MATT DEES 2009 VINTAGE TASTING NOTES
WINE ADVOCATE 2009 RATINGS
2009 El Desafio de Jonata Cabernet Sauvignon
In an oft-recounted tale from the early days of the Jonata ranch, a French consultant was hired to tell us what grapes to plant on the property and exactly where to plant them. After days spent scouring the 600-acre property, we were told that in lieu of planting the Bordeaux grapes we had our hearts set on, we should instead plant asparagus. This wine has always represented our defiance ("El Desafio!"), our uprising to that challenge. In 2009 we've produced our loudest rebellion to date, an inky wine that's the polar opposite of the weedy, lean wines that this consultant believed we would struggle to produce.
On the wine
In this bottle of 2009 Desafio, we've produced what I consider to be the definition of Jonata cabernet: in the glass it displays classic cabernet notes of cassis, tobacco, cedar, subtle smoke and dark chocolate. There is a distinct earthiness to this blend that creates a great counterbalance to the immense fruit evident everywhere on this red. Plush and soft on the attack, the Desafio envelops the palate in silky black fruit and liquid minerality. Its formidable nature becomes even more evident as the cascade of tannins begins, coating the mouth with legions of firm, but incredibly fine grained tannins—a textural ride on the palate. For all of its ripeness and voluminous fruit, this wine remains sincere not only to the earthiness and complexity of cabernet sauvignon, but also to the unique cool climate of the Jonata terroir.
2009 El Alma de Jonata Cabernet Franc
While I often consider cabernet franc to be my favorite of the grapes grown at Jonata, it often also serves as the source of most of my harvest headaches. It is a difficult grape to grow and tricky to ripen, needing to hang longer than our other varieties to outgrow its hard, awkward, herbal stages. 2009 gave us the gift of truly ripe cabernet franc without all of the headaches.
On the wine
The resulting wine shows all of the classic perfumed Alma notes of lavender, cacao, black olive, scorched earth, graphite and dusty herbal nuances. However, the 2009 also displays the dense and incredibly powerful black fruit that cabernet franc is capable of producing in warmer vintages. The fruit jumps out behind the ethereal and complex initial aromatics and dominates on the full bodied and opulent mid palate. Although still very primary, this wine is also already very generous and deep, a youngster hinting at the greatness it will achieve with age. The stout tannins and backing acidity should supply ample support for years of evolution and cellar maturity to come—a heady and perfumed monster of a young wine, in the same footprint as the 2007. Chewy and complete.
2009 La Sangre de Jonata Syrah
One of the true charms of growing syrah lies in its ability to thrive amidst challenging weather conditions—it's a thick skinned, tough grape, typically the heartiest vines in the vineyard. The heat spikes in 2009 didn't seem to bother the Jonata syrah blocks; the heat during the day brought out the enormous fruit and textural qualities of the grape, while the cold nights retained the spice and elegance. We were able to pick the fruit from each block with relative ease and I recall being absolutely shocked by the intensity and concentration of the fruit in the winery.
On the wine
I will also never forget the freakish, dark color of the juice; a signal of the power to come. A winemaker from the Barossa Valley in Australia paid us a visit as we were de-stemming and filling tanks for fermentation. I decided to pull some juice out of the tank we were filling to taste, and the winemaker, assuming that the juice in my glass was finished wine ready for bottling, exclaimed that he had never seen syrah that dark. That juice that had been on the skins for less than a half an hour! We knew we were dealing with something very special at that point.
Act 1—Straight out of the glass: Unlike say, the Todos, the 2009 Sangre plays hard to get; elusive and fleeting, a monster in hiding at the moment, and yet, it's the most intimidating of all of the 2009 reds. Aromas of truffle, black pepper and fresh cut, grilled steak emerge first. All the while, an immense wall of perfumed fruit begins to build quietly in the background. There's power and tension in the wine, but the formidable tannins are hiding.
Act 2—With eight hours of decanting: Floral notes begin to appear, the density becomes more evident and the finish begins to show its seemingly endless flourish. At the beginning of day two, this wine has decided to speak in more depth. As it comes out of its shell, the 2009 reveals itself to be the most powerful and potentially age-worthy Sangre to date, as black fruit, black spice and meaty notes dominate the nose, the palate and the finish. By day three it's in full glory—a shy and mysterious bruiser of a wine that promises years and years of development and beautiful drinking (as if you can wait three days to drain the bottle). The most "wow" I've sensed in a young La Sangre to date.
2009 Todos Vineyard Blend
A celebration of all things Jonata: an unconventional blend from an unconventional vineyard in an unconventional region.
On the wine
As always, Todos is a complex wine dominated by black fruit and brooding spice, but lifted to higher levels by elegant white flowers and exotic charm. It contains our most fruit driven and hedonistic lots, but also carries a hefty dose of minerality and a flood of sweet, but persistent tannins. The 2009 strikes me as the darkest Todos we've produced to date, offering notes of wild blackberry, black truffle, grilled bread, blueberry syrup, black pepper, black olive tapenade, black licorice, mulberry, cinnamon, jasmine and steak au poivre. Its exuberant aromatics come spiraling out of the glass, wild and intoxicating—an aromatically thrilling wine. For all of the combatting elements and varieties, the 2009 Todos is singular for its precision and unity. Black plum and black cherry dominate on the generous, full bodied mid palate. The attack is pure fruit (the definition of black and blue fruit) and then moves to express the minerality of the vineyard and vintage. Seductive tannins slowly coat the palate and act to subtly conceal the sleek acid backbone. Truth is, as beautifully as this wine will age, Todos is a pleasure to drink today with a few hours of decanting.
2009 Tierra Sangiovese
This was a potentially tricky year for the finicky sangiovese grape, and it's given us the deepest and most soulful Tierra to date. As a variety, sangiovese doesn't usually revel in enduring high temperature spikes or too much direct sunlight, both of which were plentiful in the 2009 vintage. As a result, we picked (well, triaged!) ripe berries parcel by parcel, vine by vine, then cluster by cluster as each new heat spike presented itself. The resulting wine combines the higher acidity, purity of bright red fruit and overall precision of the earlier picks, with the dark, savory notes and brooding personality of the later picks.
On the wine
This is another classic example of the remarkable balance between sweet and savory in sangiovese. Pungent and alluring nose of salumi, red and black cherries, leather, black plums, anise, dark chocolate and a minty freshness. I could smell this wine and be mesmerized by its changes all day. Upon sitting in the glass, some of the classic gamey and mushroom characteristics arrive while floral notes and a hint of toasty oak join the mix. While already showing surprising power and depth, this wine responds best to long decanting and will no doubt sing with five+ years in the cellar. Tight, coiled and concentrated on the attack with a seemingly endless ride between red fruit, black fruit, those wild gamey notes and a Jonata saline quality. Young and vigorous tannins rise towards the end of the mid palate, but soon release to showcase the charm and elegance of the finish. A vin de garde Tierra.
2010 Flor Sauvignon Blanc
This is our first vintage using sauvignon blanc clone 1 (9% of the blend); its telltale herbal and grassy notes comingle beautifully with the honey, lime zest, smoke and chamomile elements from the other varieties—all wrapped in a complex leesy note.
On the wine
With remarkable richness and density, our estate-driven white blend is defined by its exotic nose and dense, honeyed mid-palate. Orange marmalade, candied grapefruit and lemon curd form the attack on the palate, underscoring a juicy and full-bodied mouthfeel. This decadent white starts to lean towards an oil-like viscosity, but is kept taut, tantalizingly refreshing and clean by the bright and focused Jonata acidity. Our most dense and complete Flor to date, the 2010 is drinking pure and beautiful today, but I'd love to see it with 5+ more years in the cellar.