An Irishman, an Israeli and a Korean walk into a tasting room.
While this may sound like the opening line of a bad joke it is actually how I found out about Zialena.
The Irishman and his Israeli wife are friends of ours. They were visiting Sonoma County with their friend, the Korean gentleman, when their driver suggested they go to a fairly new winery that they had not yet heard of.
They enjoyed their experience so much that they gave me the Tasting Room Manager’s business card. When we were planning our trip a few months later, I reached out to Reece Channell to schedule a visit.
When we drove up the long winding driveway to the modernistic winery and tasting room in Alexander Valley, I thought at first I was at the winery of some wealthy dabbler with a vanity winery project; the place looks that cool.
It turns out I was totally wrong, as the owners of Zialena have deep roots in the area, being one of those “becoming-rare-like-a-unicorn” families that Scot Bilbro alluded to in my previous article.
In fact, the Mazzoni family’s story in Geyserville goes back to the early 1900s when Giuseppe Mazzoni emigrated from Italy. He became a grape farmer and winemaker with Italian Swiss Colony. Giuseppe’s sons produced wine commercially until the 1970s (look for the old barn off the 101 with the Dr. Pierce’s sign on it) after which grandson Mike established Mazzoni Vineyards.
As often happens, Mike’s kids Lisa and Mark wanted to get the family back into the winemaking business, and Zialena (with Mark as winemaker and Lisa as General Manager) was born, naming it after their aunt (“Zia” in Italian) Lena. The winery and tasting room buildings that I found to be so cool were designed to showcase the family property as well as highlight the modern aspects of the winery itself. The centerpiece of the winery are several open-top concrete fermentation tanks which are emblazoned with what I had initially thought to be a starburst pattern but turned out to be the pattern of Zia Lena’s ravioli stamp, which is the logo of the winery.
Tasting is available in the tasting room or on the patio. As the weather was great, we opted for the patio and tasted through some of the current releases:
2016 Sauvignon Blanc
2017 Rose of Sangiovese
2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
This was a very tasty selection. The Sauvignon Blanc and the Rose of Sangiovese were both very refreshing, the Sangio in particular picking up that grape’s complexity. The 2013 Cabernet showcases the fruit that makes Sonoma County my favorite destination for Cab. The 2014 Cappela is a true Zinfandel-based field blend that is an homage to the family history and is delicious.
Speaking of Zins, those for me were the shining stars, not to mention having an interesting story behind them.
It wasn’t until Mark and Lisa had already started making wine at Zialena that their father Mike happened to mention the Mazzoni clone of Zinfandel.
This is how Reece explained it:
In the drafting process of the vineyard map with varietals and acreage breakdown Mike mentions very nonchalantly “….. and this is planted with Mazzoni clone Zinfandel.” Both Mark and Lisa immediately ask, “Wait what? Mazzoni clone Zinfandel? What is that?” Mike then tells the story of how Duff Bevill of Bevill Vineyard Management came across Giuseppe’s original vineyard at the location of the Doctor Pierce’s barn. Eventually Duff came over to talk to Mike about it because he was the only family member who knew about the old home ranch. They decided to find out more about the Zinfandel on the property by taking bud wood to UC Davis for analysis. Sure enough Davis had not seen this Zinfandel before! It was then registered by Davis as the Bevill/Mazzoni clone of Zinfandel. It is a heritage pre-prohibition clone. Mark and Lisa are very proud to be the fourth generation to grow the clone and to make a 100% single vineyard, single clone Zinfandel out of it.
This story was especially meaningful to us, as we are deeply interested in California’s heritage grapes and vineyards.
Zialena has a bright future ahead. The current winery was only completed a couple of years ago (previous vintages were made at a custom crush), so one has to feel that as good as the wines are now, the best is yet to come.
21112 River Road
Geyserville, CA 95441
Michael Perlis has been pursuing his passion for wine for more than 25 years. He has had the good fortune of having numerous mentors to show him the way, as well as a wonderful wife who encourages him and shares his interest. After a couple of decades of learning about wine, attending events, visiting wineries and vineyards, and tasting as much wine as he possibly could, he had the amazing luck to meet Eve Bushman. Now, as Contributing Editor for Eve’s Wine 101, he does his best to bring as much information as possible about wine to Eve’s Wine 101 faithful readers. Michael is also Vice President of Eve Bushman Consulting (fka Eve’s Wine 101 Consulting) http://evebushmanconsulting.com/ and President of MCP Financial. Michael can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.