The majority of the 2020 growing season was pretty much ideal if there is such a thing. Good well-spaced rainfall and reasonable temperatures during the season were heartening. Then in later August, lightning strikes started fires that caused much destruction and worry. In Napa and Sonoma counties there were two major fire complexes of concern and significant smoke affecting the crop on nearby vineyards. This overshadowed (literally and figuratively) the reality of some fantastic fruit being on vines, whether or not they experienced any significant smoke exposure. The net result is a large variation in the quality of wines from different vineyards. News stories usually paint pictures with a coarse broom rather than a fine brush. So don’t be surprised to find some really great wines from 2020 that were not generally predicted or expected.
2020 Scherrer Vineyard ‘Old & Mature Vines’ Zinfandel Futures
After a very wet late winter and early spring, the vines had plenty of soil moisture to make it through the year. Vines looked great all summer long. As it turned out, the crop Based on my experiences with smoke uptake on a small lot of Pinot Noir in 2008 and the resulting success of the wine, I was quite hopeful that our fruit was minimally affected and well below threshold. Our vineyard’s other major customer of grapes has extensive laboratory capability and found that ‘smoke markers’ were well below any level of concern. This agreed with my ‘bucket fermentation’ of samples ahead of harvest showing no sensory effect, giving me confidence that a given vineyard block was spared excessive exposure to fresh, reactive smoke volatiles.
So, how does the 2020 Old & Mature Zin taste? My good friend and long-ago helper at the winery, Don Bliss came up with the descriptor ‘Mother Earth’ for wines such as this. It has all the elements of nature: Flowers, fruits, soil, composting leaves, etc. Angles and rounds are balanced. Fruit and non-fruit are balanced as well. One is compelled to come back for another look at the very large mosaic whose themes meld into adjacent areas, visible according to where the light is shining at the time. We recently opened a 1.5 L of the 2012 Old Vine Centennial. This 2020 Old & Mature reminds me of that wine when at a similar stage. It’s not quite as firmly structured and has the benefit of appropriate new French oak to support it. Nonetheless, it reminds me very much of that wine and vintage, overall. About 1,000 cases will be produced. Estimated release price: $40 per bottle.
2020 Scherrer Vineyard ‘Shale Terrace’ Zinfandel Futures
I’ll repeat what I wrote here last year for those who are new to us. This is a very small parcel on the family property where there is very little clay and the soil is more like fractured shale with a little silt. The Zin vines grow differently, and the wines are also very different. In 1996, the first vintage I vinified this area, I thought it would blend nicely with the Old and Mature vines growing in a soil containing more clay. This parcel was great alone but did not blend well. In the decades that followed, I have come to better understand the needs of this parcel and what it can become: This is a very unique Zinfandel that dresses up like Pinot Noir and actually looks pretty good that way.
Leaning into the somewhat earlier side of the window for harvesting has given us more high-toned perfume, cherries, plums and the lighter-colored stone fruits on the nose. This vintage has a ton of nectarine going on right now. On the palate, it settles into a more freshly tilled loam and gently heated grains thing with echoes of the stone fruit and a little sweet red beet. It seems to want to be a Pinot Noir, regardless of the vintage.
The 2020 vintage was smaller than 2019 so futures will go quickly. Because this has always been a limited production wine, there is usually not enough to go around. So, we have honored peoples’ past support of this wine and give those that purchased Shale in the past (even just a bottle) ‘first crack’ and orders received by August 6 will be processed first in the order they are received while supplies last. Those who have not bought Shale before may place an order which will be placed on the ‘wish list’. Those orders will be filled in the order they are received if there are futures still available after the first-crack August 6 deadline, though with the small harvest, though chances will be slimer this year.
And not to fear, we also hold back a small bit of the Shale from futures so we will have some available at release next April so those not in the ‘first-crack’ offering can have a few bottles. About 185 cases to be produced. Release price $40 /bottle.
2020 Scherrer Vineyard Zinfandel Futures Half & Half Split Case
This is a case of 6 of the Old & Mature and 6 of the Shale Terrace. Limits and allocation for Shale Terrace Futures apply.