A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to be included in a tasting (virtual, of course) of several California Zinfandels from legendary vineyards. What makes a vineyard “legendary”? Well, that is not necessarily all that easy, but like another less refined category, “it is not easy to define, but you know it when you see it.”
Back in February, I wrote an article for ZAP, the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers, and I interviewed several people about what exactly makes a vineyard “legendary.”
Based on these conversations and a bit for research, first and foremost, the vineyard needs to have a bit of a history of producing great fruit that leads to fantastic wines. Second, legendary Zinfandel vineyards tend to be old (another adjective that needs a bit of unpacking since it can refer to vineyards planted any time during the last century).
Last, there needs to be some demand for the fruit that is produced by the vineyard, but that is also a bit fraught with complexity since some legendary vineyards are either wholly-owned or sourced by a single winery.
Yeah, it’s complicated.
Nonetheless, here are four more wines from legendary vineyards I tasted, all of which were phenomenal.
2017 J. Dusi Zinfandel Paper Street Vineyard, Paso Robles, CA: Retail $60. 100% Zinfandel. B.A.B. I was writing an article about legendary Zinfandel vineyards in Paso Robles for ZinEx and I interviewed Janell Dusi. She was kind enough to send along a few samples, including this Paper Street Zin. While it was not really a fit for that article, as the vineyard is just a handful of years old (and therefore falls short, at least for now, of “legendary”), it is an incredible wine. On day one, this was a bit big and plenty nervous. While it had settled down a bit on day two, the big fruit was still holding court. Really fruity on both the nose and palate but the latter is quite more complex. Layer upon layer of flavors with an intensity of fruit that is particularly rare. The finish is even more noteworthy as it lasts for quite some time, with the fruit lingering for minutes. Whoa. Would love to revisit this in a few years. Excellent to Outstanding. 94-96 Points.
2018 Martinelli Zinfandel Giuseppe & Luisa, Russian River Valley, CA: Retail $58. 100% Zinfandel. The first vines in this vineyard were planted by Giuseppe & Luisa Martinelli in 1880. That three acres vineyard came to be known as Jackass Hill and has been added to over the century-plus since that first planting. Martinelli picks their fruit on the ripe to very ripe side, which leads to big, rich, boisterous wines and this Zin is another example. It is big. It is fruity. It is rich. And you will need your big person pants for this one (16.4%). Boysenberry, blackberry, vanilla, tons of fruit on the nose and on the palate where plum is added to the bowl along with blueberry and perhaps peach. Basically, every fruit you can think of is likely in there, you just need to take the time to find it. If you can’t tell, this is not really my jawn (Philly term), but I have to say it is *good*. And if you like the big, fruity, jammy, in your face kind of Zinfandel, this is *great* even approaching Holy Grail-like status. Whoa. Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
2018 Rock Wall Wine Co. Zinfandel Reserve Zinfandel Maggie’s Vineyard, Sonoma County, CA: Retail $45. Kent Rosenblum, a legendary figure in California Zinfandel, leased Maggie’s Vineyard in the Spring of 2018, excited about the fruit produced by the vineyard planted in 1901. Sadly, Mr. Rosenblum died a mere six weeks before harvest that year. Thus, the harvest, vinification, and certainly grief, fell on the shoulders of his daughter Shauna Rosenblum. The fact that she sent this wine out to me for review was moving enough, but then I tasted the wine. Regardless of the backstory, whoa. Shauna intimated that she aims for a more reserved Zin (probably more so than her father) and thus picks the fruit at lower Brix and lower pH. The result? Whoa. While there is dark, brambly fruit on the nose with hints of vanilla and clove (my wife called it “Christmas”), the palate is even more delectable. Vivacious (but also restrained–if that’s possible) fruit, zingy acidity, and a subtle richness that endures for minutes after the finish. Yowza, this is one of the best Zins I have had in a while. Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
2016 Three Wine Company Zinfandel Live Oak, Contra Costa County, CA: Retail $36. 78% Zinfandel, 12% Petite Sirah, 5% Carignane, 4% Mataro, and 1% Alicante Bouschet. This wine come from Erin and Matt Cline, the latter of Cline Cellars fame. Starting at Cline, Matt has been working with this vineyard, planted in 1885 (!), for close to 30 years. About 2/3 of the vineyard consists of those original vines, on their own rootstocks. Dark red fruit, black pepper, and a bit of mint on the nose, this is even better on the palate. Rich flavors, great fruit (but in check), and layers of depth. If you have not had a “serious” Zinfandel (you would know if you had), this is a fabulous launch point to explore the serious side of “America’s grape.” Excellent to Outstanding. 92-94 Points.