Zinfandel is California’s heritage grape, and as anyone who has tasted long-lived examples from the 1970s, it can produce wines of tremendous quality, both immediate pleasure and age-worthiness, and all in a rich and spicy berry profile that is unique in the world of wine. Like every wine they produce, Montelena looks first and foremost to take the tremendous fruit they work with and transmit it in a complex, balanced package.
The vineyard is comprised of varied terrain, from flat to steep hillsides. Extending out from the Napa River is the alluvial soil, the most prevalent type on the property. In the back and outside areas of the vineyard are volcanic soils, formed by ancient lava flows caused by tectonic uplifting. The decades old Zinfandel, planted in craggy volcanic soil, combined with 10-year-old vines in cobbly alluvial soil, produces a wine with complex character.
The Zinfandel sees a primary ferment in stainless steel and malolactic fermentation in oak. It is then aged in French/Irish/ American oak barrels for 16 months, 20% of which are new.
Early budburst and a relatively mild spring laid the foundation for a successful Zinfandel crop in 2016. Predictable summer heat drove ripening without excessive stress on the old, dry farmed vineyards. The younger Primitivo plantings were harvested early as mild weather settled in during September. The resulting fruit provided a beautiful red berry contrast to the darker, brambly flavors from that of the old vines, which were picked later in the month.
“On the nose, aromas of cinnamon and allspice quickly yield to ripe cherry and a torrent of red fruit along with a characteristic hint of tobacco. Dark and lush, the initial perception on the palate is of tart raspberry is overwhelmed by blackberry jam, red licorice, and a supple earthiness that leans toward black pepper and anise. The finish, intriguing in its contrast to the palate,is driven primarily by the briar and spice character of the old vines: layered and dense, with just enough tannin to balance the mocha and barrel toast character from time in the cellar.” – WINEMAKER MATT CRAFTON
The Chateau Montelena Zinfandel can stand up to the big, meaty flavors, such as barbeque pork ribs, leg of lamb or a well-seasoned beef dish. The spicy notes of the wine will also complement dark chocolate dishes quite well.
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