2008 Ovid Red Wine

March 21 2012 - 11:09 AM

OvidlogoThose who know me well find that I don't write a lot about Napa.  Sometimes I guess I've been disappointed, but it's good for me to get out of my Old World comfort zone and be exposed to some fantastic wines from California.

I had the pleasure of meeting Janet Pagano of Ovid Winery through Chicago Foodies.  Energetic and engaging, Janet has had a passion for wine dating back to the 1970s and has continued to fulfill her passion from her bachelor's degree in fermentation science from UC Davis to her current role as Managing Partner at Ovid. Some of her interests include the finer points of Montessori education (I was successfully convinced that teaching a two year old to chop vegetables with a knife is a good thing) to cooking and family.

Janet described the vineyard as being fourteen hundred feet in elevation in a rugged mountaint0p site that required a massive amount of rock to be cleared in this site of iron ridge clay loam (sand, silt, and clay mixture) and andesite, a type of volcanic rock.  The area that was not used for wine planting was used for cherries, olives, peanuts, and other fruits and nuts.  There is a bee-keeping operation as well, and Janet explained it is part of how Ovid is managing the biodiversity of the site.  Fifteen acres of vines were planted in 2000, a mixture of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc. All of these varietals are Bordeaux blends, and the intent is to produce nothing but blends.

Eight years and $22 million later, their first vintage, 2005 was ready for release.  For each year there are two wines: the flagship Ovid Red Wine, and the Experiment.  

For the Experiment, each vintage is considered a different experiment that will not be repeated in subsequent years.  The '08 was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, whereas the following year was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.    Equally interesting is the cryptic nature of what the experiment is called.  For 2008, for instance, the experiment is called J5.8, in honor of Janet. 

When we ordered dinner we were presented with the 2008 Ovid.  The label's typeface was reminiscent of a historical artifact from the late eighteenth century.   It also turns out that the staff at Ovid is very literary, and each person on the management team shares on the Website his favorite book, as well as a long book list.  Ovid, according to literature, "was a Roman Poet who lived from 43 BC to 17AD.  His most famous work, Metamorphoses, is a poetic narrative of the Greek myths, celebrating the themes of transformation and change," a befitting name for a hillside converted to an ever-evolving wine.

Compared to many of the wines that I drink, I found the 2008 to be densely layered, yet tame with a dark purple color.  The tannins were smooth and velvety, and it had a solid structure with a decent amount of acidity.   There were notes of plums and blackberries, and secondary chocolate and spice notes.   The alcohol level was 14.8 percent, but by no means was this drinking hot.  There was no residual sugar, and there was a nice bit of acidity on the palate.   I ordered a venison to match up with this rich symphony of flavors.  The blend was an interesting mix of 62 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 22 percent Cabernet Franc, 11 percent Merlot, and four percent Petit Verdot.   According to winemaker Austin Peterson, the founders wanted Cabernet Franc in their blend, inspired by neighboring vineyards such as Dalla Valle.   

Cellaring would do the '08 good, and like fine Bordeaux, it would drink very well after fifteen to twenty years of aging.  Unlike Bordeaux, you can drink it now if you so choose with some decanting, but the best is yet to come for those who can wait to drink this young, complex masterpiece.

–Brian Ziegler