Dry Creek Valley AVA, Sonoma Co.
Suggested Retail: $38
We love this wine. On first experiencing it, we thought, “Yes. This is the way Zinfandel is supposed to be. It smells and tastes the way Zin used to!” The phrase “Old Vine” is nebulous. There is no prescribed definition of how many years a vine must have existed to qualify. Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley has been home to vineyards from way back in the 19th Century. Dry Creek Vineyard says its 2019 Old Vine Zinfandel sources fruit from vineyards averaging over 100 years old. That certainly justifies the Old Vine definition. Replacing vines after they’ve lived 30 to 40 years usually makes economic sense as the vines produce less fruit after they reach a certain age. While their production may be “less,” it isn’t necessarily lesser quality. Some of these older vineyards survived because their owners just liked the wines they made from their grapes. These farmers from earlier times tended not to have accountants advising them on economic yields. It’s from properties such as these that the Dry Creek Vineyards’ 2019 Old Vine Zinfandel is produced. We’ve enjoyed earlier vintages of this wine, but the 2019 seems especially tasty to us. The winery says that the 2019 season allowed for longer ripening time and fuller development of much of the crop. That could have something to do with it. This vintage of Old Vine Zin contains 78% Zinfandel, 19% Petite Sirah and 3% Carignane. Were a winemaker to begin crafting a bottle of Zinfandel from separate grape sources today, those components would be a pretty good recipe for a successful blend. The old-timers who planted California vineyards long ago seemed to understand this on an intuitive basis. They frequently planted in similar percentages in what became known as a “field blend” or an “old Italian field blend.”
For a while there it seemed that Zinfandel had lost its way. So many producers of this classic American wine variety were churning out high alcohol examples that were sweet, sticky, “hot” . . . and boring. There are some producers who’re still stuck in that unfortunate style, but it seems that many have moved on to produce Zinfandel more similar to that of an earlier era.
Zinfandel commentary often includes “brambly” as a descriptor. I’ve used the term myself, but don’t know how to describe that quality to you (it does apply in the case of this wine, however). Swirling that first pour in the glass, we first found a characteristic blackberry quality. After that came a subtler raspberry aroma. Still subtler were wisps that reminded us of cocoas powder, some nutmeg and maybe some finely ground pepper. These are complexities that you won’t experience in a $10 bottle of Zin (and not always in expensive versions). Our palate found layers of complexity int the mouth, too. Our blackberry/raspberry qualities were joined by some dark cherry on the palate and touches of the spices in the nose were also subtly suffused through the flavor. More complexity is evident in a lingering, delightful finish.
Suggested Pairings: A fine match for many (mostly red) meats, this wine would also enhance big, grilled Portobelo mushrooms, briefly marinated in a vinaigrette and grilled over charcoal. The cherry component might work well with a couple of roasted mallard ducks. The richness of many versions of osso buco would be likely also, but there’d be nothing wrong with serving the 2019 Dry Creek Vineyard Old Vine Ziinfandel with something as traditional as a steak (‘We’d suggest a T-bone, grilled outdoors or, indoors, seared in a cast iron skillet).