There are several other factors, such as time on the lees, per cent new oak (30% is listed for the 2007), aging time, etc. We’ll see what Laura has to say.
Thanks for the info. My naive guess when I looked at the offer page was that the '05 and '06 were a bit lower in acid, and would probably be better sooner. The '07 is younger and higher in acid, and might wait. No guessing with winemaker info like this–if only all wines came with such detailed user instructions!
Hey NightGhost (and any other Long Islanders), I’m finally almost definitely going to host an LI tasting the end of this month. Hop on over to the thread and chime in. I would love to meet some of the other LI wine wooters.
Its tough to take really specific statements like those quotes as gospel for all cases. There are a lot of other factors that come into play. Biologically speaking, I haven’t seen anything to really suggest Quercus alba is that different from the two French oak species (robur and sessilis). I’ve seen the study detailing the higher lactone content in American oak, but it wasn’t overly conclusive and hasn’t been replicated (at least that I’ve seen). And you also have to question how much of that difference is extracted into the wine and wonder about how linear the correlation is between chemical quantity and human tasting threshold for those chemicals.
All that said, yes, side by side there will usually be a noticeable flavor difference between the two types of barrels, but if you can get flavor you like with an American Oak barrel, at 50-70% of French Oak prices, your dollar can go a lot farther, especially with varietals that don’t carry the Napa Cabernet price tag…
Anybody who wants to see this in action should head to Roche Winery’s tasting room on Sonoma Square. Every year they do their Carneros Chardonnay three ways - unoaked, French, and American. Side by side you’d think they were three entirely different grapes. The winemaker there has assured me that the only difference is the oak program and not any of the other parts of the process.
IIRC, the American oak had a stronger vanilla component, while the French oak was rounder and had a more toasty and butterscotch-y component. It’s been a while, though, so take with a grain of salt.
I like to use American oak barrels with my zin as it tends to impart some caramel characteristics that don’t come out in the French oak aged wines. I’ve heard descriptors used, like vanilla, even in the context of American oak cooperage, but my experience has been a more caramely nature as opposed to vanilla. I use 30-40% new oak on the wine to add structure and balance without getting them too oaky. I wouldn’t describe my zin’s with alot of oak flavor, it’s not the style I’m trying to achieve. Especially with zin, I wouldn’t want you to have to wait for 4 or 5 years to let the oakiness integrate, trying to make them more approachable sooner, rather than later. Another consideration is cost…American oak barrels cost about 70% less than French oak, a big consideration for me in making zin. Retailing a zin over $50 means they take forever to sell through, I’d have to charge that much if I used French oak on the zin.
One question though - the 2006 and 2007 go for $30 and $35 on your website. I know that French oak is more expensive, but are you saying that you need to raise the price over $15 per bottle just to use it? Even if it were $600 more per barrel (and that assumes all new oak), wouldn’t that just be an increase of around $2 per bottle?
Great explanation. So what Im getting is that you can get the flavors you want out of the wine with less time in the barrel, at less cost, and sooner.
My last retail pricing for the zins are actually $40, $30 and $35 respectively. I know that seems weird, but the 2005 is considered a library wine for us, 2006 is the current release and we’ve also released 2007 to our club, it’s the last release from this particular vineyard source. In 2008 we changed growers.
French oak barrels cost about $1200 a piece and I make quite a bit of zin. I need to buy 15 to 20 barrels per vintage, the balance is neutral oak we’ve used before. Once you start doing the math, things get really pricey, really quickly. Tying up that much capital for zin doesn’t make any sense and if I chose to use French oak instead of American, I’d be having to charge that much more just to make up ground lost while tying up that much capital. I also want my zins to taste differently than my cab. I feel that there are producers out there making wine that all tastes the same to me. They use one cooper for everything and I can taste that in the bottle. My zins are radically different from each other, the terrior is very different as is the age of plants. I pride myself in letting those differences show through and try to promote those characteristics by using wood that complements the wine, rather than hiding the fruit.
I realize that this is not specific to the wine today but the Wine Enthusiast mag I just got in the mail this weekend has a vintage/variatal/region guide.
Here it is in PDF. http://www.winemag.com/PDFs/Vintage_Chart_022011.pdf
Ah, Pedroncelli makes Dry Creek Zins too? I’d forgotten that.
Pedroncelli’s famed Zins have quite high alcohol levels too, and they are universally quite liked as an amazing value, especially by rpm, despite his traditional tastes! The one we didn’t like as just tooo hot was over 16% alc, which Laura’s told us she also likes to avoid. Winemakers are struggling with the hot weather to keep alcohol down, bu I guess Zin is the kind of fruit-driven grape to handle it best.
Incidentally gcdyersb, don’t forget that just as we don’t have to take an artist’s interpretation of their painting / sculpture as gospel, likewise we can also ignore winemakers’ preferences and drink the wine as we like!
Mind you, in this case I can’t think of any good reason not to, but for example the English traditionally don’t follow French wine-drinking practices: they drink their stuff far too young!
Assuming about 300 bottles per barrel–I think you did the same–it does appear to be a raw increase of $2-$5 per bottle. But that would all be capital tied up in wine that won’t see the light of day for several years. I think it’s reasonable to expect some return on investment after putting all that money into barrels.
It will be interesting to see what happens as economics encourage producers to try different, less cost-intensive methods. Small barrels are not the only container out there that imparts toasted oak flavor and allows a small degree of oxygenation. And aside from that, it seems like CA is often just following Bdx thinking with oak regimes. Maybe the answer is not to mimic the French, but to pursue different styles altogether.
I’m not sure the drinking public would appreciate a huge deviation from the style of Napa wines to which they’ve grown accustom. I know my wine club would not appreciate it if I flew off my chosen path just to save some bucks on barrels. Of course, I could go with sawdust and chips and call it done. I’d probably call my business done too! Or maybe I’d sell more since I could find myself in the $10 category…
I agree, but winemakers know their wine better than anyone here, unless someone has actually tasted these Zins. Sure, they have some inherent bias. Still, they know the topic at hand in depth.
Wine is a drink, albeit a very good, complex one, not art. Parallels can be made, but they often are overblown. Winemaking is craft, not a microbiological sculpting process.
what, no micro-ox?
Indeed, taste is a broad and contested thing! Therefore, I’d disagree that a craft as complex as this cannot be seen as an art also. There is no clear distinction between a craft and an art, although general rules of thumb can be made.
The craftsman, or artist, such as Laura, has her intentions, skill knowledge and ability, but the interpretation, or taste, can be highly varied, and much less skill is required.
Perhaps a taster with much experience can appreciate more of the history, craft and expertise put into the object considered, and have a deeper more complex understanding, but that doesn’t mean that their visceral experience is necessarily any more profound than the simplest of newcomers! And there are schools of interpretation, or drinking practice (Brits v French v Americans v Aussies v old people v new people, Germans… etc) which socialise that drinking experience!
I guess it seems like to me that there is a glut of expensive wines right now judging by the proliferation of Woot-like sites. While you have a devoted set of customers, it seems a lot of producers don’t.
Does there really need to be a dichotomy between 100% new French oak barriques and stainless steel tanks with American sawdust? It seems like an unnecessary contrast. There are a variety of possibilities in between cheap spoofulation and the most cost-intensive proven methods. I guess it is just me being a consumer, but it seems like a good thing if cheaper methods could be developed to achieve high quality. I have heard of toasted staves being inserted into seasoned barrels, as well as permeable fiberglass or plastic containers with inserts. Or even larger foudres that are re-used if maintained well.
I doubt results are identical, in fact they are probably different and some are going to be worse. But it does seem wasteful how barrels are treated now. One or two uses, then sold off on the cheap. Eventually you see them being sold at wineries as planters for $15! I guess it is good for coopers people keep buying large quantities, especially if forests are well-cultivated. But maybe some innovation will come about the encourages re-use of containers and lowers costs.
What a delightful experience to have such an “engaged” winemaker! I’m in for one.
I just like to drink the stuff. It’s not complicated for me.
I only get one trip through this life, so I enjoy each wine experience for the uniqueness it holds for me. If it’s not that great an experience, well, it’s easy enough to gift the bottles and let someone else take their shot at enjoying it more than I did. And a great experience often winds up being a quixotic search to recreate the past more often than not, so I just concentrate on enjoying the moment for what it is – great, good, enjoyable, pleasant, routine, mundane, reminiscent, saddening, and yes, even if it is of the “do not ever do again” variety.
My problem with only getting one is that if I really like it, I can’t have it again.
So … in for 2.
Historically, we’ve loved the Zins from Dry Creek, and in fact I’d be curious if anyone can compare this to something common like Dry Creek Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel.
It’s a bit more than I’d like to pay for a winery I haven’t tried before, but if it helps support future Zin deals on wine.woot, at least it’s for a very good cause.