The Forgotten Grape
There are really only a few grapes that are considered by the collecting community to be “worthy”, so to speak. They include Cabernet, Pinot, Syrah, Chardonnay, Grenache, Sauvignon Blanc, Nebbiolo to name a few of the few. Give these so called experts a look at the only grape we claim to be our own, Zinfandel, and they would just as soon drink beer. It’s even had a ripple effect on those up and coming wine collectors, wine drinkers, and winemakers. They want to be accepted in the hierarchy of the elite and admitting they like Zin would mean facing instant ridicule. Thrown out of the club never to be taken seriously again, the court jester your only title. No one dare do that to someone that has been in the club and has a voice because he or she is unafraid to admit they like Zin. I know because I am that person!
I remember the rise of Zinfandel in the capable hands of people like Paul Drapper and Burt William. These wines were full bodied fruit bombs with beautiful acids and long finishes. They lingered on the palate and were much more enjoyable to drink early on than a Cabernet. But they were made with much less alcohol than they are today. Like many wines, they are made so over ripe it’s hard to recognize what I recall from the purity of this varietal.
I was sitting with one of the best known winemakers from one of the best known labels of Zinfandel at dinner several years ago. This was during the Zin rush and after the “picking late” crowd came into power. I noticed the alcohol on the bottle as 17.2% and mentioned it was really high. He looked over at me and said without missing a beat, “Greg, that wine is really over 19% Alc..” I have said it time and again. When we get too ripe and out of balance we lose what the grape is supposed to taste like. This is true for all varieties, not just Zinfandel.
It was not always so and not that long ago that people like Mr. Drapper (who is one of the pioneers), Raffanelli and others made and still make some very good wines. But even these great producers get pushed at times, maybe from larger productions or maybe from scores. I can tell you from experience that drinking a 13% Zinfandel with no other grape varietal intermixed and great natural acid is pure pleasure! Just finding one is tough these days! Zinfandel has been rumored to be brought in to our country from Italian Immigrants long ago. But did it come from Italy, some say Primitivo? Or did it come from Spain, Greece, the Middle East? Hell, I’ve heard it all. But the fact is no one really knows and so since you can’t prove it’s not ours then it’s ours! We make Zinfandel. Where else do they? No where as far as I know! So, with that I am now a producer of this grape. We picked it at low sugar, which means low alcohol and high acid. The end result is a very good example of what this wine is all about! Made in the U.S.A….has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?
For the skeptics out there, I will tell you upon the release of this wine, you need only try a bottle. If you don’t like it then I’ll be surprised and give you a healthy discount off your next purchase of one of our Pinot’s, Chardonnay’s or Syrah’s. But I’m betting honesty prevails I will be discounting very few bottles and instead receiving orders! But stay sharp, because like all other wines under our production, there is very little!
Your Fellow Zin Lover,
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