Not knowing what I was going to write about this week for Beaconeers I pondered…over a bottle of 2002 Summers Napa Valley Zinfandel from the Villa Adriana Vineyard, the last bottle from a case we brought home after tasting and picnicking there. Then, after being greeted by a blast of flavor, I had my column.
Being a Zin fan, and used to the assault on my palate, I was still surprised at what I got off this one. We had laid it down about 5 years. Expecting some of the strong Zin characteristics like heavy spice, pepper and fruit, I was more than thrilled to find that these qualities had only ripened further. And not over-ripened at all.
The nose burst with mouth-watering dark fruit: blackberries for me as well as cherry (as per the handy back label tasting notes) for the winemaker Ignacio Blancas. The flavor, with and without food, was substantial, what I would call “chewy” as it lingered on my tongue and nose well past the usual finish.
Preferring my wine tasting without food because I’m a wino, Zinfandel is one of the heartiest branches of the wine tree. Most people prefer these stronger bodied wines with food such as pasta and steak. But I rushed though my pasta dish that night as I wanted to linger, not over food, but over the wine.
I tossed everything; pots and pans included, into the new dishwasher, wiped off the counters in one quick swipe, and headed into our home office armed with wine glass and half empty bottle and began my research.
I was able to get a hold of winemaker Ignacio Blancas at the winery for an interview and asked him just three questions:
- As the winemaker at Summers, and knowing this is all about your remarkable Zinfandels, can you tell readers what the main characteristic is that you look for? “Well, pretty much, I want the wine to be fruit forward.”
- Was this vintage, 2002, indicative of most of your Zins produced or different in any way? “That’s hard to recall…each vintage is different due to mother nature and the challenges presented. But we have been making Zins in the Summers style since 1998.”
- What’s the new vintage like and where can we get it? “The one available now is our 2006 and you’d have to look for it as we are right in the process of switching distributors. But…you can get it at the winery.”
My 2002 is no longer available, I’m looking for any 2004 but they do have the 2006 Estate Zinfandel: http://www.summerswinery.com/ Here are the notes: Ignacio’s 2006 Estate Zinfandel is grown and produced on the Villa Andriana Vineyard which consistently produces high quality, premium Zinfandel wine. Our 40 year old Zinfandel vines are stressed by the hot microclimate of Northern Calistoga resulting in exquisite, dark, rich and full-bodied Zinfandel fruit. The approach is fruit forward, with spicy oak undertones, ideal tannins and a lingering, lush berry, vanilla finish. $34 bottle.
Vintage 2006: 92 – Wine & Spirits Magazine Feb. 2009 Rated “One of the Year’s Best Zinfandels” by Wine & Spirits Magazine in the upcoming February 2009 issue.
Vintage 2004: 92 points – Wine Enthusiast November, 89 – Robert Parker 7/30/06, Gold Medal 94 points – California State Fair 2006.
One reader, *Michael P., is a fan of Summers but recommends their Charbono. I hope to try this one soon as my Zin has a 13.2% alcohol while Michael’s “passes the 14% line” and this link he sent me tells that Summers pretty much has cornered the Charbono grape market in Napa: http://wine.appellationamerica.com/wine-review/535/Summers-Charbono.html
I asked Ignacio about the Charbono and he said that about 12 wineries are making it now; Summers is still the largest producer. Maybe up to 80 acres are growing Charbono grapes. Then I hit him with the tough question: Which would you choose tonight with dinner, Summers Zinfandel or Charbono? To which he aptly answered in the time it would take to picture the wines in his mind’s eye and mine…“Both”.
(*2014 note: You all know who reader Michael P. is? Got to be the one and only Michael Perlis! Our editor and author of weekly “Perlis Picks”!)