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Indulge your senses at beautiful, historic Freemark Abbey Winery in Napa Valley, CA. Assistant Winemaker Brian Kosi explains ...
how they create handcrafted wines from the renowned Rutherford appellation. From Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier to Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, learn what makes each varietal special.
Tags:Napa Wines Tasting and Review,Assistant Winemaker Brian Kosi,Behind the Burner,Freemark Abbey Winery,How Wine is Made,Wine Varietals 101
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Napa Wines Tasting and Review
Alexis Ewing: Hi, I’m Alexis Ewing. To begin learning about wine, the best way to do it is to learn basic grape varietals first. We are here in Napa Valley, California at Freemark Abbey Winery to learn and feel that. Let’s go Behind the Burner and meet the wine maker.
Hi, I’m here with assistant wine maker of Freemark Abbey in Napa, Brian Kosi. Now, Brian what great varietals do you use to make at Freemark Abbey?
Brian Kosi: Well, let’s say we make a number of whites and reds. The first is our Suavignon Blanc. We also make a Viognier, Chardonnay, Merlot and three Cabs one normal at Napa Valley Cab and two single Vineyard Cabernets.
Alexis Ewing: Great, well I’m super thirsty so let’s get started tasting through these, and so the first one we have here. This is the Sauvignon Blanc.
Brian Kosi: It is the Sauvignon Blanc. It’s coming from Yountville Vineyard. It’s an organic vineyard. I pick it they are little on the leaner side not too ripe I want to retain the natural acidity in it.
Alexis Ewing: Great.
Brian Kosi: I make it 50% stainless steel it’s a French oak. I dip certainly where I stir the barrel once a week and I don’t let it go through my locket.
Alexis Ewing: Well, Sauvignon Blanc typically has citrus flavors, some herbal flavors maybe fresh cut grass and sometimes more fruit like peach or tropical, so you’re tip to maybe get more richness from Sauvignon Blanc is certainly aging which means the aid of the yeast, the dead yeast. It sounds great. Okay, let’s go to Viognier.
Brian Kosi: Now, the Viognier is coming from Carpy Ranch. It’s in the heart of Rutherford; Jack Carpy was one of our founding partners back in 1967. This is a 100% Viognier, it’s one of my favorite to make, and make it very similar to the Sauvignon Blanc where I get 50/50 stainless and French oak.
I pour a little bit more out of it into oak and I did it certainly no male lactic and you just get this fresh, nice breath of boutique of a flowers and some fruit.
Alexis Ewing: Great, so Viogneir commonly is growing in the — areas specifically of the ground valley of French. We also grow it here in California obviously and it’s growing in Australia as well. Let’s see with how it taste.
Brian Kosi: A little bit of griminess from the fairly aging that I can get it from my mouth. Like I said I want to lift the acid so it goes with fruit.
Alexis Ewing: So,—like the fermentation you mentioned and now that’s what Brian is talking about, okay great. So, Chardonnay typically is growing al over the place. California, Napa obviously and Burgundy is probably the most famous, so it’s sort of the queen of grapes.
Brian Kosi: Well, the Chardonnay is a little bigger, it’s a little richer, so we want to give a little bit more wood. We still do a 50% stainless, 50% French oak fermentation. The stainless steel is fermented in about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. It takes about almost a month for it to ferment.
Once it’s fermented it will take 30% out, so we’ll have about your 70% wood, 30% in stainless steel 3:07 things both will remain on leaves. Stir barrels once a week to gain that richness and we still won’t let it go through our mouth.
Alexis Ewing: So, you have several tricks for Chardonnay.
Brian Kosi: Yes.
Alexis Ewing: One is you use stainless steel fermentation actually and what is that to?
Brian Kosi: It gained crispness. You don’t lose the aromatics.
Alexis Ewing: Great, so Chardonnay typically and this one does as well for Napa has pear, apple, little toastino, little spice, maybe some nutmeg.
Brian Kosi: We don’t want to add too much spice. We don’t want to over seasons our food, so with the Chardonnay we only put about 20% to 30% new wood on it. Viogneir and Sauvignon Blanc, they get less than 10% new wood.
Alexis Ewing: So, Merlot typically is —
Brian Kosi: Soft, fruity round. Our Merlot tends to be a little bigger and richer, and coming from the Rutherford Bench we tend to source some really great vineyards from them, and we add a little bit five, 10% Cabernet and a little —and— just to give it a little depth.
Alexis Ewing: Great, so a trick you use is to blend in other varietals with your Merlot.
Brian Kosi: Yes.
Alexis Ewing: I smell a lot from this Merlot. I don’t always get a lot on the nose from Merlot. How do you retain the aromatics?
Brian Kosi: We don’t do very many rocks and boxes. We just tap it and make sure it sounds and let it be.
Alexis Ewing: So, your trick is—
Brian Kosi: Hands up.
Alexis Ewing: Not manipulating the wine leaving the grapes to do it and naturally they do.
Brian Kosi: Exactly.
Alexis Ewing: I’ve noticed the in common and trend in all the Freemark Abbey wines they all have a really great amount of acidity making them very balance. A lot of Napa Valley wines can be over the top fruit because it’s very warm in California, so how do you retain that acidity in all of your wines?
Brian Kosi: Pick dates. One thing I’ve learned being here working for Ted is he tends to like to pick early and I like to pick early and keeping the pick early enough you’re not only retaining that natural acidity, but also your bricks aren’t spiking up so you’re not going to get this high alcohol wines.
Alexis Ewing: Right, and what are bricks? Which bricks?
Brian Kosi: Bricks is a degree of sugar.
Alexis Ewing: But they are great.
Brian Kosi: Of sweet’s maintenance.
Alexis Ewing: Freemark Abbey is very famous for Cabernets.
Brian Kosi: This Cabernet is one of my favorites. It’s a blend of numerous different vineyards throughout the valley.
Alexis Ewing: Right.
Brian Kosi: Including our own in Rutherford. We have Red Farm Ranch. We also have two single vineyards, the Voche Vineyard and the Sickamore which is on the west side of the Highway 29 which is known as the Rutherford’s Bench
Alexis Ewing: Cabernet is growing all over the world, in main regions Bordeaux, Australia.
Brian Kosi: Napa, Sonoma.
Alexis Ewing: Of course.
Brian Kosi: It grows like a weed and only a handful of places that can produce ultra premium wine from it and where luckily it’s here.
Alexis Ewing: Great, well thank you so much for your time Brian.
Brian Kosi: Sure.
Alexis Ewing: This has been great.
Brian Kosi: Cheers, thank you.
Alexis Ewing: Thank you. Stay tune to Behind the Burner where we give you the tips, tricks and techniques that are lighting the culinary world on fire.