Wine of the week: Olema, 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County
Tony Biagi remembers a time when winemakers just had to watch the weather. Now, the winemaker of Olema Wines said, he and his team all have fire-notification apps on their phones.
“Things have changed in recent years, and now part of harvest preparations include fire prep,” Biagi said. “We make sure we stay on top of what is going on.”
Biagi is behind our wine of the week winner — the Olema, 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County, 14.5%, $25. It has a great concentration of fruit — black cherry with a streak of currant — and dark chocolate in the mix. With ripe tannins and a long finish, it’s well-crafted and overdelivers for the price.
Sonoma Country grapes give this bottling great appeal, Biagi said.
“I love Sonoma County cabernet,” Biagi said. “We are in constant pursuit of the best sites in Sonoma and are able to source great fruit from great regions — Moon Mountain, Sonoma Mountain and Dry Creek. It’s this behind-the-scenes dedication to finding the best vineyards that helps make this wine a standout.”
The winemaker said he has enjoyed pinpointing the best vineyards.
“You don’t realize how big Sonoma County is until you spend an entire day driving around with your assistant winemaker,” he said. “There have been a lot of miles, a lot of laughs and lot of roadside coffees consumed.”
Selecting vineyards with great potential is key because cabernet reflects the place in which it’s grown, Biagi said.
“It’s my job to bring that sense of place to each of the wines that we make,” he said.
At first, before he realized winemaking was his calling, Biagi studied marine biology at UC Davis.
“I knew I was never cut out for a desk job,” he said. “I love being outside. I switched from marine biology to wine when I took a class at UC Davis on viticulture and fell in love with it. I love the intersection of art and nature that winemaking allows you to have. I can honestly never see myself doing anything else.”
Biagi, 50, graduated from UC Davis in 1995 with a degree in fermentation science. He’s worked for Napa Valley wineries Duckhorn, Paraduxx, Plumpjack, Cade and Odette. As winemaker of Amici Cellars, Biagi crafts Olema in its portfolio.
“I love making the Olema cabernet sauvignon,” he said. “I make plenty of high-end wines that sell for hundreds of dollars a bottle. But knowing that the $25 cabernet is as good as it is and is accessible to customers, is really what excites me as a winemaker.”
Right now, Biagi said, he’s determined to embrace the harvest, despite the threat of wildfires.
“We can’t live in fear of the unknown,” he said. “Mother Nature is always the most challenging part of winemaking. We all think that we can control her, but in the end, she always has the last laugh. ... You just have stay on top of your game and stay focused on delivering the best wines.”
Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at email@example.com or 707-521-5310.
Wine, The Press Democrat
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