I racked and created a faithful blend of this to show what was to come at the August open house barrel tasting. However, the majority of the barrels were left alone on their initial lees right up until bottling. I have found that with other varieties like Pinot Noir, Syrah, Grenache, Chardonnay and even Cabernet Sauvignon, this technique has been a subtly positive step toward my end of preserving aging potential and layering both texture and perfumes upon earthy nuances.
What sets our OMV apart from most Zinfandels is that it is layered and subtly nuanced. It is not primarily a fruit-driven wine with obvious one or two types of flavor-all front-loaded with little carrying capacity. What’s going on with Zinfandel? This variety ripens unevenly on each cluster. It is a varietal characteristic that vexes or amuses those of us who work with it. I embrace this characteristic, choosing to harvest after enough of the berries are really ripe and have great generosity, yet making sure that there are enough of the less developed population on each cluster as well. Why? These less-developed berries bring redder fruit characters, more acidity, and of critical importance: oxygen scavenging appetite. Fortunately, Zinfandel’s variably ripened berries play nicely together (unlike most other vinifera varieties that may become muddled or unfocused due to the variable ripened components). Where we differ, from many houses, is that we are looking to layer in complexity from within the variety and site rather than by including different varieties to achieve a similar end. What I’m looking for is a wine that transcends traditional varietal expectations while working within natural varietal boundaries. What a paradox!
Now that we have just blended and bottled it, I am impressed with the mouthfeel and length of the boysenberry/bramble fruit and mildly earthy/meaty nuances. As essentially 100% varietal Zinfandel, this has darker, more earthy tones which can be best explained by material and approach. There is a spiciness that runs just below the surface that emerges gently on the finish, drawing out everything that came before. Still a bright, salivary-eliciting wine, it has substantial presence that I attribute to the extra time as ‘a whole package’ after putting to barrel in the fall.