Wine Review: 2013 Ravenswood Besieged

19 10 2014

[This bottle was provided as a sample for review purposes.]

Boo!

Boo!

Let me first say that I fully support theme wines, provided that they exhibit a little bit of effort and make some shred of sense.  Seasonal and holiday releases are just fine in my books as long as they’re somewhat consistent with a winery’s overall image and aren’t just a lazy cash grab.  A producer slapping a new red Christmas label on old stock just in time for the holiday season?  Not cool.  But a winery already named “Ravenswood” concocting an on-brand, original, spooky limited release bottling for Hallowe’en?  I’m in.

Imminently available in stores near you, the 2013 Ravenswood Besieged is a field blend of 7 different, slightly disparate, and never usually combined red grapes:  Petite Sirah (cool), Carignane (double cool), Zinfandel (the winery’s bread and butter), Syrah (my favourite), Barbera (what?), Alicante Bouschet (double what?) and Mourvedre (whew).  The percentages of each grape in the blend are not listed on the label and not currently available online, but by law the grapes listed earlier on a label have to comprise a larger portion of the blend than those listed later, so you can think of Besieged as being primarily made from the thematically similar (deep, dark, bold, structured) Petite Sirah and Carignane, with a bit of kitchen sink thrown in.  The wine is from grapes sourced all over Sonoma, including top subregions Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley and a couple other Valleys.  According to the winery, this release is called “Besieged” because pioneering winemaker Joel Paterson conceived of it “under a threatening sky besieged by rain clouds” as ravens cackled overhead, a seasonally appropriate vignette which also happens to be laid out on the bottle’s equally eerie label.  My vote for the name was “Nevermore”, but the ravens may have eaten my ballot.

Cork Rating:  5/10 (Composite corks - scary, but the wrong kind of scary. Cool pic though.)

Cork Rating: 5/10 (Composite corks – scary, but the wrong kind of scary. Cool pic though.)

These kinds of special holiday releases can go one of two ways, and as the Besieged filled my glass with deep, brooding, mostly opaque yet somehow lurid purple colour, I wondered whether I would be getting the genuine article or the outlet mall knock-off.  By the time I swallowed the first sip, it was clear that Ravenswood had delivered something real here.  The nose was reflective of the wine’s California origins, full of lush, chocolate-dipped blackberry and blueberry, baking spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom), a dark inky note (not speaking metaphorically; it was like the smell of actual ink) and a slight herbal, savoury, tomatoey tinge.  It was a brawny wine on the palate, notable first for the prominent structure and definition it displayed, a combination of its quietly powerful acid and its welcome unpolished, gravelly tannins, which lent a sort of film noir authenticity and grittiness to the finished product.  This kind of power and structure was no surprise, as Petite Sirah and Carignane are both reds known for having lots of everything – acid, tannin, colour, body, flavour – making them prime candidates for high-intensity wine.  Both can also be known as blunt objects which can lack in style and elegance if not handled properly; this is where the other quintet of grapes in the blend help to fill in any gaps and round out the flavour profile.

And the Besieged’s flavours were tightly woven and complete, presenting as darker and danker than the cheery Cali nose would suggest, with tar, asphalt, charred meat and cracked pepper joining the ranks of baker’s chocolate, plum, raisin/dried fruits and leather to help make the taste and feel of the wine more like the mysterious blackness of its label.  You might be tempted to dismiss this as a standard warm weather fruit bomb on the initial sniff, but the more you go back to it and the longer it stays open, the more it defies that convention.  This is not just a Hallowe’en afterthought, but a legit bottle in its own right…not that that will stop me from doling it out to any trick-or-treater over the age of 10 that comes to my door.  (Important legal note:  not really.)  Bring on the next theme bottle!

89+ points

$25 CDN (suggested retail)

RAV_Besieged_750-2013 (TIFF) [CA-ECM2156094 Revision-2]

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One response

20 10 2014
vinoinlove

That’s a very pretty label! I tried some other Ravenswood wines in the past and liked some of them. Will see if I can find this one 🙂
Nice review. Cheers!

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