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Friday, January 22, 2010

Old Zins

While we're on the subject of Zinfandel ...
(see the previous post below).

Does Zinfandel age?

Is the Pope Catholic?

Actually, the best way to safely answer this is "it depends." In the old days (15+ years ago) most California reds had more aging potential, including Zinfandel. Nowadays it depends on the style the wine was made in. Some Zins have the structure (acid, tannins, alcohol) to hold up well. Some are just simple fruit and alcohol and don't.

Here's a few I dug out of the cellar. Most are from Kenwood Vineyards. All are 13-point-something percent alcohol. I have no idea why I still had these.

Kenwood '90 Jack London Vyds. This one was a goner unfortunately. Asking for 18+ years in the bottle was too much. This was Kenwood Vyds' premier single-vineyard Zin from Sonoma Valley. These were big wines that required some aging, but not this much. Nothing to this bottle, just a little dusty tasting.

Kenwood '91 Barricia Vyds. Baricia is an old vineyards in Sonoma Valley owned by two ladies, Barbara and Patricia, or so the story was told to me. Kenwood lost the contract to this vineyard long ago, probably when Gary Heck of Korbel bought them (but that's another story). Anyway, this wine was as gone as a wine gets. No, not vinegar. I've really never had an old wine that tastes of vinegar even though that's a popular story. There was no fruit flavors, as to be expected, and not anything else. I took about two sips, let it set for awhile, tried again, then dumped.

Kenwood '92 Barricia Vyds. Initially a bit of a sweet nose and definitely a sweetness on the taste. Very smooth and soft with a slight peppery finish. A little pruney at the end plus a touch of acid on the finish. Very drinkable.

Kenwood '93 Barricia Vyds. Really nice rose petal sort of nose. A bit of sweetness in the taste. Similar to the '92, but without the peppery finish. Instead it finished a bit dry.

Kenwood '95 Mazzoni Vyds. This vineyard is in the Alexander Valley side of the town of Geyserville (east of Geyserville is Alexander Vly, west is Dry Creek). In fact, the label lists it as a "Geyserville" wine. Eventually the BATF noticed and made them take that off the label as Geyserville is not a real appellation. This was a really nice wine. Could have served this with a milder pasta sauce or a hunk of beef.

Gundlach-Bundschu '93 Rhinefarm Estate. This is GB's vineyard near the town of Sonoma. Most of their wines were in a style that required some aging. This one was over-the-hill however. A bitter taste and nothing else. Yuck.

So out of six bottles I got two quite drinkable, one so-so, and three goners. Previously the best I'd done with old Zinfandels is about 12 to 14 years on a few, not many. Generally, Zins seem to drink best around seven years, plus-or-minus, from the vintage date.

I have a few recent releases from a couple wineries known for making long aging Zinfandels, Lytton Springs and Storybook Mtn., that are going to sit in the cellar for a few years, but not until 2025 I don't believe.