Monday, April 30, 2012

Frances Berwyn Zinfandel 2008


Mat Garretson is the creator of this Zinfandel.  He also created other wines from the Francis Berwyn label as well as the label that bore his own name, the Garretson Wine Company.  He helped create Hospice du Rhone, the Paso Robles organization and event devoted to the grape varieties of the Rhone Valley.

Garretson was riding a wave of small successes and accolades with his winery when the economy took its toll on his business.  He now works for a distillery.  The Francis Berwyn Wineworks website - just a handful of blog posts from the same day around 5 years ago - explains that the name of this label originated from combining his sons’ names.

His other wine company website appears to be cast to the digital winds.  A page of advertisements occupies that URL.  There’s an interview with him on a blog from 2000, in which he talks a bit about the early days of the Hospice du Rhone, and a nice 2005 Wine Spectator profile about him.  The Los Angeles Times mentioned him in a 2010 article about financial struggles in the wine industry.

Garretson and I messaged back and forth briefly, and I mentioned I was a bit sad that he was no longer making wine.  His reply instructed me not to feel that way:  "I enjoyed my time there, but family takes precedence over everything. Am back on the production side of things...but now making & selling whiskey."

Here is what Garretson wrote about his ‘08 Zinfandel five years ago:

“Paso Robles has a well-earned reputation for great Zinfandels.  It seems these days most of them follow a similar path: big and bruising wines that deliver high-octane in every glass.  After one glass of one of these 'monster Zins', I'm done...figuratively and literally.  I choose to make a more refined, 'claret style' of Zinfandel. It exhibits textbook Paso Zin style, but in a much more elegant style.”

This wine's nose is unlike any Zin I’ve ever had.  It bears an almost perfumed bouquet - and I mean that literally.  Big, sweet, ripe fruit is matched whiff for whiff by a eucalyptus note.  I don’t think I’ve ever encountered such an overwhelming sense of both fruit and vegetation in the same wine.  There’s a bit of bramble, but not so much that I’d call it rustic - it actually does smell rather elegant.  The very full mouth is quite spicy with clove, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Blackberry and blueberry are both high profile in the palate.  The wine has a great tannic grip and a slight bramble note shows up again on the finish.

Garretson produced 2000 cases of this wine, which carries a 14% alcohol level.


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