V. Sattui offers a window into the many styles of Zinfandel
When you visit any wine region, there are certain stops that become classics for one reason or another. In Napa Valley, V. Sattui Winery is one of those places that people return to again and again. In addition to some tasty wines they welcome large groups and have a diverse deli section available to pick up cheeses and other snack foods. They offer picnicking on their grounds, and a wide variety of wine tasting options. In short, V. Sattui is an incredibly warm and welcoming place to visit.
V. Sattui’s history goes back 125 years, and has been in place at its current St. Helena location since 1975. To this day it’s a family owned and run winery. Their portfolio is loaded with appealing wines that run the gamut of varietals and styles. Whether it’s dry table wines or an array of dessert wines, they truly seem to have a wine for everyone. I’ve tasted a large number of impressive releases from them over the last few years. This time out, I’ll look at a trio of site-specific Zinfandels.
The first wine is the V. Sattui 2009 Crow Ridge Vineyard, Russian River Valley Zinfandel. This single-vineyard wine comes from a small 20-acre parcel of land that was planted in 1915. In addition to Zinfandel, a small amount (1 percent) of Petite Sirah was blended in. Oak aging occurred over 18 months in a combination of new French (20 percent) and American (10 percent) oak; the balance of the barrels were previously used. They produced 727 cases of this wine, and it has a suggested retail price of $37. Zinfandel isn’t the first varietal that comes to mind when one thinks of Sonoma’s Russian River Valley (that would be Pinot Noir); however, it should be an area that gets wider acclaim for Zinfandel than it does, because it can produce distinct examples of this terrific grape. Red and black raspberry aromas fill the nose of this wine along with a substantial bit of bramble and a whiff of vanilla bean. Continued red and black berry characteristics of all stripes are the star of the show throughout the palate here. They provide a depth of palate and a measured intensity that is balanced by the wine’s classic claret-like structure. The finish on this Zin is an example of classic Russian River Valley: it’s peppery and spicy and also has a hint of tobacco. The two most notable features here are the length of the finish, which is impressive, and the excellent acidity that speaks directly to this as a food lovers Zinfandel. If you want to learn what terrific Russian River Valley Zinfandel is all about, this is a great place to start.
The second Zinfandel is the V. Sattui 2009 Quaglia Vineyard, which was produced from fruit sourced in the small St. Helena vineyard of the same name. This piece of land was planted as a classic Italian style field blend, so in addition to Zinfandel, Carignane and Petite Sirah Vines are mixed in. Some of the vines are more than 80 years old. This wine was barrel-aged for 18 months in a combination of new and used French and American oak. About 446 cases of this wine were produced, and it has a suggested retail price of $39. St. Helena, which is about two-thirds of the way up the Valley (if you’re travelling it from south to north) is home to a host of fascinating small vineyards. Aromas of pine resin, eucalyptus and dark red berry emerge from the nose of this wine. The palate shows off cherries in abundance, red plum, minerals and pencil lead characteristics. Dark, dusty chocolate notes emerge on the finish, along with hints of dried Montgomery cherry. This wine has firm acidity and solid overall structure. The Crow Ridge Vineyard Zinfandel is an impeccably balanced wine that in many ways is the antithesis of the over-ripe rocket fuel style Zins that are often prominently dotting the shelves of wine shops. This Zinfandel is delicious today and will age gracefully over the next seven to eight years.
Finally, we have the V. Sattui 2009 Black-Sears Vineyard Zinfandel. The 25-acre vineyard this wine was sourced from sits up on rugged Howell Mountain in Napa Valley. This patch of land sits an elevation of 2,400 feet. This wine is 100 percent Zinfandel, and was aged over 18 months in entirely French oak. They made 329 cases of this release, and it has a suggested retail price of $42. Howell Mountain is best known for Cabernet Sauvignon; while that is true in many areas of Napa Valley, the mountain cabs can be an entirely different creature. So it is fascinating to see a Zinfandel grown in a similar environment. This mountain Zin bursts forth from the glass with dark plum and blackberry aromas. Kirsch liqueur is prominent throughout the palate. All of those characteristics continue through the finish, which also shows off chewy tannins, pomegranate and hints of chocolate sauce. This would be a great Zinfandel to pair with some barbeque.
This trio of Zinfandels is quite distinct. Each of them originates from a single vineyard, so they have that in common (in addition to the winery of course). If you were to taste them side-by-side it would be a nice window into how flexible and stylistically divergent Zinfandel can be.