When the founders of V. Sattui Winery, Vittorio and his wife Katrina Sattui, immigrated from Italy to America in 1882, Zinfandel was already widely planted in California. For almost a century it was the most widely planted varietal in the Golden State. Zinfandel’s very Italian red wine “personality” made it a favorite in the Italian community and it was one of the first wines V. Sattui Winery bottled when it opened its doors in San Francisco in 1885.
When Dario, Vittorio’s great, great grandson, re-established the family winery in St. Helena in 1975, one of the first bottlings was 1976 Amador Ridge Zinfandel. We have current vintages of this bold and great Sierra Foothill Zinfandel today, which only underscores the fervent love affair that four Sattui generations have had for this wonderful grape.
Zinfandel is like a chameleon on a rock. It is sensitive to a vineyard’s terroir and reacts to it readily, giving Zinfandel lovers a plethora of styles and flavors – more so than any other cultivar. Thinner skin and higher acidity, allow it to express nuances of “place” more completely and profoundly.
Additionally, it is one of those cultivars that can live over 100 years and one frequently sees Old Vine or Ancient Vine on the label. Just to clarify, there is no legal restriction for Old-Vine appearing on labels. Simply, the vintner must show that the vineyard is producing less due to its age and because of that, the fruit is more concentrated and flavorful. Ancient-Vine, on the other hand, must have attained 100 years of age by law.
At V. Sattui we are known as a “Zinfandel House”, currently producing ten Zinfandels and all of them are fashioned in the same format; that is, we do nothing to one that we don’t do to all of them and, yet, they are all very different – and definitely terroir-driven. Which one is your favorite?
PILGRIM VINEYARD (Old-Vine) ZINFANDEL – LODI
A sweet spot for Zinfandel providing good daytime heat tempered with cool, fresh breezes off the Delta formed by the confluence of the American and Sacramento Rivers. This wine is a “fruit bomb” full of bright berry fruits with just enough zest to create a delightful balance.
AMADOR RIDGE ZINFANDEL
Planted from 1000 to 2400 feet above sea level, this is where the days are warm and the altitude allows for cooling in the evening. The Zinfandels from the Sierra Foothills are huge and packed with fruit and V. Sattui’s Zinfandel from the Sutter Creek area is no exception. Huge body with tons of cooked fruit and juicy raspberry. A little spice and earthiness are followed by sweet oak.
RAMAZZOTTI VINEYARD ZINFANDEL
This wine hails from Dry Creek Valley just outside of Healdsburg in Sonoma County and located in the Valley’s sweet spot where the benchlands block out Pacific maritime to produce perfect daytime warmth. A sip of this wine is like biting into a blackberry. It has the perfect balance between fruit and spice.
MOUNTS VINEYARD ZINFANDEL
This vineyard has nothing to do with mountains or hills. It’s the surname for a father and son operation that spans 3 generations in the Dry Creek Valley. Fruity and solid, it sports just an edge of spiciness. Perfect.
QUAGLIA VINEYARD (Ancient-Vine) ZINFANDEL
This vineyard lies on Spring Street in the heart of St. Helena. Quaglia (Italian for Quail), is a vineyard of old, head pruned vines producing a wine of concentrated blackberry, plum and dusty oak barrel notes with unusual poise for Zinfandel.
GILSSON VINEYARD (Old-Vine) ZINFANDEL
Produced in a compound appellation; that is, Russian River which allows cooling Pacific fog to course upriver while Chalk Hill at the eastern edge of the Valley provides deep chalk soil. It’s the best of both worlds. The wine is fruit forward with wild berry and spice that finishes with lovely cooked fruit or jam.
CROW RIDGE VINEYARD (Ancient-Vine) ZINFANDEL
This, too, is in the same Russian River appellation and if you have a small rock and a good arm you could almost throw it from Gilsson to this vineyard. Richly textured, this old vine wine is rife with raspberry, dried plum and cherry cola with a spicy – but smooth – finish.
RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY (Old-Vine) ZINFANDEL
A gorgeous blend of Crow Ridge and Gilsson Vineyard with characteristics of one vineyard highlighting the other. Spicy, dark fruit with a dash of black pepper on the finish.
BLACK SEARS VINEYARD (Howell Mountain) ZINFANDEL
This organically farmed land lies on the summit of Howell Mountain at an altitude of 2400 ft. and it is among the highest vineyards in the Napa Valley possessing its own unique climate. In order to legally place the Appellation Howell Mountain on a label, the vineyard must be 1400 feet or higher where the volcanic tufa soil that creates the mountain’s signature flavor begins. Here is a wine that exhibits scents of freshly cracked peppercorns along with hints of raspberry, cranberry, cinnamon and sweet vanilla.
DRY CREEK VALLEY ZINFANDEL
Here’s a combination that features the fruit that this appellation can produce. This wine is a basket of jammy currents, cranberries with a little ground pepper and cinnamon.
If you’re a Zin lover, we hope you’ll join us at the Zinfandel Experience in San Francisco from February 23-25, 2017. Early bird tickets are on sale now!