Wintry Zins

12/7/16 -

(A Myriad of Barrels at Bedrock Wine Co. - Photo: Ariana Rolich, February 2016)

Since Zinfandel's heyday in the mid-to-late 90s, the rich, bold, and hedonistic flavors have been dialed back; elegance, restraint, and balance have come to the forefront as a result of producers' focus on old-vine sites and better farming practices. This e-mail focuses on several Zinfandels we recommend for the upcoming winter months.

Morgan Twain-Peterson literally grew up around old-vine Zinfandel. His father was Joel Peterson, the founder of Ravenswood Winery, which specialized in Zinfandel produced from some of the oldest vineyards in California. After studying American history at Vassar for undergrad and then at Columbia for grad school, he returned to his roots in Sonoma and started Bedrock Wine Co. in 2007. Partnering with friend Chris Cottrell (who also moved from New York to California), the company's mission has been to seek out and make wine from low-yielding, historic vineyards (planted in the late 1800s or early 1900s) throughout California, including Sonoma Valley but also in Alexander Valley, Russian River Valley, Lodi, and Contra Costa.

Although Ridge Vineyards became internationally famous for their iconic Monte Bello Cabernet, their range of Zinfandels are some of the most consistently excellent and elegant examples of this variety. Ridge Geyserville (whose vines are located on the western edge of Alexander Valley in Sonoma County) is not only a traditional field blend of Zinfandel and complementary varieties (Carignane, Petite Sirah, and Mataro), but also home to the oldest vines Ridge farms (some are more than 130 years old!).

Day is Ehren Jordan's new Zinfandel project. One could say this a return to form, as he had previously worked at Turley Wine Cellars (also well noted for their Zins). Ehren is pursuing a terroir and vineyard driven expression of Zinfandel inspired by the unique climate and geology of Sonoma County in addition to the grape's importance in the region's winemaking history.

Michael and Anne Dashe at Dashe Cellars focus on producing exceptional, single-vineyard wines using small-lot and native yeast fermentation; over the past 20 years, they've partnered with their growers in Sonoma and Mendocino counties to lower yields and reduce or eliminate the use of chemicals in the vineyards.

Last but not least, Lore Olds' inaugural vintage at Sky Vineyards was in 1981, but he has been working in Napa Valley since the early 1970's. While working at Beaulieu Vineyards and Mayacamas, he recognized the potential of Mt. Veeder's volcanic soil, warm days, and fog-chilled nights. Lore found a piece of property on the mountain, cleared the land, and planted Zinfandel and Syrah grapes. Later he incorporated cover crops, dry farming, and organic fertilizers in the estate's viticultural practices.

Winter puts me in the mood for full-bodied red wines like Zinfandel. Like toasty fireplaces, their robust flavors warm up the body and are perfect to meditate over while enjoying the company of friends and family. We're excited to offer these wines today: enjoy a glass with beef stew, aged cheddar or gouda, or on its own while wrapped up in warm sweater! Jonas Mendoza

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