Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Send Agent Red to Peterson Winery, who has given The Wine Spies exclusive access to its special 25th Anniversary Carignane – in advance of the public release of the wine.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Peterson Winery
Wine Subject: 2009 Peterson Family Winery Carignane 25th Anniversary – Limited Edition
Winemaker: Jamie Peterson
Backgrounder: Our Operatives know just how much we love Peterson Winery, its people and its fantastic wines. Truly, this winery has become a Wine Spies favorite. The father and son team of Fred and Jamie Peterson have been making wines in the Dry Creek Valley for, well, forever.
Varietal Backgrounder: Carignane is the most widely planted red grape varietal in France. The grape thrives in arid climates that have long growing seasons. It develops late in the season and it requires a long time to come to full ripeness. The grape is sensitive and difficult to harvest – but it usually develops high yields, making it a very attractive grape to grow.
Look – Mark magenta with a darker heart. Color is perfectly even, from core to edge. A beautiful ring of ruby runs around the glass. After swirling, thin legs form high up on the glass, before moving swiftly down the glass.
Smell – Dark fruit and spice leap from the glass. Overripe blackberry, smoky blueberry, black currant and warm brown spice leap from the glass. Black cherry, plum, sweetwood, dark chocolate and dark dried flower petals round out the lush nose.
Feel – Soft and round at the tip of the tongue. As the wine moves across the mid-palate, it introduces a bright acidity and a plush, crushed velvet gripiness. Integrated tannins provide the perfect frame to the bright fruit and spice.
Taste – Intriguing and complex, with bold flavors overripe blackberry, black cherry, wild strawberry, dried violets, spiced cranberry and toasted oak. As the wine opens up, flavors of tobacco leaf, sweet spice, anise, plum and black pepper appear.
Finish – Dark and juicy, fruit flavors sustain for an extra long time. As dark fruits fade, red fruits come to the forefront. As these red fruits fade, sweet brown spice, oak and black pepper remain, tailing off very slowly.
Conclusion – This 25th Anniversary wine is a fitting tribute to the masterworks that the wonderful Peterson Winery produces. Darkly juicy, sweetly spicy and ultra-delicious, this 2009 Peterson Winery Carignane is a truly fantastic wine. Delicious, right out of the bottle, this wine really springs to life after an hour or two of decanting. Flavors deepen, with rich, dark fruits that become more authentic the longer it breaths. This wine is a delicious, expressive, spicy, fruit-driven, complex treat that we are truly crazy about. With only 74 cases of this limited-edition, 25th Anniversary wine produced, this is likely the only opportunity that you’ll have to pick some up.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Jamie Peterson
DATE OF BIRTH: 03/20/1981
PLACE OF BIRTH: Saratoga, CA (Mt. Eden Vineyards)
WINE EDUCATION: Ongoing, on-the-job. UC Davis Extension chemistry/lab analysis/viticulture classes.
CALIFORNIA WINE JOB BRIEF: Grew up in Peterson Winery, helping with odd jobs in the winery and vineyard as a teenager. Worked first harvest at 19, and then traveled to Australia and New Zealand to work harvest in 2001. took over as Assistant Winemaker at Peterson Winery in 2002. Given full Winemaker responsibility in 2006.
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: “Zero Manipulation”/Minimal intervention, letting the vineyard and vintage show through in each bottling. No fining, no filtration. Minimal new oak usage, minimal additions and SO2 use.
SIGNATURE VARIETAL: Dry Creek valley Zinfandel.
AGENT RED: Greetings, Jamie. We are thrilled to be showing your 25th Anniversary Limited Edition 2009 Forchini Vineyard Carignane today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
JAMIE: Thanks, Red. This is a very special wine and we are pleased to be able to make a limited number of cases available to you and your Operatives, today.
RED: We appreciate that, Jamie. Tell me, was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
JAMIE: It’d be hard to pick one. Growing up with the sights, sounds, and smells of the winery and vineyards, there were many inspirational moments. But I didn’t think I’d be getting into the life of wine as deeply as I have until I worked harvests in 2001 in Australia and New Zealand. Seeing the international wine community and how it ties people together made me decide to come back to the family winery and join full time in 2002.
RED: And where did you learn the most about winemaking?
JAMIE: From my father, growing up in the winery, and being able to learn on the job.
RED: What is your winemaking style or philosophy?
JAMIE: I believe that vineyard and vintage driven wines are the only reason for small wineries to exist. I prefer wines from different vintages to reflect the growing season (otherwise why put the vintage on the bottle?) rather than use additives (acid, tannins, enzymes, gum arabic, overblown new oak) or technological processes (filtration, alcohol removal, micro-oxygenation) to create wines that taste the same each year. I don’t filter or fine our wines, and I predominantly use native yeast fermentations and malo-lactics, so we have to keep things clean and monitor closely, as we don’t choose to use the tools for fixing mistakes that some wineries do. We source from the same vineyards each year, so there is a thread of continuity running through vintages. Our vineyards are sustainably farmed, with a few certified organic, and a number of others dry-farmed.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
JAMIE: I’m inspired by European vintners who have made wines from the same places for generations, and haven’t succumbed to commercialism.
RED: How long have you been making wine?
JAMIE: 2002 was my first full year of working with wines from grape to bottle. 2000 was the first full harvest I worked with my father. At 28, I have 12 harvests under my belt (including working in both Australia and New Zealand in 2001).
RED: Who do you make wine for?
JAMIE: I make wines for my own tastes, and then we find enough people that share our ideas to buy it. We don’t submit our wines for scoring or competitions.
RED: Please tell me a little bit about the wine we are featuring today.
JAMIE: It’s a wine with a little extra something, both inside and outside the bottle. The Forchini Vineyard Old Vine Carignane comes from a block over 60 years old next door to our winery on the Eastern Bench of the Dry Creek Valley. Originally we purchased the fruit with the intent of blending to add some spice and backbone to our Zinfandel. We’ve come to realize that the vineyard produces a wine that is the rare Carignane more than worthy to bottle as a stand alone, with enough structure to carry the complex of fruit and earth flavors. We only do two or three barrels a year, and decided to give this unique wine a unique package. Each and every bottle is painstakingly hand painted, hand dipped in wax, and tissue wrapped, honors usually reserved for wines that sell at ridiculous prices. In honor of our 25th, or silver, anniversary this year, we’ve gone with a silver color for the theme of the packaging.
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
JAMIE: This wine is fantastic on its own, but also is versatile pairing. After a long day of painting and waxing with friends, we opened one of the first of these bottles with some homemade BBQ pizzas topped with pears, caramelized onions, and arugula, and the freshness of the wine matched the ingredients perfectly. BBQ foods would be a fun companion as well.
RED: In your opinion, what makes the Forchini vineyard such a special place for Carignane?
JAMIE: These gnarly old vines on the justly famous Dry Creek Valley Bench soil are dry farmed, bringing into check the inherent vigor of the variety, resulting in smaller and more concentrated berries. The farmers know that these vines keep themselves in check, and is farmed sustainably, with no inputs. The combination of site and weather makes for an intense, deep wine that is not heavy or rough.
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
JAMIE: We have been bottling most of the 2010 red wines, which is a very exciting time. We are about half way complete with our blending trials on the 2011 wines, and are happy with the results so far, with a few of the bolder blends still to tackle( Cabernet and Petite Sirah types). In the vineyard, fruit has set and we’re planning ahead to what we hope will be a great 2012 harvest in a few months.
RED: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone that is considering a career as a winemaker?
JAMIE: Realize that winemaking is both simple and complicated. It’s all just fermented grape juice, but it’s all about the details; every minute little thing you do or don’t do to the grapes or wine will affect how it turns out.
RED: Please share one thing about yourself that few people know
JAMIE: I like to go mushroom hunting (for chanterelles and porcini), even though as a teenager I accidently picked and ate Death Cap mushrooms.
RED:What is your favorite ‘everyday’ or table wine?
JAMIE: Zinfandel is the wine I seem to open the most often of our own, but I also drink a lot of Rhone wines, and wines from the Ventoux.
RED: How would you recommend that people approach your wines, or wine in general?
JAMIE: So many people look for the “best” wine. I always ask them “best for what?” Every wine has a place and time for appreciating (unless it just is a wine that really sucks…), and it’s more important for people to figure out what types of wine they like, and why, than what others think is the best. Trust your own palate rather than what a critic or others say.
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!
JAMIE: Thanks for having me, and for appreciating and selling our wines!
The location of the Peterson Winery can be seen in this satellite photo.