Thursday, March 11, 2010

Old-vine Zinfandel tasting notes

I have a story in the Los Angeles Times today about old-vine Zinfandel. There wasn't space for many tasting notes, so I'm supplementing with some wines that I just didn't have space to include.

(By the way, isn't that picture fantastic? I don't know Robert Durell, but I want to thank him for drawing people into the story)

Bucklin Bambino Old Hill Ranch Sonoma Valley Zinfandel 2007
From newer vines on this superb old vineyard, this wine shows that the terroir is as important as the age of the vines. Savory and earthy aromas of prosciutto, black currant, herbes de Provence and Concord grape. It's also very savory, almost salty, on the palate. Flavors of pastrami black currant jam and tobacco leaf. Restrained alcohol (14.6%) helps make this Bambino elegant. 90

Bucklin Old Hill Ranch Sonoma Valley Zinfandel 2006
It's interesting to taste what different winemakers do with the same vineyard. In this case, as promising as this wine is, with apologies to Will Bucklin, I think it demonstrates the talent of Ravenswood's Joel Peterson. It's subtle and complex on the nose; it doesn’t reveal all at once. Aromas of cherry and raspberry fruit, with notes of black pepper, tobacco leaf, blood orange and juicy green plum. Even some blood orange. But on the palate, it's big-bodied, tannic and a little hot. I like the cherry fruit and the savory herbes de Provence note on the finish. 15.3% alcohol. 88

Ravenswood Old Hill Sonoma Valley Zinfandel 2007 ($60)
Just barely able to be called Zinfandel (76%). Winemaker Joel Peterson picks the Zin first, then the mixed blacks, and blends them together slightly differently each year. You'd expect such a wine to be complex, and it delivers, with intense cherry and berry fruit, earth, violet and black pepper. It's juicy on the midpalate but tannic on the back of the tongue, and there's pretty raspberry on the long finish. This wine ages well but is also fascinating on release. 93

Carlisle Two Acres Russian River Valley Red Wine 2007
This is one of the most unusual old-vine field blend wines in California: a Mourvedre-based field blend that Mike Officer says is one of his most popular. Initially earthy and a little funky on the nose, it gets more fruit-driven (dark cherry) with air, along with notes of raw lamb, black currant and black pepper. On the palate, it's dark cherry with that funky, raw-lamb note, almost pungent. Thirst-quenching acidity. Savory on the finish, like grilled lamb. I can’t help wondering what it would be like to drink with lamb. Just 13.7% alcohol, so it's food-friendly. 90

Carlisle Carlisle Vineyard Russian River Valley Zinfandel 2007
Wow, what a nice wine, one of the best I tasted for the story. Juicy blackberry, coffee grounds and crushed stones notes with good acidity and balance. There's a hint of saltiness, and violet comes out on finish. 14.8% alcohol. 93

School House Vineyard Mescolanza Spring Mountain District Venerable Red Wine 2006
A very savory wine with black currant fruit, earth, a pretty floral note and a smoked ham note. Also a little black coffee. I like the mouthfeel, present but not heavy. It reminds me on the palate of a Cotes du Rhone; in fact, this is a Zinfandel that tastes French, if you can imagine that. 15.0% alcohol. 90

Starry Night Nervo Station Vineyard Alexander Valley Old Vine Zinfandel 2007
I liked this wine more the more I drank it. I know that implies that I didn't like it at first, but that's not the case. In this crowd, it seemed more simple initially in a way that most people would enjoy: juicy black fruit with a note of vanilla. Of course, there's nothing wrong with juicy black fruit, and the underlying notes of mushroom, pine forest and anise add substance. Just 14.4% alcohol, the bottle started to empty surprisingly quickly with dinner. This might be the gateway drug for all old-vine field blends. 92

Three Evangelho Contra Costa County Zinfandel 2007
An interesting wine that reveals itself gradually: Black and red berries, black pepper, earth. There's also a woodiness that’s not really oakiness, as well as leafy and chocolate notes that remind me of Cab Franc. Nice mix of savory and fruitiness that keeps growing on you. 14.8% alcohol. 90


David J.D. said...

Hey, heard you wrote for SF Chron. Remember this?

So much good stuff out there and you rewrite a four year old article. I know the LA Times is behind the curve, but really?

W. Blake Gray said...

I know all journalists look alike ... but me and Tim Teichgraeber have appeared in the same room together, and recently.

Since you can't bother to tell our names apart, I'm sure you didn't take the time to read the two articles either.

Did you know Barack Obama and Bill Clinton are also different people?

Glenn Proctor - Puccioni Vineyards said...

Blake - nice article. Let me know and I will send you a bottle of our Puccioni Old Vine Zinfandel (100 year old vines) Thanks

Anna said...

One Zinfandel I think you would like it The Lucas Winery ZinStar. It is from a 70+ year old vineyard in the Lodi Appellation and is 100% pure Zin. As far as I know they are the only winery in the world that produces their Zin with the Gran Chai concept.

W. Blake Gray said...

After reading the comment, I looked up "Gran Chai concept," and it seems to be just a marketing term for barrel aging. A winery which promotes that as unique, you have to wonder about.

Bill O said...

Nice photo of Joel and his son Morgan in their Bedrock vineyard. You definitely have some good Zins here. It will definitely be fun to keep tabs of what Morgan is doing at Bedrock just around the corner from Old Hill.