Optima Wine Cellars
2005 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel
California: Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma)
What we say
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Mission Codename: Eternal Optimist
Operative: Agent White
Objective: Acquire a limited allocation of the operative requested 2005 Optima Wine Cellars Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Optima Wine Cellars
Wine Subject: 2005 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel
Winemaker: Mike Duffy
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. Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel, which are characterized by their balanced flavors, are gaining in popularity with our Operatives.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Beautiful dark purple with garnet hues that reflect just a little light through its dense but clear core. Along the edges the color remains a deep garnet and when swirled slow fat legs thin as they gain momentum and fall to the wine below.
Smell – Medium in intensity with redolent ripe raspberry and cherry intermingle with subtle floral notes and green chili pepper. Smokey oak, earth, vanilla and spice along with a touch of herbal bramble lie just underneath the spicy fruit.
Feel – Rich and smooth, the dry full-bodied wine has fine but textured tannins and minerality mix with its vibrant acidity and holds the fruit into the finish as it spreads over and coats the entire palate.
Taste – Ripe raspberry and blackberry and other dark dried berry flavors integrate with smokey and toasted oak. Spicy green chili and a touch of black peppercorn adds a kick as hints of baking spice, vanilla and mocha dark chocolate intermingle with bramble for good measure.
Finish – Long with lingering fruit as the spice, oak and earthiness taper off leaving ripe blackberry and raspberry flavors that beg for another sip.
Conclusion – The 2005 Optima Winery Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel is a classic Dry Creek. Great vivid ripe raspberry on the nose and the palate, spice and pepper with hints of bramble interlace. A great wine at this price. We recommend decanting or letting this wine breathe before serving and certainly be sure to keep a few bottles in the cellar to see how this wine evolves over the next several years. We predict very good things!
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Mike Duffy
DATE OF BIRTH: May 1959
PLACE OF BIRTH: Oregon
WINE EDUCATION: Graduate of UC Davis in Enology
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: When I finished my Enology degree from UCD in 1981, I was already employed as the Assistant Winemaker at Trefethen Vineyards in Napa Valley. "I was very motivated to earn my degree and start working after being a broke college student for so long. I moved to Field Stone as winemaker in 1988, studying under the legendary Andre Tchelistcheff. For nine years, I worked full-time at Field Stone, saving weekends to tend to my own fledgling winery, Optima.
SIGNATURE VARIETAL: Cabernet Sauvignon
_ Below is Agent Red’s recent interview with winemaker Mike Duffy._
AGENT RED: Greetings, Mike. I know how busy you are with harvest right now, so I really appreciate the opportunity to talk with you – if even for a few scant minutes, today.
MIKE: Yeah, we have been plenty busy. We crushed thirty tons of grapes today!
RED: Wow. Again, thanks. Tell me, was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
MIKE: Yes, I was raised around wine. My first job in High School was helping my parents, Bill and Della, at their wine shop, that is what sparked my interest. Later I played with making wine out of anything I could get out of my parents garden. I would take flats of strawberries, peaches and blackberries and craft them into wine. One time I even raided the rose bushes in the neighborhood so I could make a rose petal champagne
RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?
MIKE: UC Davis gave me an excellent technical background. It was the basis for my ability to solve problems when they arise. The experience of making wine came from getting in and getting dirty at my internship at Trefethen in 1980. That’s where it all came together for me. I have a unique work ethic and a strong mechanical background, both of which I have my father to thank for. Both those qualities served me well when I left the academic world and helped distinguish me from other classmates and co-workers.
RED: Great places to get your footing! What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
MIKE: Andre Tchelistcheff was the biggest influence on how I make Cabernet, and the greatest source of perspective, history and wine knowledge that I have been fortunate enough to have enjoyed. He approached the entire winemaking endeavor, from the vineyard in the spring, to harvest, and through barrel aging, as one integrated whole. I learned to take Alexander Valley Cabernet and to use its brilliant fruit as the basis for my wines. “Don’t bother making one of those huge Cabernets like many do in Napa, Mike. Anyone can make wines like those.” Andre would say. He inspired me to make a Cabernet that spoke to the virtues of Alexander Valley. A wine with an intense core of fruit and coco, balanced with vanilla and oak. Complex and powerful, yet subtle and soft. He also impressed on me the critical concept of not manipulating the wine, rather helping it become its best.
RED: You don’t know how many winemakers mention Andre as an influence! How long have you been making wine?
MIKE: Well one could say since I was a child but 2009 will be my 30th harvest in Napa and Sonoma. I still enjoy the “seasonality” of winemaking.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
MIKE: I began making wine for my own creative satisfaction. I worked for several top wineries that produced Cabernet, and there was always some step in the process when I said to myself, “If this were my wine I would do this differently”. That need to satisfy my own creativity from beginning to end is why I started my own winery when I was 25. My approach to winemaking combines art and practicality. "I always liked the honesty and hard work of agriculture and to me, winemaking is the ultimate fusion of agriculture and art.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
MIKE: Like I said, we are in the thick of Harvest and it feels great, this is one of my favorite times of the year. When things slow down I hope to continue working on some old cars that I am restoring. I know that the two sound dissimilar, but a restoration embodies some of the same qualities needed to make great wine. Patience, attention to detail, craftsmanship and pride. When you finish restoring an old car, people can appreciate the quality and craftsmanship just by looking carefully. Wine is the same, but you’ve got to pop a cork.
RED: Please share one thing about yourself that few people know
MIKE: I enjoy cooking; to me this is another form of taking an ingredient and using your creativity to make something incredible. My wife thinks I cook so well that she refuses to cook anymore. I love watching all of the cooking shows on TV, especially Iron Chef. I just can’t get enough, they are very inspiring.
RED:What is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?
MIKE: I enjoy drinking a dry Gewurztraminer from Sonoma County, Anderson Valley, or from the Alsace region of France. It’s a wonderful wine that you can drink alone or with Thai, Asian or Mexican food all of which I enjoy cooking and eating. The best examples have a depth and a perfume that is unbelievable.
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. Your Alexander Valley Cab is stupendous!
MIKE: Thanks, very much, Red. Now, back to the grapes!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of Optima Winery in Healdsburg can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the winery says
About This Wine:
The 2005 Optima Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel is a ripe full-flavored, yet exceptionally easy going Zinfandel. It delivers a distinct raspberry nose, balanced by black cherries and vanilla. The fulsome fruit is well integrated into a spicy background of subtle sweet oak and the flavors blend together in a rich, round, mouthfilling finish.
Dave’s Take: As much as I have loved Dry Creek Valley and as often as I have gone over the past 15 years, there are still many wineries that are new to me. We all have the tendency to want to repeat great experiences so I found myself traveling to Dry Creek and splitting my time between wineries I was familiar with and seeking out a few new ones. Also, as with most businesses, some seem to come and go all too quickly. Today I am drinking a wine from a “new to me” winery called Optima Wine Cellars. The Optima label was established in 1984 after winemaker / proprietor Mike Duffy purchased some grapes and released just 400 cases. So now, 25 years later, Optima has grown into a family run winery producing over 4,000 cases. By the way, check out their website. Read how the love story unfolded between Mike and Nicol … if Nora Ephron doesn’t come knocking to make her next chick flick about these two there is something seriously wrong.
The first thing I notice when I crack this bottle is that the berry fruit aromas practically assault you from the glass. Blackberries, blueberries, cherries were all there. This initially led me to believe that it was going to be a “brighter” wine, but I was pleasantly surprised that the earthiness, spice, and wood shone through the berry fruit, raisins and vanilla on the palate. This bottle was serenading me as these waves of chocolate, earth, cinnamon, and nutmeg washed over my taste buds for a brilliant finish. Although this wine is highly drinkable now – no doubt in part to the French Oak. I couldn’t help but let this bottle continue to open up for three days and go back to it over and over. Truthfully it got better over two days which attests to its age ability. Certainly this bottle would pair well with the typical BBQ fare, but this bottling is truly special. I would tend to drink this on its own or with something simpler such as pork chops with cranberries. This would allow this fantastic wine to be the center of attention which it deserves to be.
About The Winery:
Optima began as a dream producing just 400 cases in 1984, now, the winery is continuing their tradition of producing premium, world class wines. Optima specializes in Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel Port, and Chardonnay. Join us in our Tuscan style tasting room and don’t miss our monthly specials.
Mike Duffy born in Salem, Oregon and raised in Redding, CA, Mike seemed destined early in to pursue a career in the wine business. As a youth his dad was an avid home-winemaker, Mike was fascinated by the process and would often times help his dad. When Mike was a sophomore in High school, he had already declared his intention to major in enology at UC Davis.
In 1980, during his last year at Davis, he landed an opportunity to intern at Trefethen Winery, where he had worked briefly during a crush one year. He was soon offered a job as Assistant Winemaker, so he decided to accelerate his schooling by jamming his entire last year into just 2 quarters.
In 1983 Mike moved over to Sonoma County to pursue is own dream of one day owning a winery. He took a job at Field Stone as the winemaker working along side with the Anfre’ Tchelistcheff, a world renowned winemaker, for nine years while crafting his Cabernet for his Optima label. In 1984, Mike purchased grapes of his own, leading to his first production of 400 cases of Cabernet.
Today, Mike along with his wife Nicol and four boys celebrate Optima Winery’s twentieth year, while continuing the tradition of producing premium world class wines.
Nicol was born and raised in Santa Rosa, CA had also always dreamed of being in the wine business. After attending college with an accounting degree she tried to break into the wine business. She soon came to realize that most wineries were family run. So she focused on Public Accounting for eight years until 2000.
Nicol and her son Tyler moved to Healdsburg where her son tried out for a traveling soccer team. Mike was the coach. Mike picked Tyler and so the three of them traveled quite a bit. One night she invited Mike to dinner and pulled out a bottle of Optima Russian River Chardonnay.
Mike explained to her that, that was his winery and he made that wine. Well she knew she had to marry him so in 2001 Mike and Nicol and the four boys married at a winery in Healdsburg.
Composition: 90% Zinfandel and 10% Petite Sirah
Appellation: Dry Creek Valley
Aging: 12 months in a combination of French and American oak