Zinfandel grows very, very well in Amador. And, it has been growing here for a very long time. The original Grandpère vineyard across the street from Renwood Winery is acknowledged as the oldest, continuously producing zinfandel vineyard in the United States.
What are some of the factors that contribute to growing great zin? According to Joe Shebl, Winemaker and General Manager at Renwood Winery: it’s weather, soil, artisan production, and the micro-climates.
“We have dramatic shifts in diurnal temperatures,” he says, “as much as 40 degrees.” That means temperatures that reach 95 degrees Fahrenheit in the afternoon might cool to 50 degrees in the night. “This helps grapes maintain a really good natural acidity, a vibrancy. And that translates to a wonderful range of styles in the wine – from bright red fruit to heavier plums and blackberries."
"Little pockets of vineyards, set amidst the rolling hills create fruits that are so distinctive from vintage to vintage."
"Not to be cliché," he adds, "but Amador is a veritable mosaic of microclimates. Little pockets of vineyards, set amidst the rolling hills create fruits that are so distinctive from vintage to vintage. There are not big swaths of vineyards that cover extensive acreages that you will find in larger valleys. Here the hills are tighter, the rise to the mountains closer, and the land snakes individually along ridges, rises, rivers, and diverse geological landscaping."
Joe sees this expression best enunciated in the Signature Series. What is the difference in taste profile, you ask?
|One of our darkest wines. Plum and ultra-ripe cherries.||Fox Creek 66%, Habacht 20%, Veauta 6%,
NCBP 4%, Oakmont 4%
|100% Zin||Blueberry, cinnamon to start; orange zest and marmalade mid-point to finish||Habcht 72%, D’Agostini 16%, Deaver 12%|
|Bright red fruit, vanilla and cedar.||Fox Creek 76%, Kirkland 18%, Veauta 6%|
7% Petite Sirah
|Dark red fruit, clove, cocoa and dried herbs.||Deaver 66%,
Fox Creek 28%, Bailey 7%
|86% Zin, 11% Petite Sirah, 2% Syrah,
|This wine is from multiple vineyard sources, it is dark and dusky with raspberries, dried herbs, and cocoa dust.||Kirkland 32%,
Fox Creek 26%, Bowling 26%, plus others.
On Saturday, June 8th at 6 p.m., Renwood will host a special dinner at the winery showcasing the barbera grape and one of America’s foremost wine-and-food experts, Darrell Corti, whom many of you may know as the proprietor of Corti Bros. Grocery in Sacramento. The dinner is being held in conjunction with Amador County’s sold-out 3rd annual Barbera Festival and will feature a multi-course dinner paired with several distinctive barberas selected to highlight the variety’s many charms. Corti and Renwood winemaker Dave Crippen will be on hand to discuss each wine and how they complement the food.
Darrell Corti is a legendary grocer/wine merchant who was the first American to import fine olive oils, prosciutto, white truffles, exotic salts, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Brie cheeses, and many other delicacies. He also introduced Californians to rare sherries and single-malt bourbons and scotches. Many a budding oenophile first discovered the great wines of the world in the Corti Bros. wine department, Darrell’s domain for 50 years.
Corti has also been instrumental in the development of Amador County as a world-class wine-growing region, advising local vintners on where and what to plant, and perpetually encouraging them to strive for excellence. In recognition of his contributions, Darrell was inducted, in 2008, into the Vintners Hall of Fame, the only wine merchant to be so honored. He also is a member of the Italian Trade Commission’s Hall of Fame – for introducing so many Italian wines and foodstuffs to the American market – and, in 1992, received the rare honor of being named a Cavaliere (i.e., an Italian knight) by the Italian government.
Naturally, Darrell is an expert on barbera, the northern Italian grape variety – and longtime mainstay of the Sierra Foothills wine scene – that produces wonderfully fruity, sensuously textured red wines that beautifully accompany food. Our June 8th Barbera Dinner is a rare opportunity for oenophiles to experience the joys of barbera guided by one of the world’s top wine educators.
Tickets to the dinner are $75 per person and can be purchased at /product/Darrell-Corti-Dinner.
Last year, Renwood went all Hollywood by sponsoring the 2012 Film Independent Forum at the Director’s Guild in Los Angeles and the premier after-parties of “Anna Karenina” and “Silver Linings Playbook,” two of the year’s most successful movies. Now that we’ve gotten the film bug, we’re kicking off 2013 by sponsoring the Red Carpet Coverage of Hollywood’s much-loved Independent Spirit Awards, which annually honor the best achievements in American independent film. Our involvement is quite apropos, as Amador County has seen more than its fair share of stubbornly independent pioneers – both gold miners and winegrowers – over the past 160 years.
This year’s Spirit Awards ceremony is on Saturday, February 23rd (a day before the Oscars) in Santa Monica, CA and will be televised that evening at 10:00 pm on IFC, the Independent Film Channel. (The show will be hosted by comedian Andy Samberg of Saturday Night Live.) Renwood is sponsoring red carpet coverage hosted by Luke Reichle’s of “Secrets of the Red Carpet,” Hollywood style-maker Luke Reichle’s guide to dressing with ease, power and maximum allure, which will be aired on Live Stream Live, www.SheKnows.com and streamed on our website at www.renwood.com. Join us as this Saturday at 10:30 am PST as we pull back the veil on Hollywood and give you a real insiders look at a red carpet event. Mark your calendars!!
This is just the first of several film industry events we have on the calendar for 2013. Next month, we’ll be the official wine sponsor for the New York premier of “Admissions,” Tina Fey’s new movie.
It’s a tough job, but some winery has to do it!
Winegrowing is all about the seasons. In early spring, after a winter’s rains, grapevines are born anew, their buds opening to generate the foliage that creates a vine’s vegetative ‘canopy’. A month later, tiny grape blossoms appear, setting the stage for the hard little berries that eventually will turn into flavorsome grapes and wine.
Summer’s warmth slowly ripen the grapes, while winemakers prepare their tanks, barrels, hoses and pumps for the onslaught of fruit that will deluge them between late August and late October, the all-important harvest season. By early autumn, fermentations are bubbling away, tanks are rapidly filled and emptied, and new wines are resting in barrels to attain the requisite amount of aging prior to bottling.
But what of winter? Well, just as bears and grapevines hibernate – for the vines, it’s known as winter dormancy – so do winemakers. There may be a secondary (malolactic) fermentation to monitor, some bottling of previous vintages to do, and a bunch of equipment to clean, but, by and large, winter is the quietest, most relaxed time of year in the vineyard (except for pruning, which usually begins in January) and the winery. That’s why winemakers typically take their annual vacations during the winter months, often flying off to tropical climates to rest, relax and recharge. Our very own Dave Crippen, Renwood winemaker for the past decade, will be jetting off to Florida for some R&R.
“Our family has a time share and we booked it in Orlando to visit Disney World, the Kennedy Space Center and Universal studios. It should be a hoot” says Dave. “There is plenty for us to do in the winery, winter notwithstanding, but we like to take the time when we can.”
We know that many of our customers also hunker down for winter (not the skiers or snowboarders, of course), but before you do, allow us to wish you and yours a Happy New Year. We look forward to seeing you in 2013!
Now that harvest is over and we are busy pressing the last of our lots and putting wines into barrels, lets recap the season.
The weather during the growing season was a bit cooler than average. We have seen later bud break and bloom in the spring, relatively mild weather and a slightly delayed veraison in the summer. Sure there were a few heat spikes during the month of July, and it was a warmer summer that the last two years, but compared to the long term average, it was still cooler. The weather remained warm and pleasant until mid-October when isolated rain showers began. Fortunately the rains were short and did not cause any severe damage or mildew problems. Now that the fruit is in, the weather has turned fairly cold and we are expecting a fair amount of rain. I am glad that we received all our grapes before the weather had a chance to spoil them on the vines.
This was an exciting harvest for Renwood this year. We have invested heavily in new equipment and this harvest gave us the opportunity to play with all of our new toys. We constructed new catwalks in the cellar which made pump overs, additions and most any other winemaking tasks much easier and more efficient. While it may be difficult to see how catwalks can make better wine, when you’re in the thick of it, catwalks allowed us to get more accomplished in the limited amount of time available. This translated into healthier fermentations that went to completion more easily. We also redesigned our open top tanks and added a pneumatic punch down device. This allowed us to compare the effects in wines where the cap was managed via pump over and via punch down. The verdict is still out as both methods have their pros and cons; but it does allow for another layer of versatility and complexity in our wines. Last year we began increasing our concentration of new oak barrels in our barrels program and this year we continued adding new barrels and more French Oak. We believe that this trend will once again further improve the quality of our wines.
Even with the cooler spring and delayed bloom, the warmer end of summer brought harvest right on time. The white grapes began arriving in late August and red grapes began in mid-September. Most vineyards that provide our grapes had yields that were 10 to 20% more than expected, and some were over by as much as 60%. It was a large crop and yet the quality remained very high. Flavors and aromas developed much earlier than normal and in many cases we were waiting for sugar and acid balances to mature before picking. The preliminary tastings have shown very well structured wines with deep color and high tannin levels. In time the tannins will mellow and allow the fruit to express itself more. We are very excited with the initial results and expect great things from the wines of 2012. Stay tuned for more updates from the Renwood cellar.
Zinfandel is as American as apple pie, making it the perfect choice for that most American of holidays, Thanksgiving. Although Zinfandel was not present on our shores in 1621, when the Pilgrims first feasted with their Native American neighbors at Plymouth Colony (hmm, Plymouth), it would have been right at home on their tables, especially as the main dish was venison.
Zinfandel arrived in the U.S. two centuries later, by most accounts through the importation of vine cuttings from the Austrian Imperial plant collection. By 1832, a nursery in Boston was advertising “Zinfendal” vines, which became quite popular. Migrating west, Zinfandel struck gold in the Sierra Foothills during the early days of the Gold Rush in the late 1840s. An easy-to- cultivate vine, it produced hearty, robust red wines that quenched the thirst of the hard-working prospectors who flocked to the region seeking their fortunes. Later in the century, when the root louse Phylloxera destroyed most of California’s vineyards, Zinfandel largely survived because it was planted on rootstock more resistant to the bug. During Prohibition, the Volstead Act allowed home winemakers to vinify up to 200 gallons of wine annually, and Zinfandel became even more popular, because its sturdy constitution allowed it to survive the long journey back east. By the early 1970s, Zinfandel was the main component in premium red wine blends that captivated a new generation of wine drinkers, and subsequently became a prized varietal wine.
Over the years, there have been numerous theories about Zinfandel’s origin, but the long-running mystery was finally solved a decade ago, when researchers determined, through DNA fingerprinting, that Zinfandel was identical to an ancient Croatian grape called “Crljenak Kaštelanski.” (Try saying that fast five times while gobbling some turkey!)
Despite its European origins, Zinfandel today is considered America’s “Heritage” Wine, quite appropriately, because the wines it produces are bold and brash, much like Americans themselves. So, as you ponder which wines to savor with your Thanksgiving dinner, cast a vote for Zinfandel, Renwood’s specialty and America’s true pilgrim wine.
Last month, Renwood was the official wine sponsor of the 2012 Film Independent Forum at the Director’s Guild in Los Angeles. This month, we’re again heeding the siren call of Hollywood as the exclusive wine sponsor for the Hollywood premier, and premier party, of “Anna Karenina,” the new film adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s famed 19th-century novel starring the swoon-inducing British actors Keira Knightly and Jude Law. The premier party for the film is on Wednesday, November 14th at Greystone Manor, a super-hip supper club in West Hollywood that’s a magnet for celebrities from the film and music industries. We’ll be pouring our 2011 Viognier and 2010 Premier Old Vine Zinfandel for the assembled guests.
Jamie Lubenko, our marketing and communications manager, muses:
“I think that if Anna and her lover, Count Vronsky, could have tasted Renwood wines at one of the many balls they attended in Czarist Russia, Lenin might have become a wine merchant rather than a revolutionary.”
We’re delighted to be associated with a beautiful film and one of the best novels ever written, both of which represent a level of creative artistry we constantly aspire to Renwood.
Renwood Winery made a name for itself at the Film Independent Forum, held Oct. 19 - 21 at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles.
The 2010 Musician’s Zinfandel and 2011 Viognier proved to be the perfect cast for the eighth annual event, which hosted more than 450 attendees over three days.
As the official wine sponsor of the forum, Renwood wines filled the glasses of film professionals and aspiring directors and producers as they toasted to new connections and bright futures. The weekend was filled with speeches, panels, networking lunches, a keynote by Director John Singleton and a screening of David O. Russell’s film, Silver Linings Playbook. But independent films weren’t the only thing being buzzed about at the forum. Renwood wines were an important part of the conversation, with the Musician’s Zinfandel achieving great renown among attendees.
Film Independent Co-President Josh Welsh said in an email, “I happened to be near the bar during one of the receptions and heard one of the forum attendees raving about the Zinfandel. To be honest, I normally have a beer at our events, but because he was going on about it, I got the (Musician’s) Zinfandel. He was right to rave!”
With notes of red and purple fruits, holiday spice and a black peppercorn finish, the Musician’s Zinfandel really shines during the fall and winter months.
The 2011 Viognier pairs really well with spicy foods. As the temperatures drop and you find yourself turning up the heat in the kitchen – and on the thermostat – keep your taste buds chilled with the Viognier’s tropical flavors of coconut and pineapple and its soft, creamy texture.
We’re very pleased with the reception Renwood wines received at the Film Independent Forum. As the weather finds you spending more and more time indoors, we hope you’ll pick Renwood wines to be the star of your next event. Whether you’re planning a holiday gathering or a “Modern Family” marathon, let Renwood wine be your best supporting beverage.
After two fairly cool years, we have experienced more summer days over 90 degrees than in the previous 50 years. This heat and low winter rainfall have challenged our viticulture in Amador County. Dry farmed vineyards are ripening up faster than we expected, drip irrigation vineyards have been playing catch-up, and our winemaking staff is trying to stay ahead of “Grapeaggedon”. This is when every vineyard is ripe on the exact same day, and everybody wants to pick grapes. Cool vintages give a more even ripening and a slower pace. The warmer ones may ripen faster, resulting in a harvest pace that does not allow for much sleep. So far, the white grapes Sauvignon Blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne, and our troika of V’s - Verdelho, Vermentino and Viognier – have crossed the scales. The only red grapes from received Amador have been Syrah, a typically early ripening varietal, and Zinfandel from some really warm sites. From a cooler, but early bud break site, we have received Mourvedre and Zinfandel from Contra Costa County. This heat has also moved Barbera ahead of its normal last place finish in the race of grapes and we may harvest some earlier than some lots of Zinfandel. So far, we are happy with the flavors, and the sugar levels are not as high, so in our minds that is a “win-win”. Stay tuned for faster paced action from Renwood!
Consulting Winemaker Jeff Cohn added, “What a difference a year makes! This time last year it was cold a touch wet, but this year the sun is out and the temperatures have been perfect allowing for the development of complexity and flavors. In the end this should prove to be an amazing vintage.”
Time flies when you’re having fun, and suddenly, it’s harvest! We asked our longtime winemaker, Dave Crippen, to give us a preview of vintage 2012.
“The last couple years – 2010 and 2011 – were atypically cool in Amador County, so picking began later than normal. This year’s growing season has been more conventional, except for a notably dry winter and significant late-spring rainfall. Since early June, we’ve enjoyed a wonderfully consistent weather pattern of dry, mild, seasonably warm days with just a few heat spikes. We like “mild” at Renwood because at our 1,700-2,000 foot elevation, we get plenty of sunshine from April through October with warm-to-hot days tempered by refreshingly cool nights (courtesy of evening breezes flowing down from the Sierras). In contrast, California’s costal wine regions experience warmer winters and early springs, and thus enjoy an earlier start to the growing season. Ripening in those vineyards, however, slows during the summer months due to a persistent layer of marine fog that penetrates coastal wine valleys most evenings and usually doesn’t burn off until mid-day.
“In Amador, we have fewer overall sun days, but the sunlight here is more radiant and intense, which quickly accelerates ripening. As a result, grape growers in Amador have to guard against vine heat stress and grape sunburning, which can be exacerbated by a lack of adequate soil moisture. Despite these perennial concerns, everything is looking good in our vineyards right now, with our red grapes starting to color up – what the French call veraison – and our whites looking like they’ll be ready to pick by early September. (Our first reds should be harvested by mid-September.) In short, barring unforeseen shenanigans by Mother Nature, we’re looking at what could be a most excellent harvest at Renwood and throughout Amador County.”