The 1999 vintage should yield many dark, crowd-pleasing red wines and the press has already begun whipping up excitement. I’ll try to describe our 1999 Zinfandels by comparing and contrasting them with past vintages where appropriate. First, a quick discussion of the very near past. For me, our most recent release, the 1998 ‘Old & Mature’ Zinfandel, is the most food-versatile, best-balanced Zinfandel we have bottled to date. Judging by how fast it sold out, many agreed. It has wonderful delicate perfumes that are usually ‘cooked’ out by warm vintage conditions, or overshadowed by more primary red and black fruit jam flavors. While the wine press has been (rightly or wrongly) looking for ‘signs of weakness’ in every 1998 Zinfandel, our 1998 will age very well on its balance rather than by sheer tannic brute force or embalming acidity. Time will tell, for sure. Those who have known our wines since our first vintage, 1991, understand our wines have a long ‘sweet spot’ in their aging curve.
This said, I find the 1999 vintage to be more of a flashy, brash and brawny sort of Zinfandel vintage for us. There are more layers of flavor and texture than in 1997, but still somewhat less graceful than in 1998 at this point. For example, the 1999 Shale Terrace wine was so “meaty, beaty, big & bouncy” right after pressing, I was concerned about stylistic continuity for this area. It has since revealed more of its typical character, but the vintage “song remains the same,” leaving the glass with a “purple haze.” Even the Vin Gris was anything but a “whiter shade of pale.” [Please forgive the musical references. It can’t be helped] In further comparison, our 1999 Zinfandels seem to have more in common with the racy 1995 and 1997’s than the “well-tempered clavichord” of 1998’s. These 1998 Zinfandels are like music on Compact Disk. It is a great format for delicately complex compositions from Mozart or Vivaldi to be played at moderate volume. 1999 is like music pressed into vinyl (remember that stuff?). The analog signal ‘pops’ and grinds a bit, but is a great format for Neil Young, Iron Butterfly, Pearl Jam, etc. to be played at high volume. Does this suggest that Pinot Noir is best-suited to DVD? How about ‘Pinot Noir in allier minor’? Nevers mind. Barrely appropriate. Better bung it up.
I have probably given the impression that I appreciate finesse more than power. Actually, I appreciate both, and admire wines most when they possess both qualities…in appropriate balance. Yin and Yang, I guess. It is more important to look at the whole, rather than any one part.
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