Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Earthshaking Old Vine Lodi Zinfandel

Old vines are appreciated the most in Zinfandel vineyards. California's heritage grape has been growing nonstop in Lodi for more than a century, and the older the vines are, the more character the wine has. I don’t know about people who stay away from Zinfandel, I don’t trust them. Once you've had an old vine Zin, how could you ever go back to Merlot?

A recent virtual tasting of old vine Zinfandel wines from the Lodi region featured three people who are delightfully nerdy (watch) and incredibly passionate about their Zinfandel. The online session was held on National Zinfandel Day and led by Stuart Spencer, of St. Amant Winery and the Lodi Winegrape Association. He was joined by Kevin Phillips, of Michael-David Vineyards and Kyle Lerner, Harney Lane Winery. They focus on Zinfandel with a love not just of the grapes and the wine, but of the character and history of the vineyards and those who planted them so long ago.

The historical angle is right up front in this wine. The vines for Michael-David's Earthquake Zinfandel were planted about the time of the Great Earthquake of 1906 in San Francisco. The winemaker calls this beautiful Zinfandel "intentionally hostile, purposefully bold," so you'd better grab hold of something and hang on.

The grapes are actually mostly Zinfandel with a touch of Petite Sirah. It spent 14 months in oak and shows every second of it beautifully. The wine carries a big alcohol number, as Zinfandel sometimes does, up at 15.5% abv  and sells for about 26 bucks.

This wine is completely dark, in color, aromas and taste. On the nose, loads of big, black, burly, brambly fruit, with a healthy dollop of smoky sage and what I can only call burnt cinnamon. The palate offers brawn and blackberries paving a roadway for licorice and spice. Pair it with anything off the grill, especially tri-tip or rib eye.

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