Operative: Agent Red
Objective: Send Agent Red back to the fabled Windsor Oaks Vineyards, a winery that also grows grapes for some of the most sought-after wines in California. Secure their own 4 Dijon Clones Russian River Reserve Pinot Noir, a brilliant, delicious Pinot Noir.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Windsor Oaks Vineyards
Wine Subject: 4 Dijon Clones Russian River Valley Reserve Pinot Noir
Winemaker: Julie Lumgair
Windsor Oaks Vineyards grow grapes that go on to become fine wines from a handful prestigious producers. They also produce a small handful of distinctive wines under their own label. These wines represent the best of the best, often at a fraction of the price of those other wines.
The Russian River Valley, in Sonoma County, produces Pinot Noir of remarkable distinction. The cooler maritime conditions of the region make the Russian River Valley ideal for growing Pinot Noir. The Russian River Valley in Sonoma is particularly well suited to producing exceptional Pinot Noir. This AVA was officially designated in 1983, but many of the wines in the region used the designation as early as the 1970s (early in California’s wine history) with the many of the vines having been first planted in the early 1900s.
Look – With a beautiful heart of pure ruby, color is evenly concentrated from core to edge. Swirl the wine, and tall, thin, wine-colored sears fall slowly from high up on the glass wall.
Smell – Deep, lush cherry, young strawberry, red currant, soft brown spice and bramble take the lead. As the wine opens, it reveals cola, wild strawberry, sweet cigar box, toasty vanilla and flint appear.
Feel – Soft, round and tender entry. As the wine crosses the mid-palate, it takes on a plush, medium-bodied feel. Bright acids balance against very fine tannins.
Taste – Red cherry, red currant, wild strawberry and bramble bush step out in front. As the wine opens up, juicy raspberry, black tea leaf, cranberry, sweet cedar and soft brown spice round out the palate.
Finish – Juicy and very long, with clean, sweet fruit that slowly fades, giving way to earthy spice and woody elements.
Conclusion – We tasted this wine at a favorite local restaurant, sharing our review bottles with restaurant staff and neighboring tables. Everyone was crazy about this approachable, delicious wine! Loaded with red fruit flavors and exuding deep aromatics, this wine is one of the finest Russian River Pinots we have tasted in some time. Our new found reviewers agreed, too! Before too long, we were out of wine. If you love balanced, delicious Pinot Noir with just the right amount of complexity, we give today’s 2008 Windsor Oaks 4 Dijon Clones Reserve Pinot Noir our heartiest Wine Spies recommendation.
WINEMAKER INTEL BRIEFING DOSSIER
SUBJECT: Julie Hagler Lumgair
WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY: Karma…I never, never cut corners. The only way to know you’ve done your job as a winemaker is to pour some and watch folks’ smiles…then recall all those long days and know it was just right.So what is “not cutting corners?” Besides just working hard to follow all four seasons, I passionately believe in following the fruit and expressing in the glass a tricky hierarchy: the vintage, then the vineyard, then show some moves and show the vineyard blocks and clones and my own style! True Estate winemaking is harder than blended approaches (nowhere to hide when Mother Nature throws your geographical a curve ball) but extremely rewarding and absolutely beautiful if you keep an open mind and follow the clues Mother Nature provides. It is never a formula, but a living study. This is why it is a pleasure and privilege to make anywhere from 1 to 7 different Pinots or 4 Chardonnays, etc. in a given vintage. Just follow, study, then express!
I guess I’m every bit at home in the vineyard as on the crushpad or bottling day. It’s all about the ART of growing fine wine for our whole team in the field and the winery, then not taking a strong start for granted. Perfect picking is key, but just a starting line for the race ahead. I hand-craft wines literally barrel by barrel, from individual vineyard blocks, with a winery team that truly grew up in the vineyards and still work in the vines every week. It is the epitome of careful winemaking, as our whole team actually planted those vines and tends the fruit year round. We do not yet 3-tier distribute our estate wines, but choose instead to sell direct from the cellar door, and now with Wine Spies!
My muse is my husband, estate and vineyard manager Douglas Lumgair, who has worked with our general partner, Bob Stein, and vineyard foreman, Lupe Ruiz, for 20+ years. Douglas and Lupe pulled out 175 acres of old vines starting in the 1990’s and have reworked and replanted the perfect combinations of varietal clones and rootstocks to make Windsor Oaks a crown jewel of Sonoma County. Winemaker’s heaven! Our vineyard team is a family and true “old Sonoma style” village of 20 people that believe that “good enough” isn’t even close – our goal over all these years has been to deliver the absolute best wine grapes to our own small and focused artisan brand that uses ~9% of the vineyard’s fruit, and to dazzle the 25+ boutique and artisan wineries that use our grapes in their beautiful wines. In fact, I make wine for some of our other winery friends…but our lips are sealed! We are deeply honored to grow for some of the finest artisan winemakers in the business. It really is a big neighborly approach….
WINEMAKER QUOTE: ”Share the love and follow the Golden Rule! We are fortunate to have such amazing friends and family – thank you!”
WINEMAKER’S EDUCATION: Short answer is lots of hard work on a path from Rx to OTC to food to culinary to viticulture to wine, with a lot of stops on the way for added education thanks to the great folks at a number of universities, many industry resources, midnight oil and mentors, including notable farming and chef friends plus great winemaker mentors.
Born as a 5th generation farmer, Julie started her journey of sensory studies and made her mark early in oral care pharmaceutical and OTC oral care products at Procter & Gamble, through a series of global merger team assignments working on how to overcome serious problems of the palate, upper gastrointestinal tract and oral care challenges for many people including a focus on improving quality of life for immunocompromised patients with cancer, HIV-AIDS and oral surgery complications. Success in food, culinary and wine followed. To this day, she believes it was studying the details of how people lost touch with their senses and palates, and how they could recover some of the lost territory, that showed a different path to creating wines to hit a broad array of magical places for so many people.
AGENT WHITE: Greetings, Julie. We are thrilled to be showing your 2008 4 Dijon Clones Reserve Pinot Noir today. Thanks so much for taking some time to answer questions for our Operatives today.
JULIA: Thanks, Agent Red! It is great to be back with you and your Operatives, today!
RED: Was there a specific experience in your life that inspired your love of wine?
JULIA: Sometimes the road to the cellar door goes around the bend, and back! I grew up in a dry county in Tennessee and learned about fine wine through my parents encouraging travel abroad in Europe which really celebrates its local traditions of farming and fermenting the best of a very specific region. That was eye-opening to see local foods, cheeses, beers and wines with the people behind each enjoying them seamlessly with family and friends, and sharing them with us, too! I felt like an insider…it was transformative. I then had a wonderful college mentor who was a fine wine collector and shared knowledge and tasting with a generous heart. Oops, I just told you all the stuff before I even turned 21… Well, now I’m, ummm, not 21, and my love of wine has found a prefect home in Sonoma County. This is my modern paradise with the same magical combination of local food, wine, hospitality, friends and family from all those years ago in Europe.
RED: What wine or winemaker has most influenced your winemaking style?
JULIA: I think the ultimate winemaker an style maker is Mother Nature. Growing up a farmer, you realize she really makes everything, and we wait and make the most of the gifts. On a more local field, for quality and varietal expertise, I’m thankful every day for over seven vintages of advice, support and input from all of the great winemakers that Windsor Oaks has grown grapes for over the years. We do a LOT of grower tastings each vintage, so sometimes the math adds up to my own experiments and key lots plus over 12 more looks at a given varietal. It’s like seeing multiple harvests in just a year. Since my husband, Douglas, and I are both professional wine judges as well, I give lots respect to that view as well. Seeing your own region, then seeing so much from around the world is truly humbling and deeply educational. Tastes great, too.
RED: Who do you make wine for?
JULIA: Folks that appreciate crafted wine made with artisan quality and heart.
Plus, folks that actually want to drink wine that over-delivers the price point, and if they call the winery, they could talk to the winemaker. Back to that “connection” point.
RED: Please tell me a about the wine we are featuring today.
JULIA: Our 2008 4 Clone Pinot Noir is a complex and age worthy wine showing deep, classic Russian River Valley fruit. The blend of four different clones of Pinot Noir combines elegant red berry and black cherry fruit, sassafras, cola and complex spices, while slow aging in French oak frames the core of fruit with toast and vanilla. It’s one of our favorite wines, but we only made 225 cases!
RED: What is your favorite pairing with today’s wine?
JULIA: Grab some wild salmon, marinate it in a little red wine, soy, garlic and orange juice, then grill it to medium rare and serve with a simple garnish of chanterelles sautéed in olive oil.
RED: In your opinion, what makes the Russian River Valley so special?
JULIA: Location , location, location! Welcome to Rodeo Drive for Chardonnay and Pinot noir in particular. Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley, is just fifty-five short miles north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and 30 miles from the Pacific Ocean by way of the Russian River. Winegrowing here is built on a long tradition that produces some of the finest wines in the world. Windsor Oaks Estate vineyards are right in the direct line of influence for the Russian River gap that funnels the Pacific Ocean’s maritime influences through the western mountain range.
There is no better place in California to grow Pinot Noir than the Russian River Valley. We are blessed with warm days, moderated by cooling fog at night, burning off by mid-morning. It creates the perfect micro climate for the delicate Pinot Noir grape to ripen without losing its subtle and complex varietal character.
Of course, it takes the full talent of the vineyard team and winemaker to unlock the magic – it’s nature and nurture. Just like mining for diamonds, then polishing them to brilliance. I just cut and polish what Mother Nature sends us each year!
RED: What is occupying your time at the winery these days?
JULIA: Now that’s it’s summertime, we’re busy hosting guests at the property. We have one of the most unique visitor experiences in Sonoma County, and we love showing off! We recently hosted an event called Pinot by the Pond, with great live music, barbeque and of course plenty of Windsor Oaks Pinot Noir. It was a beautiful day and our guests had a great time. Check out our website to find out about upcoming events, including our Tour de Windsor Oaks hiking and biking weekend in August.
RED: How would you recommend people approach your wines and wine in general?
JULIA: Wine is one of life’s simple luxuries and it brings us together. Drink what inspires you and enjoy the moment. Cheers!
RED: Thank you so much for your time. We learned a lot about you – and your wine. Keep up the great work, we are big fans!
The location of the Windsor Oaks Vineyards and Winery in the Chalk Hill AVA can be seen in this satellite photo.