Wine from gnarly vines
Old Vine Zin
This issue completes five full years of eWine “mini lessons.” I hope it’s been useful and that it will continue to be so. Over 1,500 people have subscribed to the online version and I thought that a hundred or so would be a lot! Let’s begin our sixth year with a look at one of the truly unique treasures of California winemaking.
Last week I was in Napa Valley, learning a lot, as always, and ready to pass on the latest news of America’s, and perhaps the world’s, greatest wine regions. There’s a new trend in full swing, and I believe its effects will be seen for years to come. You can hear more on The Wine Show Friday mornings at 11:30 on KABF FM 88.3, streamed live online, by going to brucecochran.com.
Try a new wine this week!
Old Vine Zin
It was a century and more ago that wine-loving Italian immigrants established vineyards in northern California that still yield today what is called “old vine zinfandel.” They are easily recognizable by the unique “headpruning” style, where each vine stands alone on a thick, gnarly trunk instead of along a trellised row.
Many of these vineyards, from Napa Valley, Sonoma County and other areas, have been lost. After 20 or 30 years of service, many vines are replaced, not because of quality but because they produce fewer grapes. It seems that a vine has a certain amount of flavor to impart to its grapes, and this can be spread across many grapes or focused on a few, whether from age, pruning or site selection.
In a classic case of “less but better,” old vineyards can justify their existence only with quality. Sometimes that’s just not enough. The wines from these old vineyards tend to be inky dark, with hearty flavors of dark berries and spice and a depth and intensity uncommon in the world of wine.
Cline Cellars “Ancient Vines” Zinfandel comes from very old vines in Contra Costa County, east of San Francisco Bay. It offers everything in the above description, and at a price that is easily justifiable considering the quality of the wine and background of the vineyard. It retails for around $20 per bottle.