Today begins my week long tribute to Zinfandel. Like any story, I figured that this week’s articles should be prefaced with a little bit of history.
Saucelito Canyon Winery was built around an abandoned Zinfandel vineyard that was producing wine grapes as far back as the late 1800s. They specialize in Zinfandel, with a line that includes wines from a variety of vineyards of various ages, and even features a single vineyard crown jewel called 1880, sourced exclusively from the estate’s original three acres of vines planted in that year.
As one would expect, the yields from 130 year old plants are incredibly minimal, making the wine a very rare find. The currently released vintage of 1880 was sold out when I visited the tasting room, so I regrettably will not be featuring it in this article. However, I am considering possibly making a trip up the coast in a few months, following their December release of the newest vintage. In the meantime, the wines I was able to try were impressive expressions of the varietal, the terroir, and the age of the vines from which they were sourced.
Wine #1: Saucelito Canyon 2008 San Luis Obispo County “Backroads” Zinfandel
The most affordably priced Zinfandel in Saucelito Canyon’s line, their Backroads Zin is an approachable, food friendly wine designed to be enjoyed when ever and where ever. The grapes are sourced along the Santa Lucia mountain range, and were specifically chosen to match Saucelito Canyon’s philosophy and quality standards.
There is a delicate, tender quality to the aroma of this wine. It’s strawberry and cherry toned, with a light hint of spice and a touch of violet. A firm spin in the glass opens up a sweet, somewhat sinewy quality that reminds me of rhubarb pie and wild honey.
This wine opens with the same strawberry rhubarb pie tone that I detected on the nose. It moves into violets and wild honey toward the mid palate with a wildflower component on the finish. This is a nicely perfumed, fresh, and very pleasant take on Zinfandel. Not too massive or jammy, this wine presents itself with a certain feminine delicacy. Something of a Burgundy lover’s Zinfandel, this is a very nice effort at the price point.
Worth Buying. 87 points.
Wine #2: Saucelito Canyon 2008 Arroyo Grande Valley Estate Zinfandel
Our second wine is sourced from the vines, some old and some new, grown on the Saucelito Canyon estate. 624 cases of this wine were produced, and prior to bottling it was aged in oak, one quarter of it new American, for nine months.
Dark chocolate and coffee beans dominate the aroma. Subtle violet tones that seem to be a trademark of this winery’s Zins, show through briefly before moving into deep brambly tones and a hint of jamminess. There is a faintly smoky quality to this wine, almost reminiscent of burnt rubber following a spin in the glass that is very intriguing.
Dark raspberry, lilac and violets introduce the palate, in an almost Mourvedre-like style. Rose wood, leather, a mixed spices mingle with soil, dark chocolate, coffee beans, and a black currant tone that lingers long into the finish. This is a very dark, deep, and complex wine, with tons of fleeting subtleties that give it a very multi-dimensional quality. The flavors are nicely layered and the structure is harmonious, with well integrated fruit and tannins. This is a very solid effort and easily…
Worth Trying. 90 points.
Wine #3: Saucelito Canyon 2007 Arroyo Grande Valley Estate Reserve Zinfandel
Like our second wine, this one also is sourced strictly from the vineyards grown on Saucelito Canyon’s estate. A limited production release, this wine makes use of some of the original old vines on the property as well as a special selection of the best fruit of the harvest.
The aroma opens with an almost gamey quality, with a generous amount of suede and a hint of smoke. Black currant and black cherry preserves, roasted coffee beans, a faint hint of truffles make this an excitingly complex, fascinating wine to sit and sniff.
At first sip the palate is deep and smoky and full of black leather tones. The mid palate is dominated by dark cherry, and tawny elements of soil and tamarind mixed with vanilla bean, blackberry and blackcurrant preserves, and a touch of cream. The finish lingers and evolves beginning with dried orange peel, moving into lavender and Saucelito Canyon’s signature violet flavor, with a soft touch of rosemary toward the end. This is a very complex, multilayered, and continually developing wine. An enjoyable and intriguing experience and easily a wine…
Worth Trying. 92 points.
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The Grapevine: What are some of your favorite California Zinfandels?