Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Evolution of a Winery

Ray Signorello Jr.
It’s a remarkable thing to experience when a string of vintages are lined up in a row of glasses and you can actually taste the progress of a cellar program. I was invited to a lunch at Signorello Estate along with a small group of trade professionals and was able to see just that. It was something like the wine equivalent of the evolution of man chart with the changes that started a few years back slowly moving towards walking upright. Credit is due to proprietor Ray Signorello Jr. for implementing a hyper-aggressive approach to quality control as his winemaking team has definitely responded to their new charge.

The changes Ray has implemented would literally be impossible for a winery that wasn’t self-financed. Try telling your banker that you’re going to cut production by 90% without cutting costs and wait for the laughter to subside before explaining that you’re serious. Ray instructed his winemaking team that anything less than the very top cut of fruit was no longer good enough for their Estate-tier wines and would be sent elsewhere. He then brought on Luc Morlet (Peter Michael, Staglin, Newton) as a consultant to help with the nuts and bolts cellar changes. Luc doesn’t hitch his name and reputation to a project unless he believes in its potential, and he saw what was possible on the property.

Signorello Winery
The meal started with their delicious ’10 “Seta” Sauvignon Blanc – Semillon blend, a leesy yet minerally style that demonstrates Morlet’s golden touch with white Bordeaux blends. It was followed by their ’09 “Vieilles Vignes” Chardonnay produced from the original 30+ year-old block planted when Ray’s father bought the property. But the real stars of the show were the next two flights. The Estate Cabernet and “Padrone” flagship red were presented beginning with ’07 and concluding with 2010 barrel samples. It wasn’t difficult to see that slashing production, employing some of Luc’s winemaking philosophies and tweaking the blends to suit the vintage were paying serious dividends. The pleasure meter kept tilting right as the tasting moved forward.

The wineries of the Silverado Trail just south of the Stags Leap District have never really received the sort of press and attention that their terroir deserves largely because no one has ever played a hand like this before. Kudos to Signorello for their moxie in proving that this section of the Valley can compete with the big boys.

--Rhett Gadke, Wine Director

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