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Porter-Bass Dot's Garden Zinfandel 2014
The Bass family found this run-down, century-old, vineyard in 1980 and began the arduous process of reviving the vines. Decades of farming-induced erosion had left the soil sustaining only poison oak and blackberries. They looked to Biodynamic and organic farming strategies to create life in the soil and renew the vineyard's vitality. This restoration requires time and patience and the rewards have come over generations rather than years. They replanted most of the original Zinfandel, and all of the Palomino, leaving only a small mother block of Zinfandel. The original budwood from these vines was used in order to maintain the vineyard character.
In the winemaking the human influence is limited as much as possible. When the grapes arrive at the winery they ferment with indigenous yeasts. This imparts a greater sense of place in the wine. In the red wines the fruit is not crushed, only the stems are removed, leaving the whole berries. This gives a slower start to the fermentation and results in a greater expression of freshness. As the wines age they gain complexity but do not suffer from the premature aging that comes with over-ripe fruit. Gentle handling of the wine, using gravity flow, and minimizing the use of machines in production helps to preserve the vitality of the wine. The amount of new oak is limited to less than 40 percent. The wine is bottled unfined and unfiltered.
A standout region for its decidedly Californian take on Burgundian varieties, the Russian River Valley is named for the eponymous river that flows through it. While there are warm pockets of the AVA, it is mostly a cool-climate growing region thanks to breezes and fog from the nearby Pacific Ocean.
Chardonnay and Pinot Noir reign supreme in Russian River, with the best examples demonstrating a unique combination of richness and restraint. The cool weather makes Russian River an ideal AVA for sparkling wine production, utilizing the aforementioned varieties. Zinfandel also performs exceptionally well here. Within the Russian River Valley lie the smaller appellations of Chalk Hill and Green Valley. The former, farther from the ocean, is relatively warm, with a focus on red and white Bordeaux varieties. The latter is the coolest, foggiest parcel of the Russian River Valley and is responsible for outstanding Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Unapologetically bold, spice-driven and jammy, Zinfandel is often thought of as California’s flagship grape. And it fact it owns this title by having the ability to adapt to the states’ many microclimates and landscapes, producing unique expressions of the grape throughout. Zinfandel thrives in California’s Central Coast, as well throughout Sonoma County, parts of Napa Valley, the Sierra Foothills, Lodi and Paso Robles.
Zinfandel was born in Croatia and later made its way to southern Italy where it became known as Primitivo. The astute imperial nursery of Vienna collected specimens of the vine and acted as the source of its importation to New England by George Gibbs, probably in 1829. Eventually, making its way to California around the Gold Rush of 1849, Zinfandel found its new home, parading the true American spirit.
In the Glass
Zinfandel commonly expresses powerful notes of dark plum, blackberry, sweet spice, dark chocolate and licorice. Very ripe examples may express a hint of dried fruit like raisin, fig or prune. But Zinfandel grown in cooler, coastal zones often expresses red fruit, black pepper and fresh herbal characteristics of juniper and menthol.
Zinfandel is a powerfully flavored wine, mingling happily with bold food like brisket, lamb shanks, pork ribs or anything barbecued. More delicate Zins work with pork, lamb curry and even Ceasar Salad or Salad Nicoise.
Thanks to its popularity both for home winemaking and as communion wine, many Zinfandel vines were able to survive prohibition, leading to the abundance of "old vine" Zinfandels. These low-yielding, ancient vines tend to produce wine that is deeply concentrated, delicately perfumed and decidedly complex.