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by Tom Hill

A self-admitted wine geek, Tom lives in Northern New Mexico and works as a computational physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory doing numerical neutron transport & large scale code development. He has been tasting wines since 1971, participates locally with a couple of large tasting groups in his area, and is practically a fixture at most California wine festivals, such as the Hospice du Rhône, Rhône Rangers, and ZAP. Other interests: Tom is heavily into competitive sport fencing (foil & epee), biking, cooking, basketball, skiing, backpacking, mountain climbing.

Some New and Old Zins - August 1, 2007


We tasted the other night (8/1/07) some New & Old Zins:

  1. ChateauMontelena NapaVlly Zin JohnRolleriReserve (EB; 14.0%) 1984: Med.color w/ little
    browning; some pencilly/old Zin/cedary fairly complex nose; tart bit metallic rather pencilly/cedary/ old Zin smooth flavor; long/smooth cedary/old Zin finish w/ little tannins; still holding on & a pleasure to drink; smooth/gentle old bones. $10.50
  2. RoudonSmithVnyds Calif Zin ChauvetVnyd (15.1%; 10'th Anniv Selctn) 1979: Med.light
    slight browning color; complex cedary/pencilly some tired/old Zin slight mushroomy/wet leaves/wet wool/army blanket not altogether pleasant nose; soft/smooth very gentle slight metallic some licorice/tarry/cedary/old Zin slight wet army blanket bit hot/alcoholic flavor; med.short soft/smooth/ gentle slight earthy/peppery/cedary finish; nose not too attractive but nice on the palate; a gentle old lady that kinda flits across the palate in her headlong rush to death. $9.00
  3. CongressSpringsVnyd Calif Zin HopKiln (15.3%; 75 yr old LimekilnVlly/SanBenitoCnty;
    SaH: 27 Brix; Drk: '81-'83) 1977
    : Very dark slight browning color; classic cedary/pencilly/old Zin slight peppery/dill pickle slight musty/army blanket fairly complex nose; slightly dried out/astringent smooth quite cedary/pencilly/old Zin gentle flavor; med.long smooth slight alcoholic/dried out some cedary/pencilly/old Zin finish; still clinging to life and not giving up yet. $8.60
  4. CongressSpringsVnyd Zin MonmartreVnyd/SCM (14.1%; EB; Drk: '81-'83) 1977: Very dark slight browning color; very attractive/lovely cedary/pencilly/cigar box some dusty/earthy/SCM
    terroir slight leathery/spicy rather complex nose; soft/smooth/gentle rather earthy/dusty bit menthol some cedary/pencilly/cigar box/old Zin velvety/smooth some tart flavor; very long slight raspberry/spicy very cedary/pencilly/cigar box/old Zin very smooth/velvety slight earthy/dusty complex finish w/ no tannins; lovely smooth complex old Zin. Ullaged to bottom of shoulder but no oxidation obvious. $9.29
  5. CongressSpringsVnyd SCM Zin MonmartreVnyd (13.3%; 70 yr old vines + 5 yr old hillside vines; EB) 1980: Med.dark color w/ slight browning; rather cedary/pencilly bit wet wool/army blanket some earthy/dusty/spicy sausage/old Rhonish slight menthol complex nose; tart/lean some dried out/astringent earthy/dusty some cedary/pencilly/old Zin somewhat smooth bit metallic/tangy flavor; some dried out/astringent rather cedary/old Zin some earthy/dusty complex finish; a bit dried out and tired but still some interesting/complex things therein. $5.00
  6. CongressSprings SCM Zin LateHrvst (16.5%; SaH: 28.3 Brix; RS: 0.5%; 250 btls;EB) 1978: Dark color w/ some murky/browning character; some blackberry/spicy/Zin/ripe but no pruney/ raisened slight boysenberry bit ashtray/old pipe some cedary/old Zin complex nose; off dry some blackberry/boysenberry/spicy/Zin slight alcoholic/late harvesty/hot smooth/round/soft/textured flavor; long bit alcoholic/hot smooth/round some earthy/dusty/SCM bit blackberry/boysenberry/spicy Zin finish; good SCM earthy/dusty terroir and still some ripe fruit therein; good complexity and a pleasure to drink. $8.00
  7. DryCreekVnyd SonomaCnty Zin LateHrvst style (14.5%; 11,740 btls; SaH: 24.4%; TA: 0.77%; RS: 0.83%) 1978: Ullaged onto the lower part of shoulder; dark color w/ trace of
    browning; some blackberry/boysenberry/spicy/peppery/Zin fruit somewhat cedary/cigar box slight wet leaves/decayed vegetal bit alcoholic complex/charred nose; off dry some spicy/ blackberry/ boysenberry/Zin fruit some hot/alcoholic slight astringent/apple peel/bitter some charred/ cedary complex flavor; off dry bit astringent/bitter/dried out some blackberry/ boysenberry/Zin finish w/ slight tannins; a bit dried out but still some nice/ripe Zin fruit in there. $6.50
  8. Mia'sPlayground OldVine Zin RussianRvrVlly (14.9%) V&B by 3LooseScrews/ DonSebastiani&Sons/Napa 2004: Dark color; strong blackberry/Zin/spicy/peppery slight toasty/ oak lush nose; tart spicy/blackberry/spicy/Zin slight oaked flavor; med.long spicy/peppery/ blackberry/Zin light oak finish w/ light tannins; a pleasant/solid/4Square Zin at a great price. $13.30
  9. Girard OldVine Zin NapaVlly (14.2%; Mt.Vaca, 2750' elevation; > 35 yr old vines;
    www.GirardWinery.com) 2004
    : Very dark color; slight reduced/sewer gas nose that blows off to
    rather raspberry/Zin bit simple nose; tart bit tannic very bright/raspberry slight toasty/oak slight dusty/old vine flavor; med.long raspberry/Zinberry/Zin tart slight charred/oak finish w/ some tannins; pleasant Zin w/ slight old vine character at a fair price. $19.00
  10. Ridge Calif Zin Sullivan (5% PS; SonomaCnty; 14.5%; 43 brls; Drk: 10/06-10/09-10/11)
    : Med.color; classic Ridge/Zin/Draper perfume light toasty/oak attractive raspberry/Zinberry/ Zin slight earthy fairly spicy nose; tart rather spicy/Zinberry/raspberry light toasty/oak bit simple flavor; med.long Ridge/Draper perfume light toasty/oak nice/raspberry/Zin finish w/ light tannins; a pretty/simple Ridge Zin. $24.00
  11. Novy Zin BarbieriVnyd/RRV (14.7%) 2005: Dark color; lovely deep/intense boysenberry/ blackberry/peppery/Zin very lush light toasty/oak nose; soft rich/lush ripe/blackberry/boysenberry rather spicy/peppery balanced light toasty/pencilly/oak flavor; long ripe/blackberry/boysenberry/ spicy slight dusty rich/lush light toasty/oak finish w/ light tannins; a very attractive lush/spicy Zin at a fair price. $26.50
  12. DryCreekVnyds SomersRanch/DryCreekVlly Zin (14.5%; 2% PS; 626 cs; www.DryCreekVineyard.com) 2004: Dark color; lovely bright/vibrant/blackberry/Zinberry very
    spicy light toasty/oak slight alcoholic nose; tart very spicy/raspberry/Zinberry bit peppery slight dusty/old vine light toasty/oak balanced flavor; very long very spicy bright/Zinberry/raspberry/ zippy/Zin some peppery light toasty/oak finish w/modest tannins; needs several yrs but a pleasure to drink now; a bright/zippy/NeonPink kind of Zin. $30.00
  13. Murietta'sWell RaboliVnyd/LivermoreVlly Zin (14.0%) PhilipWente/SergioTraverso 1993: Black bit murky color; some musty/wet wool/ damp army blanket very ripe/jammy some blackberry/ Zin nose; soft strong blackberry/jammy/boysenberry/Zin bit army blanky/musty slight cedary
    flavor; med. jammy/blackberry/ripe/overripe/boysenberry finish w/slight tannins; a ripe/overripe/ jammy Zin that's starting to crack up on the shoals. Steve's mystery.
  14. Williams Selyem Zin FeeneyVnyd/RRV (14.9%) 2005: Very dark/black color; lovely pappery/
    blackberry/Zin rather dusty/old vine some toasty/charred/oak very attractive nose; tart very rich/blueberry/blackberry/Zin quite peppery/dusty some toasty/oak flavor; long spicy/peppery/ blackberry/Zin bit hot/alcoholic finish w/ some tannins;needs 2-4 yrs yet;a lovely Zin but not in the same ballpark as a Carlisle. Pretty pricey at $50.50
  15. Williams-Selyem Zin MendocinoCnty (13.7%) 1994: Med.color w/ slight browning; rather strong
    toasty/oak/charred rather tomatoey/V-8 slight blackberry/Zin slight cedary/old Zin slight complex nose; soft somewhat tomatoey/V-8 slight blackberry/earthy/old Zin/cedary bit toasty/oak flavor; med.long tomatoey/V-8 slight blackberry/Zin bit old Zin/cedary finish w/ light tannins; fully mature and still showing good fruit; reminds me a bit of some of ol'Barney Fetzer's Zins w/ some age on them and w/o the oaky smack. $33.00

And more pontifications from TheBloodyPulpit:

1. Old Zins: The folklore is, of course, that Zins don't age worth diddly-squat. Maybe,
maybe not. I've had my share of old Zins that were dried-out/tired/astringent and unpleasant to drink. None of these seven Zins would I categorize that way. Like tasting any old wines, the intellectual pleasure oft outweighs the sensual pleasure received from the wine. Certainly the case here. These wines offered up a pleasant trip down memory lane for me; they were some pretty exceptional Zins in their day.

Surprisingly, all seven were a real pleasure to drink. They kinda flitted across the palate like a gentle zypher, teasing the palate with a multitude of sensations that were damnably difficult to put words with. Two of the btls were real weepers, ullaged way down onto the bottom of the shoulder. Most skeptics would have dismissed them out of hand as vinegar. Neither of the two showed any signs of oxidation. I would guess as the wine seeped out around the cork,
it didn't suck in air from the outside, but merely replaced the lost volume w/ volatiles from the wine. Maybe, just maybe, the skeptic pedants don't know diddly-squat afterall.

Tasting old Zins like this is a bit of an aquired taste. If you require that, since it's Zin, that it be rich/extracted w/ gobs of hedonistic fruit; then you're notta agonna like them. But if you regard the wines as DanGehrs or DaveStare speaking to you from 30 yrs ago and put some value in gentleness and complexity; then it's easy to like these wines. Just like you can learn some, maybe a lot, from a 90 yr old guy in LazyDazyNursingHome than you can from some young buck, virile and 20-something. It's all a matter of expectations.
2. CongressSprings: This wnry dates back to 1971 when Vic Erickson bought the abandoned
property (www.svcn.com/archives/saratoganews/11.13.96/winery.html). Dan Gehrs, then
working at Paul Masson and Vic went into partnership, resurrected the old Zin vnyd there
on the property, and started making wines in 1976. Not sure where the names CongressSprings or MonmartreVnyd came from. Dan continued as winemaker there until he
and Vic parted ways about 1990. I was quite taken by the wines Dan made there in the
late '70's, some of the best wines he ever made in his career, I thought. The Zins were my favorite by far. But he was a pioneer in making great CabFranc in Calif. And I thought many of
those early PinotNoirs were pretty exceptional as well.

The property was sold about 1990 and is now the Savannah-Chanelle Wnry, where they still make Zin from that old vnyd, though I've not had it. In its youth, the HopKiln was a rich/lush/ jammy/blackberry of a Zin. It held up the least well of the old Zins. The Monmartre always had more tannins/acids/structure to them; w/ that SCM rustic earthiness, not too unlike the Ridge Jimsomares or Pichettis in character. The LateHrvsts seemed to do the best w/ 25-30 yrs of age; probably because of their RS; and still showed some of the blackberry Zin fruit.
3. ChauvetVnyd: This is a vnyd that was planted about 1875 in the Valley of the Moon, near
GlenEllen, on the vlly floor, not too far from the PaganiRanch. Roudon Smith made a few pretty exceptional Zins from this vnyd. As best I can tell, all the grapes now go to Coturri Wnry (sigh!!).
4. RidgeSullivan: This is a new vnyd designate for Ridge. A fairly classic straightforward Ridge Zin; a pretty wine of the stature of the Ponzo or Buchagnani, but not of Lytton or Pagani. Nice wine, but just that. However....sometime the Ridge Zins that don't thrill me out the gate have this way of putting one weight in a yr's time and turning into pretty good stuff. This Sullivan may do just that. But, then, what would I know?? Only been drinking Ridge Zins for 35 yrs and still trying to figure them out.
5. DryCreekVnyds: Since BillKnuttle took over as winemaker at DCV, he's really notched up the
quality of the DCV Zins (heck...all their wines). The Beeson and Somers Ranch Zins are even better, IMHO, than the Old Vine Zin. For all those folks who whine & complain about
rising alcohol levels in Calif Zins, these wines are for you.
6. Novy Zins: They seem to get lost in the shuffle of all the Novy Syrahs, but Adam's Zins
are not to be sniveled at. Not big or bombastic; they show the restraint and balance you'd
expect of a Zin from a Pinot producer. Lovely Zins across the board.


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