that inspired me because as I look back, I see lots of clues about how much I liked wine before I even knew about it. That being said, I remember taking my first trip through Sonoma Valley, up over Calistoga road and in to Napa Valley and thinking to myself, ‘this would be a great profession, it can’t be too difficult, all you have to do is whip off your shoes and jump on grapes.’ I was 22 and it shows you how naïve I was.
RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?
JEFF: UC Davis gives a person a great base, but there is nothing like getting into the winery and learning by doing. I’ve worked with some great winemakers through custom crush, CERA and Napa Wine Tech and you pick a lot of things up when you deal with them.
RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?
JEFF: I believe in balance. Bringing all the elements of a wine together to create a seamless package. You ‘feel’ a wine when all those elements (fruit, wood, acid, alcohol, tannins, etc.) come together. My wines bring pleasure to the drinker.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
JEFF: I worked a bit with Greg LaFollette and he has taught me a lot about style and leaving wines to make themselves. I learn a lot from my UC Davis classmates now that we all have a few years under our belts. Winemaking is a very open profession and we all share our knowledge and experience with each other.
RED: Greg is an amazing guy, and it is remarkable to hear from so many winemakers that he has inspired and influenced. How long have you been making wine?
JEFF: This will be my 15th harvest
RED: And you have achieved so much in that time! Tell me, who do you make wine for?
JEFF: Really, as a small winemaker with my own brand, I make wines that please me. You can’t really do it any other way because you have to believe in your product and put your heart in to it. When that happens, people know it.
RED: Tell me, what makes the Santa Cruz Mountains so special?
JEFF: The Santa Cruz Mountains is a geographically large area, but only has 1500 or so acres planted (compared to over 40,000 for Napa and Sonoma). There are a huge number of terriors within it and finding the right one, where all the elements (grower, varietal, clone, soil, weather, etc.) matchup is the challenge. The Uvas Creek Vineyard is one of those places. Warm enough during the day to ripen Cab, cool enough at night to preserve the acidity and mild enough to give the grapes time to ripen without high sugars. Bill Holt, who owns and farms the vineyard, is an amazing grower. The best I have ever come across.
RED: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?
JEFF: Go for it, but remember it is a long road that requires a lot of work and dedication. It’s definitely a marathon, not a sprint.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
JEFF: Getting ready for harvest. We received our Viognier grapes from the MdR vineyard in Paso Robles on 9/12 and the flavors are really tasty already.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today
JEFF: As mentioned it comes from the 4 acre Uvas Creek Vineyard and is farmed to perfection by Bill. It is blended with 6% Cab Franc from the same vineyard and has 70% new French and American barrels (yes, in balance with the flavors), has good structure, silky tannins, intense berry flavors and a little earthy soil to show where it came from.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
JEFF: Ribeye, definitely Ribeye. Our Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is more a Filet Mignon wine. It’s really interesting when you taste the two side by side because they were both made the same, but the terrior really shows between the two.
RED: Please share one thing about yourself that few people know
JEFF: I’ve been to Burning Man six times. It’s tough because it always bumps up against harvest, but it regenerates the soul.
RED: What is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?
JEFF: I really like aromatic, dry whites. Our Viognier is really great on warm evenings with mango infused foods. I’ve recently discovered Grenache Blanc and that grape can make some fantastic, delicate white.
RED: How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?
JEFF: Drink what you like. There are no wrong answers in wine, so explore and enjoy. And if you like my wines, please come back for more.
RED: If you could choose any one wine to drink (regardless of price or availability), what would it be?
JEFF: I still remember my ‘Ah Ha’ moment with a 1991 Mt. Veeder Reserve CS and how it taught me about feeling a wine and I had the pleasure of trying a 1970 Petrus that blew my mind after harvest ended at Gundlach Bundschu. Thanks, Jim!!
RED: What is the one question that I should have asked you, and what is your answer to that question?
JEFF: Q: What political party are you affiliated with? A: None, but if there was a Common Sense Party, I would be part of it. That’s one of the reasons I named the winery Sensorium. It’s an old English word that is defined as ‘The seat of common sense, that place in the brain where the nerves from all the senses terminate.’ I figured that there isn’t enough common sense in this world, so I decided to make some.
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!
JEFF: Thanks for having me, it’s always fun working with the wine spies!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The approximate location of the Uvas Creek Vineyard, just west of Morgan Hill can be seen in this satellite photo
What the winery says
About This Wine:
This wine has layers of complex dark fruits, oak tones and balanced tannins. The intense aromas of blackberry, currant and cherry are framed with subtle notes of vanilla, toast, smoke and barrel spice and sit atop beautifully rich, mouth-filling tannins. This wine drinks well now, but will age for years to come.
Vineyard Notes: This impressive Cabernet Sauvignon was grown in a new vineyard on the eastern side of the Santa Cruz Mountains just west of Morgan Hill and is carefully tended by Bill Holt and Ted Medeiros. These two growers meticulously farm their vineyard to maximize quality.
Vintage Notes: The 2005 growing season was late in California allowing for a long hang time on the vine.
About the Winery:
Our wines are made using traditional techniques. After harvesting the fruit at peak ripeness, the grapes are hand sorted, gently destemmed, crushed directly into open top fermenters and left to cold soak on the skins for 3-5 days. As the indigenous microflora begin to show activity, cultured yeast is added to the fermentation. Throughout the fermentation the must is hand punched down twice daily. Towards the end of fermentation 60% of the fermenters are chosen to be pressed at dryness, usually 2-3 weeks. The remaining 40% of the fermenters are selected for extended maceration of up to 6 weeks to add complexity. All lots are pressed directly into barrels via gravity where they age for 20 months.
About The Winemaker:
Jeff Ritchey – Sensorium’s award-winning winemaker, was previously winemaker at Clos LaChance Winery in San Martin, California. With his guidance, Clos LaChance increased production from 10,000 to 30,000 cases and built a new, state-of-the-art, 30,000-square-foot winery. Jeff’s wines have won numerous awards and acclaim from critics and the press. As a consultant, Jeff’s expertise has served several wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountain and Monterey areas.
Jeff holds a Master of Science degree in Enology from UC Davis, one of the world’s leading schools for enology and viticulture.
Appellation: Santa Cruz Mountains
Bottling Date: July 17, 2007
Harvest Date: October 22, 2005
Oak: 70% New French and American
Release Date: March 15, 2008
Special Designation: Uvas Creek Vineyard
Time In Oak: 20 Months
Varietal: 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc