As the days roll by, often it seems an exercise in same day, different bottle, as we enter our fifth month of pandemic living. What hasn’t changed is our need for community and coming together over great wine and good food. What has changed is the innovation that wineries are showing to bring consumers together in spite of our circumstances, reminding us that this eventually will come to an end.
Last month, I participated in ZAP’s first Facebook Live tasting which included three wineries and Trelio Restaurant’s Chef Chris Shackelford, who prepared a dish that would work perfectly with the diverse Zinfandels we tasted. Watch it here and think about planning your own event matching Zinfandel wines to match a Summer BBQ.
While there is nothing that my husband would have rather done then fire up our grill and Green Egg and start cooking meats for a group of folks, we still exercise an abundance of caution when it comes to this disease.
The tasting focused on three Zinfandels that had a long history of being Old Vine Zinfandels from families that helped to pioneer the grape.
Three Wine Company is a family-owned winery focused on sustainable growing from Matt Cline, one of the Founders of Cline Cellars. He believes the dirt, the micro-climate, and sustainable wine growing (from vineyard to bottle) form the cornerstone of good winemaking and is in every bottle Three produces.
We were joined by Proprietors Erin and Matt Cline, who talked about how old vineyards in Contra Costa County have the tenacity to thrive in a difficult environment and make great wine.
Rock Wall Wine Company is headed by Shauna Rosenblum, who learned everything she knows about winemaking from her father Kent Rosenblum who was known as the “King of Zin”. The winery is founded on the philosophy of the right grape in the right place and are the result of many long-term relationships with vineyards. Grapes are sourced from all over California creating different grape varieties, styles and regional flavor profiles.
Shauna talked about having to find her own way after her father’s sudden death in the Spring of 2018. She pledged to memorialize him in a bottle, while making her own restrained style of Zinfandel.
Martinelli Winery has been growing grapes and making wine in the Russian River Valley since the late 1880s and for five generations. The family’s name is synonymous with some of the best zinfandels produced. Owner Julianna Martinelli talked about how her father was told not to pursue farming (back then the family also farmed apple orchards). He went to college in the 70’s and became an agriculture teacher. He returned when his uncle passed away and made the strategic decision to convert the orchard into a vineyard.
And now for the three wines we tried:
2016 Three Wine Company Live Oak Zinfandel ($36) — this blend of 77 percent Zinfandel, 12 percent Petite Sirah, 9 percent Carignane and 2 percent Alicante Bouschet was an explosion of flavors. I tasted red fruit, black cherry, black pepper and eucalyptus.
2018 Rock Wall Wine Company Maggie’s Vineyard Zinfandel Reserve ($50) – a great example of the power of a good field blend. This was a blend of Zinfandel, Sémillon, Muscadelle and Palomino planted together. I tasted raspberry, cherry, plum preserves, vanilla, clove, currant, and herbs.
2018 Martinelli Winery Giuseppe & Luisa Zinfandel ($58) – this wine comes from a parcel planted by Lee Martinelli Sr. with cuttings taken from the original Jackass Hill vineyard his grandparents planted in 1899. Notes of black cherry, raspberries, mocha, sandalwood and spice. Julianna surprised the group by recommending salmon with this zinfandel.
Hearing about the legacies these families have and how they put Zinfandel on the map was fascinating. It was a reminder of a connection – to a place, tradition and a way of life – that ties us back to each other and our community.