Photo of the lovely Stampede Vineyard courtesy of its caretaker, Jeff Perlegos.

Finding Comfort in Old Vines

Share

In times of vast and overwhelming uncertainty, the wines I crave are rich, velvety, and fuller bodied; something that's going to warm you from the inside out. While there's still a bit of a chill in the air, and well, we're not going outside much these days anyway, it's a great time to crack open something that will envelop the senses and give you a tiny moment of escape. 

One of my favorite comfort wines is old-vine California Zinfandel. There's something so reassuring about a wine that comes from centenarian vines. Their steadfastness, their will to dig deep, and more importantly, the intensity and concentration they bring to their tiny yield of fruit. There's a sense of being connected to the past with these old vines. Zinfandel was one of the first grapes to be planted in this country. Dating back to the 1820's when nursery owner, George Gibbs brought cuttings from Vienna all the way to Long Island. In fact, Zinfandel was a big hit in the northeast for many years, before cuttings were taken to California in the late 1840's. It was quickly discovered that vines would grow much more easily in the California climate, and by using the European "head-training" technique, they didn't require any special wiring or equipment. 

Vines at Stampede Vineyard courtesy of Maître de Chai.

For many, Zinfandel has a bit of a sordid reputation, having been used for various bulk wines labeled "White Zinfandel" or turned into wines that could be mistaken for Port, clocking in at 15% ABV or more. I'm here to urge you to give it a second chance. Many of these gnarly, head-trained vines are being treated with the utmost respect in the hands of some phenomenal winemakers. The Stampede Vineyard Zinfandel from Maître de Chai shows finesse and restraint, while maintaining the luscious quality you want from vines planted in the 1920's. Together with the Pergelos family who owns the vineyard, they have worked tirelessly converting this vineyard to organic farming and have not used any synthetic herbicides or fungicides in at least four years in the hope of keeping this heritage alive and well for another century. 

We could not speak about high quality, impeccably-farmed Zinfandel without mentioning the Bedrock Vineyard. Originally planted in 1854, and then replanted in 1888, these vines continue to amaze us by making exceedingly flavorful wines. The Heritage Red from Bedrock Wine Co. coaxes every ounce of aroma from this incredible site. The team at Bedrock has been committed to preserving old vines across California, embracing no-tilling practices, planting cover crops to improve soil health, and increasing biodiversity to limit the need for pesticides with natural predators.

Photo of Bedrock Vineyard courtesy of polanerselections.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although not quite as "ancient", Sky Vineyards has been carefully tending to their Zinfandel vines since 1973. Located at 2100 ft above sea level on Mt. Veeder, nestled between the Napa and Sonoma Valleys, lies this humble vineyard of Zinfandel and now also Syrah. The vines are farmed organically, with no irrigation, and with a variety of cover crops. Even the winery aims to be as low-impact as possible, run entirely by solar power and a small generator, with minimal water usage and all cellar work done by hand. These wines are anything but rustic, however. The 2014 Zinfandel is an elegant Zin if ever there was one. Driven by minerality, light on its feet, truly speaking to its unique, mountain origins. 

The fact that so many of these vines are still alive through bouts of phylloxera, through Prohibition, through droughts, and times of war, and yet, they keep thriving, keep producing. That is truly something worth celebrating right now. Michelle DeWyngaert

Maître de Chai 2017 Lodi Stampede Vineyard Zinfandel

One of the first wines I ever loved was old-vine California Zinfandel, so I was very excited to taste this expression from Maître de Chai. The Stampede Vineyard was planted in the early 1920s with own-rooted Zinfandel on decomposed granite. Inspired by the wines of the famous Ridge Vineyards, this bottling is a field blend of mainly Zinfandel, with a bit of Mission and Carignan. The fermentation is done with 50% whole cluster bunches in open-top neutral oak and then aged for one year. The wine is a classic Zinfandel mix of fresh, ripe, and also dried red plum and raspberry. The tannins are present and driving, but not aggressive, well balanced by its fresh acidity, and a peppery finish. This wine will be excellent with flavorful game meats, and I look forward to trying it again in several years to see how it has progressed. Michelle DeWyngaert

  • red
  • 16 in stock
  • $36.99

  • Low Sulfur

Bedrock 2018 Sonoma Bedrock Vineyard Heritage Red

The Heritage Red from  Bedrock Vineyard is from a Zinfandel-based blend composed of 22 inter-planted varieties planted in the 1880s in Red Hill  clay-loam soils, using no-till cover crop farming, and native yeast fermentation. Zinfandel really shines from these old, gnarled vines. The concentration of flavor that you get from the very low yields adds richness to the wines without having to pick them late and overripe. The nose shows a mix of violet, minty eucalyptus, and ripe, but not syrupy, purple plum. The palate shows additional complexity with a touch of cocoa powder, black tea, and black cherry. Rich and comforting, this will be excellent in the colder months! Michelle DeWyngaert

  • red
  • 4 in stock
  • $56.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur

Sky 2014 Napa Valley Zinfandel Mt. Veeder

This is a truly unique expression of Zinfandel. It's not flashy, or bold, it embodies freshness and minerality (not words we generally associate with this grape). The Sky vineyards sit way up at 2100ft elevation on Mt. Veeder with 14 acres of Zinfandel, and a few of Syrah, on red clay soils. The vines are tended with only organic treatments, an abundance of cover crops, and no irrigation. Everything in the cellar is done by hand, fermented in open-top bins with native yeasts, punched down three times per day, pressed through an old basket press and aged in neutral oak barrels. All of that cool mountain air brings plenty of bright acidity to this wine with notes of fresh raspberry and blackberry, a touch of fresh herbs and white pepper. The palate has a beautiful, powdery texture from the clay soils, lifted by the wild, brambly fruit. Michelle DeWyngaert

  • red
  • 5 in stock
  • $42.99

  • Organic
Apr 3 2020
Produttori del Barbaresco, from two fine (and well-proven) Piemontese collections
If there’s anything that you can count on in our uncertain world, it’s the high quality of the Produttori wines. I’ve now been fortunate to taste multiple examples of every vintage of the wines since 1964, and they frankly outperform the competition (some of it much more expensive) in being consiste
Apr 2 2020
Two Food-Friendly Italian Wines
Even before the current situation, for the past half a year I have been extensively cooking at home. I've never been a good cook, and though I wouldn't profess to be one now, the improvements I've made in these past few months are the source of a personal pride, my own little victories. What I feel
Apr 1 2020
German Wine from a distinguished private collection
This collection was very much focused on Riesling. Last year we sold quite a lot of their wine; today's offer are the wines that the owner had decided to reserve for themselves. Sometime - as soon as is possible - they are moving to live permanently in France (closer to the source of most Riesling!)
Apr 1 2020
New Arrivals from Champagne André Beaufort, 1996 - 2010, Very Limited Availability!
It's not exactly a festive time, appropriate for enjoying Champagne as a toast among friends or enjoyed together over a leisurely dinner. Let us just hope that all of you and your families and friends come through this ordeal safely, with the ability to share a glass of Champagne, celebrating life's
Mar 28 2020
Alberto Nanclares & Silvia Prieto: Single Vineyard Wines from the Atlantic Coast of Spain
Alberto Nanclares was once an economist. It is our great luck that he decided to move from the Basque country to the Val do Salnes with his wife, and that, once there, he embarked on a viticultural journey. Beginning with a tiny number of conventionally farmed vines, he now organically farms two-and
Mar 26 2020
Part of a fine collection
From a client with impeccable taste who finds he has too much wine in his cellar. In any case they speak for themselves! PLEASE NOTE: due to limited staff, we will be able to deliver these wines towards the middle of next week. We are only accepting orders for delivery - no pick-ups.
Mar 20 2020
Namazake + New Sake Arrivals
Sake is undeniably becoming more popular in the US market. We are seeing more of our colleagues in the beverage industry becoming interested in the drink, posting about it on Instagram, and generally becoming more excited to talk about sake. Publications that have previously been devoted to wine, sp
Mar 18 2020
Restocked and ready for deliveries! Introducing new Sampler Cases
We've been adapting to the COVID-19 dilemma, and taking it one day at a time. Last weekend we were cleaned out of inventory so we restocked and now there are boxes everywhere! A lot of folks are opting for the our Chambers Street sampler cases lately, so we figured we'd offer some new options: Natur
Mar 17 2020
Cornelissen: New Wines
In Sicily, as in mainland Italy, 2017 was a challenging vintage, with a lot of very hot and dry weather. Thus vines at higher altitude - as on Mt. Etna - fared better, and it helped to have old vines, as they manage the "hydric stress" of drought better than younger plants. These factors may in part
Mar 16 2020
Mezcal Arrivals from Miahuatlán and Beyond
It's no secret that in the past few years mezcal has taken hold of our hearts. The diversity, complexity, and nuance on display is quite astounding, and variations on both production method and style can vary wildly, even from one town to the next. On the other hand, information is scarce,