There is a newfound appreciation for Zinfandel in California, although new plantings in Napa Valley are relatively rare. Buoyed by a steadfast, albeit diminutive pack of enthusiasts, the market has begun to embrace the neo-classicism that Chateau Montelena pioneered over 40 years ago. Economics, more than popular pressure, have eroded the supply of high alcohol, high extract Zinfandel wines with somewhat surprising results. Due to insuperable land values, most sites uniquely suited to ripe Zinfandel have been replanted to produce unexceptional Cabernet but at twice or even three times the bottle price. We choose to take the long view and let the fundamental characteristics of our land determine what and how we grow. When presented with a site that can produce exquisite Zinfandel or middling Cabernet, there is no question for its highest and best use.
Nose Brimming with fresh fruit, the aromas are dominated by ripe raspberry and cranberry, leaning southern Italian in style at first. However, after a few minutes, the Zinfandel component becomes more prominent and robust as blackberry jam, hoisin, and savory herbs appear, lending some allure as well as familiarity. It’s the nexus of these disparate, yet harmonious red and dark fruit characteristics that’s emblematic of Montelena wines and our Calistoga vineyard.
Palate The elegance of 2018 comes through immediately on the palate. Laser-focused acidity and strawberry slowly merge with sweet baking spices, dried cherry and earth. °e tannins are soft enough to balance the acidity without overwhelming the steady stream of candied fruit. Medium-bodied, the weight of the wine adds depth without the need for extended aging.
Finish As the fruit subsides, the brambly nature of Zinfandel comes to the forefront; first as mint and then as black pepper and tea. °e tannins here are more chalky, almost chewy, and complement the subtle notes of smoke and pipe tobacco exceedingly well.
The Primitivo component of this blend tends to show best in moderately warm years and 2018 certainly qualifies. Ample sunshine and plenty of heat throughout the summer months favored uniform ripening and a purity of flavor. °at consistency carried into harvest, allowing for small, targeted picks across vineyard blocks, capturing the complexity and elegance of this vintage.