Everyone comes to the wine business from different places and for different reasons. Peter and Betsy Spann describe their entry into the wine business as “a combination of stupidity and bad real estate decisions.” Peter had worked in the wine business for years – in retail, wholesale, marketing, you name it – when he and his wine decided to move to the Bay Area for work during the height of the dot.com boom. They couldn’t afford to buy a house anywhere near San Francisco and so started looking farther and farther north until they found themselves visiting properties that came with vineyards in the back yard. Thinking that the grapes could be a source of additional income, they purchased a property outside of Glen Ellen and attempted to sell their first vintage just as the dot.com bubble was exploding. No one would buy. So they did what anyone else who harbored a love for wine would have done in that situation. They made their own wine.
Peter and Betsy Spann grew up drinking old world wines that were a blend of multiple varietals, and when they decided to make their own wine, they very consciously decided to make wines based on that tradition of blending, and using techniques from the old world. Every Spann wine is hand harvested, destemmed, and crushed by foot treading. In most of their vineyards they dry farm, using no additional irrigation, and their yields are microscopic — in some cases as low as one ton and change per acre.
They make several wines including a Cabernet from the Mayacaymus range, a Zinfandel from Russian River (blended with 12% Mourvedre), a Syrah Zinfandel Blend, a Chardonnay/Viognier blend, and this wine in the style of a Super Tuscan which is a blend of 64% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet, 14% Merlot, 4% Syrah, and 3% Petite Sirah. In keeping with their old world inspiration, the Spann’s age their fruit in a combination of French, American, and Hungarian oak for roughly 14 months before bottling.
Peter says that one of his favorite elements of a wine is its finish, and that he and Betsy are particularly averse to wines that show the heat of their alcohol level, no matter what level it is at. They strive to make smooth, lively, food friendly wines that drink well young but have a reasonable amount of aging potential.
In addition to this wine, I’ve also tasted their “Mo Zin” and can say that if these two wines are any indication, they’ve succeeded at their goal.
This wine is a medium ruby color in the glass and has a rich nose of coffee and chocolate with some slightly floral overtones. In the mouth it is dense with exotic tea flavors that wrap around a core of brilliant cherry fruit and taper into a long finish of Indian spices that trail off for a good long while. It is well balanced and sits right on the edge of the divide between old world and new world in style.
While it goes against some traditional notions of food and wine pairing, I’d actually serve this wine with this soy glazed red snapper with sautéed vegetables and sweet potatoes. The soy glaze and the sweet potatoes require a wine that has a little bit of earth and spice to it but the wine is delicate enough not to completely obliterate the taste of the fish (any more than a soy glaze does already).
Overall Score: 9
How Much?: $20
These wines can be tricky to find as they are made in quantities below 400 cases. Their “Mo Zin” Zinfandel is available online, but so far I haven’t been able to locate this wine at a retailer (other than in an obscure wine bar in Park City Utah).