If you’re anywhere in the area of either our tasting rooms today, and if you have any interest in Zinfandel, I think we may have a little something special on offer for you. It’s the third edition of our Summer Wine Series for 2010, and for today’s theme, we’ve selected “Zinfandel: The Art of the Blend.” And what we’ve put together for a tasting flight, is, I think, a rather uniquely educational opportunity to experience the full range of what this oft-misunderstood varietal truly has to give.
What we’ve done is put four wines together, and staged them as a progression of blending varietal expressions; meaning, the first wine is solo-varietal zinfandel, the next has one varietal in the blend, the next two, and the next three. The specific wines we’ve selected are as follows:
2008 Paso Robles
Vines ripened uniformly, and we harvested all three parcels within a week—a record. Primary fermentation was carried out by natural yeasts. Juice was pumped over the cap twice daily until pressing—day eight, on average. Uninoculated secondary fermentation took forty days. The finished lots were blind-tasted for assemblage; for once, all could be included. Exotic barrel spices complement the vineyard’s ripe bramble fruit, and this year’s intense color is striking. Integrated and enjoyable now, this excellent vintage will develop over the next five to seven years. EB (8/09)
—Zinfandel & Petite Sirah—
Cool spring weather delayed budbreak, but flowering and fruit set were complete by early June, and a warm summer ripened the grapes fully by early September. The grapes all fermented on their natural yeasts for twelve days, on average. After natural malolactic, we racked the new wine to american oak barrels, fifteen percent of which were new. Rich and full-bodied, the 2008 Ponzo is nonetheless elegant—a zinfandel to be enjoyed over the next five to seven years. JO (11/09)
2007 Lytton Springs
—Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, & Carignane—
After a dry winter and spring, budbreak came early. A warm August ripened the fruit earlier than expected, and we harvested the thirty-four parcels as flavors developed fully, fermenting each separately on its natural yeasts. Aged for fifteen months in air-dried american oak, this classic Lytton Springs is remarkable for its richness, balance, and elegant texture. It will soften and gain complexity over the next ten years. JO (11/08)
—Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignane, & Mataro—
In tank, color and tannin extraction was unusually rapid, as were uninoculated primary fermentations. We reduced pump-overs and pressed early, avoiding harsher tannins. Zinfandel and carignane showed exceptional quality, and form the core of the blend. (Wines from the petite sirah parcels were too tannic; the six percent included comes from a field-blend.) Twenty percent new oak adds exotic spice. Superb concentration and firm acid will allow this fine zinfandel to develop over the next ten to fifteen years. EB (11/09)
And if that wasn’t enough, we’ve capping this tasting with a sample of our 2006 Monte Bello, and our 2007 Geyserville Essence!
2006 Monte Bello
Summer was unusually warm; picking began on September 18, ahead of schedule. Though a cool October slowed ripening, all parcels were harvested within five weeks, and natural yeasts started the primary within three days. Uninoculated secondary began in tank; eighty percent of the thirty-six lots were racked to barrel for completion. Thirteen were selected for the first assemblage in late January. Additions of petit verdot and cabernet franc contributed depth. Balanced and elegant now, this exceptional vintage has the structure to carry it for twenty-five years or more. EB (3/08)
2007 Geyserville Essence
We made our first Zinfandel Essence from Geyserville in 1966. To produce an essence, the vines must remain vigorous late into the season, with green leaves for photosynthesis. To intensify color and concentrate sugar, the grapes were left on the vine for three additional weeks; they co-fermented on natural yeasts. To our delight, the initial Brix reading was beyond the hydrometer’s ability to measure. It took five days for the yeast to begin fermentation, another five days to stop naturally—fully stable. The wine aged in air-dried american oak barrels; clarity was achieved through careful racking. Opulent and full-flavored, the 2007 Essence can be enjoyed now and over the next twenty years. EB (9/08)
So, if you can, come join us!