We’re excited to share our Spring 2022 release wines with you, and I’m especially happy to highlight our new Venom. Our team usually beats the Zinfandel drum, since that’s our primary focus at Seghesio, but we seize the day when we get the chance to share a bit more about our Italian Heritage wines. Venom is made 100% from the Italian varietal Sangiovese, and, in my opinion, is one of the wines that most powerfully connect Seghesio’s past to its present. With the 2019 vintage, I’d like to offer a peek behind Venom’s winemaking curtain, so to speak, and share some details I thought might be of interest – particularly for our longtime club members.
Venom was born from the original 1910 planting of Chianti Station Vineyard at our Home Ranch estate, with Sangiovese clones brought over from Italy. At that time, true Chianti wines were very light in body and flavor. We wanted to produce a Sangiovese wine with a bit more verve, so we specifically selected clones that had the smallest berries for greater concentration. Over the course of a century, we selected our favorite clones from Chianti Station Vineyard, and propagated cuttings to the blocks we know today as Rattlesnake Hill. Rather uniquely, we planted those new vines as a terraced vineyard on the face of the hill, which was no small feat. All rows were cut by human eye, as opposed to the meticulous engineering measurements that would go into something like this today (if you were even legally allowed to plant like this!). The vineyard team drove a bulldozer halfway across the terrace, watching carefully to keep everything straight and level, then went back down the hill to check their lines and have lunch; then after lunch, they went up the other side of the hill and completed the other side, meeting in the middle. Seghesio planted the final blocks in 1995, with the Sonoma County Vineyard Erosion and Sediment Control Ordinance (VESCO) going into effect immediately afterward.
Sangiovese reveals the fingerprints of winemaking. Even fine impurities can show through immediately, which is why this wine takes as much focus and care in the cellar as it does in the vineyard. One can easily impart too much oak and overpower the grape’s delicate and elegant expression. This is why we have refined our aging program over the years to retain and highlight the classic qualities of red fruit and Christmas potpourri aromatics that we love in Venom. All of that experimentation with aging regimens has also helped inform our winemaking approach across our whole portfolio.
Venom was the wine that really started our trend away from heavy toast in French oak barrels, and inspired us to utilize steam-bent barrels (in lieu of fire-bent) to help reduce astringent oak tannins. We also now use 500L oak puncheons, which impart fewer pronounced oak flavors and aromas, and have even outfitted our cellar with several concrete tanks. What we’ve learned from the use of concrete is that it gives us more control over the finished wine. When we feel like we have the perfect measure of structure and complexity from oak aging, with the right balance of oxygen (avoiding reductive qualities), we now will move the wine to concrete tanks to finish aging. This stops the oak influence like stainless steel would, but still affords a bit of oxygen transfer through the concrete to build out the mid-palate, and preserve the fresh fruit and delicate floral tones we love in this wine.
Venom also has a funny little quirk, which some of our members have discovered in past vintages. While we don’t anticipate it making an appearance in our 2019 vintage, this characteristic is something I thought would be an educational tidbit worth sharing. If you’re a health and wellness guru of sorts, you might already be familiar with quercetin, a powerful (and expensive!) antioxidant. Quercetin commonly shows up in 100% pure Sangiovese wines, as well as some Merlots. When you pull a cork from a bottle and notice a gray substance on the cork or in the wine, that’s quercetin. It is completely harmless, and is not a defect in the wine – it’s just a bit unsightly, so often catches people by surprise. A good little trick if you do encounter it is to strain your wine through a fine filter (a coffee filter works great). Please don’t pour your wine down the sink! It breaks my heart that people have done that because they didn’t know, which is why I felt compelled to share this technical nuance with you.
Finally, the 2019 Venom’s pièce de résistance is its new wardrobe. When you open your shipment this spring, you’ll see that Venom now shares the look of our other 2019 vintage Italian Heritage wines that you’ve come to know over the past several shipments. We know that change is hard, and this one might be especially difficult for some who loved the old black label. We hope you’ll appreciate why we desired a new look after 125 years, and that you trust us when we tell you the Venom in this bottle is as delicious and elegant as ever.
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