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Saucelito Canyon Estate Reserve Zinfandel 2012
One of the coolest growing areas in California, the Arroyo Grande Valley runs northeast to southwest just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean and is part of the Central Coast AVA. Situated in such a way that cold Pacific Ocean air and fog is allowed to filter into the valley, Arroyo Grande also has an incredibly long growing season. Bud break occurs in February in most years with flowering in May and harvest in late September; the area is classified as cool Mediterranean.
These weather factors combined with the soil types—continental and marine rocks, greywacke, limestone, shale and volcanic—create wines with great concentration and fresh acidity. The cooler end of the valley is perfect for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and is a good producer of sparkling wines. The warmer, more inland part of the valley is home to some of California’s oldest Zinfandel vines.
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.