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Valley of the Moon Zinfandel 1999
Situated in the Sonoma Valley on land first planted to grapes in 1863, Valley of the Moon Winery is housed in a beautifully restored stone and redwood winery built in 1887. Blessed with rich volcanic soils and a distinctive “banana belt” microclimate, the estate vineyard has been a revered source of grapes for well over a century. A block of “old vine” Zinfandel planted in the 1940s is complemented by more recent plantings of Barbera, Sangiovese and Petite Sirah; all farmed sustainably with natural soil amendments and natural pest controls.
Yet Valley of the Moon Winery is a thoroughly modern - even cutting-edge - producer. The state-of-the-art production facility features a full complement of temperature-controlled stainless steel fermenters, and small French and American oak barrels; ideal for Valley of the Moon’s artisan winemaking. In addition to making superb Sonoma County Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Pinot Noir, Valley of the Moon Winery is a leader among California wineries in the production of several exciting up-and-coming wines: Syrah, Sangiovese, Pinot Blanc, Rosato di Sangiovese and Cuvée de la Luna, a proprietary Bordeaux-inspired blend. Sometimes hard to find, Valley of the Moon wines are definitely worth the search.
Home to a diverse array of smaller AVAs with varied microclimates and soil types, Sonoma County has something for nearly every wine lover. Physically twice as large as Napa, the region only produces about half the amount of wine, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in both quality and variety. With its laid-back atmosphere and down-to-earth attitude, the wineries of Sonoma are appreciated by wine tourists for their friendliness and approachability. The entire county intends to become a 100% sustainable winegrowing region by 2019.
Grape varieties are carefully selected to reflect the best attributes of their sites—Dry Creek Valley’s consistent sunshine is ideal for Zinfandel, while the warm Alexander Valley is responsible for rich, voluptuous Cabernet Sauvignon. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are important throughout the county, most notably in the cooler AVAs of Russian River and Sonoma Valleys, Carneros, and Fort Ross-Seaview. Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, and Syrah have also found a firm footing here.
Unapologetically powerful, heady, and fruit-forward, Zinfandel is often thought of as a truly Californian grape, though in fact it is anything but. This variety has followed an intriguing trajectory to reach its adoptive home, beginning, surprisingly, in Croatia. Originally known as Tribidrag, it first made its way to southern Italy where it became known as Primitivo. From there it eventually migrated to what is now unarguably its most successful outpost, in California, and has thrived throughout the state. Of course, this is also the grape of White Zinfandel, a sweet pink wine that enjoyed great popularity in the 1980s and 90s. Though White Zin still has a significant following, today the variety is increasingly associated with the red version.
In the Glass
Zinfandel commonly features a bold, plush texture and notes of dark plum, blackberry, sweet spice, black pepper, dark chocolate, leather, and licorice, and can often be described as “jammy” and a little bit sweet. Very ripe examples may express a hint of dried fruit like raisin, fig, or prune. Despite its significant alcohol and weight, Zinfandel has very smooth, gentle tannins.
Zinfandel is a powerfully flavored wine, mingling happily with bold food like brisket, lamb shanks, pork ribs, or anything barbecued. If care is taken with regards to alcohol levels, Zinfandel’s hint of sweetness can work well with milder Indian-spiced dishes like lamb curry.
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 vines tend to produce wine that is concentrated, complex, and elegant.