2012 Zinfandel

What a long, strange trip it's been.

  Wonder what the Dry Creek Valley would be like if Montepulciano had somehow found its way to Sonoma County 100 years or so ago? I might be telling you about the latest vintage, saying it is classic Dry Creek Montepuulcinao—black color, cassis, earth and chocolate flavors with excellent tannin/acid balance. I would then segue into describing this little known grape from Puglia called Primitivo... Yeah, well that didn’t happen. Instead, a mysterious wine grape called “The Zinfandel” became the darling of locals throughout Sonoma County and Dry Creek in particular. Because I have no life, and wine is still an obsessive hobby, I recently revisited Charles Sullivan’s excellent book called Zinfandel. The book was published in 2003 and is still by far the best historical account of Zinfandel’s unlikely rise to prominence here in California. Since 2003, Zinfandel as a wine category has been on a nice roll. But as Sullivan points out, it hasn’t always been that way. Prior to the 1960’s, Zinfandel was considered a decent every day table wine, but not world class. Then Zin started losing vineyard acreage to Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and eventually Merlot, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. Fortunately, several old Zinfandel vineyards persisted in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, Amador and San Luis Obispo counties. In the 1970’s, small wineries such as Ridge, Joseph Swann, Dry Creek, Rafanelli, Montevina and Shenandoah Valley produced compelling, full-bodied wines from old vine Zinfandel. These wines were more full-bodied wines that had alcohol levels exceeding 14%!!!! For a brief period of time in the 1980’s fine wine folks started to criticize these wines for having rough edges (big tannins and high alcohol, go figure). But that went out the window in the late 1990’s, when winemakers started harvesting everything according to “physiological ripeness.” I suppose once folks got used to Cabernet at 15% alcohol, 16% alcohol Zins were just fine, thank you. Now you have the full gamut of Zinfandel styles, from high octane borderline port wines to peppery vegetal Zins made from less ripe fruit. As you might expect, we are somewhere in between. We are not particularly fond of wines made from unripe fruit because they can often have vegetal flavors and green tannins. And I think you already know how I feel about 16% alcohol Zins. So we keep the middle ground style alive by harvesting something less than overripe Zin and blending with Petite Sirah and Barbera for balance. If that makes us boring but balanced, I’m okay with that. 2012 is a perfect example of our balancing act making full-bodied, yet balanced Zinfandel. The cool to moderate weather we experienced in September allowed us to harvest our fully ripe Zinfandel at 23.5 brix, which is the first step toward achieving the above-mentioned game plan. In 2011, we were forced to harvest this vineyard at 23 brix, and the wine was void of the negative peppery flavors and green normally associated with lesser ripe Zinfandel. It gave us the courage to err on the lower side of sugar ripeness in 2012. The other critical step is blending Petite Sirah and Syrah for color and Barbera for acidity. Barbera gives our Zin snap, and we love that. To read more on this wine click HERE To purchase this wine click HERE