Robert Biale Vineyards Sets The Standard For California Zinfandels

The Most Significant Planting of Zinfandel in Our Modern Era.

Napa Vineyard Preservationists Take Zinfandel to “the Next Stage”

Back to the Future.

According to Dave Pramuk, Robert Biale’s co-founder and marketing strategist, “Robert Biale Vineyards is delighted with this project – the most significant planting of Zinfandel in Napa Valley in our modern era. In the pioneering days of California viticulture, Zinfandel was the grape of choice across the state. In Napa Valley, Zinfandel once comprised over 25 percent of the vineyards in the county. Since the Robert Mondavi era and Napa’s marketing switch to French wine grapes in the 1970s, it’s dwindled to a scant two percent of the valley’s vineyards.”

In the story that follows our review, you’ll learn the important facts of this most significant planting:

  • Why Biale approached Jan Krupp, Stagecoach Vineyards’ managing partner, about a new and exciting project overlooking the Oakville District of Napa Valley, and just south of prestigious Pritchard Hill.

  • “Renegade” Zinfandel planted unabashedly among Napa Valley Cabs, priced into the high hundreds of dollars per bottle, has no such pedigree, a cultish following, and is making history.

  • History of the Zinfandel grape on which you may not have yet had a focus, including its Croatian beginnings.

  • Stagecoach is a re-creation of a Zinfandel from the pioneer era. Learn its classic vine selection.

  • A huge calculating gamble pays off, with two important factors.

  • Viticultural terroir, above Napa Valley versus Sonoma.

  • What the 2002 and 2004 harvests delivered.

  • By 2007, potential was becoming reality.

  • New winemaker Steve Hall, takes on the 2008 harvest and gets into a selective picking regime that spells more success.

  • And 2009 delivers an uncommon Zinfandel that combines finesse, power, and identity in the same package. For Biale, the ideal wine is the ultimate expression of where it’s from.


We had be impressed with the 2009 Royal Punishers Napa Valley Petite Sirah, which is an outstanding example of what a great winemaker can do with this often misunderstood grape, which managed to keep its intensity, while exuding a definitive Rhone structure. So we were exited to taste a vertical selection of Stagecoach Zinfandel: 07, 08, 09 vintages so that we could get a fairly complete picture of the progress of the vineyard, how it has performed in different  seasons, and ageing characteristics.

Working from youngest to oldest vintage, we were impressed with the remarkable aging potential. While the 2009 was fruity and balanced, it only hinted at what it might evolve into. The 2007 was mature, yet fresh and inviting. A surprising elegance and finesse combined with a generous nose and glorious, lingering finish. The 2008 was a tad closed, but after several hours opened up to display flavors of cherry, black current  and hidden mint.

Food friendly, theses wines are the stuff that California admirers can flaunt with pride. Lovely with steaks, roasts, game, assertive cheeses and grilled salmon.

Inquire at the vineyard for pricing and availability. If you are fortunate enough to fine one on a restaurant wine list, grab it!

Mountain-raised, and making the torturous struggle to slowly ripen grapes, the vines at Stagecoach are producing Zinfandels that would make the Zinfandel forefathers proud, and delight the avid fans of this legacy to America’s viticultural origins.

For more information on Robert Biale, visit www.robertbialevineyards.com.

Robert Biale Vineyards Stagecoach Vineyard The Biale Block Zinfandel, Napa Valley, USA

Copyright 2012 By Punchin International. All Rights Reserved.

Disclosure

Appellation
Napa Valley
Composition
96% Zinfandel
4% Petite Sirah
Alcohol
15.8%
pH
3.72%
Total Acidity
0.64g / 100ml
Barrels
30% New French Oak
70% New American Oak
Cases Produced
308
Release Date
December 11th, 2010
Suggested Retail
$ 40

Vineyard Notes
Stagecoach Vineyard – This Mountainside vineyard is owned
and operated by Dr. Jan Krupp. It sits at the top of Soda Canyon
Road on the Eastern rim of Napa Valley in the Vaca Range at
around 1500 ft. elevation. Boasting fantastic views of the valley
floor, it has an extremely rocky soil with more rocks than soil.
The vine spacing is 4 x8 ft. with a 3 wire vertical trellis system.
Gamble Ranch – This Napa Valley gem of a vineyard is owned
and managed by Tom Gamble.  The Petite Sirah is planted in a
rich Napa Valley Loam and thus requires a split vertical trellis
system to hold down the vigor.  It is located right by the Napa
Valley Grape Vine Wreath Company, and makes extremely dark
colored wines.

Production
The zinfandel grapes had such a brave minerality that it shows
right through the finished wine.  A long cold soak and macro
bin fermentations urged the berry fruit to brightness.  We inoculated this lot with BM 45, BM 4×4, and D80 yeast strains and
then was aged in oak barrels.
Wine maker Comments
Flavors and aromas of dulce de leche and caramel crème lead
the way, followed by rich raspberry, sage, dark chocolate, graphite minerality, and violets.
Awards
91 Points & 2 Puffs – Connoiseurs’ Guide
Gold, Best of Class – 2011 California State Fair Wine Competition


Written by Dave Pramuk of Robert Biale Vineyards. (Dave is one of the founding owners.)

Robert Biale Vineyards

Stagecoach Vineyard, The Biale Block

Napa Vineyard Preservationists Take Zinfandel to “the Next Stage”

Back to the Future.

Robert Biale Vineyards is delighted with this project – the most significant planting of Zinfandel in Napa Valley in our modern era. In the pioneering days of California viticulture, Zinfandel was the grape of choice across the state. In Napa Valley, Zinfandel once comprised over 25 percent of the vineyards in the county. Since the Robert Mondavi era and Napa’s marketing switch to French wine grapes in the 1970’s, it’s dwindled to a scant two percent of the valley’s vineyards.

In 1999, seeing the scarcity of Zinfandel, but an increasing demand for its top quality Zinfandel wines, Biale approached Stagecoach Vineyards’ Managing Partner Jan Krupp about a new project. The proposal was to perpetuate the legacy of Napa Valley Zinfandel, by establishing a new Biale vineyard at a prime site. In this case, it was a sloping ridge overlooking the Oakville District of Napa Valley, and just south of prestigious Pritchard Hill.

Surrounded by a who’s who of elite Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon producers, this little four acres of America’s iconic grape is something of a renegade, if not an outright rebel. Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons are priced into the high hundreds of dollars per bottle – collectible trophies that are compared equally to the even more expensive old-world, First Growths of Bordeaux. Zinfandel, an iconoclast, has no such price pedigree and is prized by a cultish clan of devotees, who cherish it for its sheer hedonistic pleasure.

Zinfandel, now known to be one of the world’s oldest wine varieties, is a flavored-packed grape typically evoking wild blackberries, raspberries, and exotic brown and black spices. It’s the spunky California-raised orphan, whose parentage we now know is linked directly to the Dalmatian Coast of the
Adriatic, due to the recent discovery of nine old vines in Croatia – identical to Zinfandel.

There, the variety is called Crljenak Kastelanski (pron. Tsurl-yenik cast-el-anski). Zinfandel, thin-skinned and delicious, arrived on America’s shores as a popular new table grape in the 1830’s; and, migrated west with the Gold Rush, to the warm and sunny Golden State in the 1850s. In ensuing decades, Zinfandel would become the most widely planted grape in California’s thriving wine industry.

Planted on classic, old-fashioned St. George rootstock, and grafted with old vine selections from Aldo’s Vineyard and Dr. Crane’s original ranch, Stagecoach is a re-creation of a Zinfandel from the pioneer era. The modern influences are labor-saving, sun-catching wire trellises and a water-stingy drip irrigation system. California’s back-breaking and penurious first farmers would have loved to have afforded the labor-saving luxuries of pruning, canopy shaping, cluster thinning, cluster ripening, and flavor-driving goodness.

Of course, dedicating prime Napa real estate to such an endeavor was a huge calculated gamble for a small winery such as Biale; but, there were two mitigating factors.

1. Biale was working with Jan Krupp, an established expert grower/partner, who was willing (as he does with all vineyard projects) to give this unique Zinfandel mission his best effort.

2. Biale was isolating a new vineyard site, which seemed to the experienced winery partners to be ideally suited to a Zinfandel project. “This site had ‘slam dunk’ written all over it,” says Bob Biale, co-founder of Biale and vineyard manager. “It’s a stressed and severe site, but this is what Zinfandel needs in order to control its vigor, to ripen slowly, avoid bunch rot and mildew, and to keep the berry size smaller. We’re not after sheer grape quantity here – we’re after a red wine that’s expressive and compelling,” says Biale.

In fact, Stagecoach resembles Sonoma Valley’s legendary Monte Rosso Vineyard in so many ways: the sunny 1,200 foot elevation, the sloping pitch of the terrain, the air movement, sunrise to sunset sunlight- hours, red mineral-rich volcanic soil, adequate rainfall – even a spectacular mountaintop westward view – all are eerily similar. And not to be overlooked or avoided: rocks, rocks, rocks, and more rocks. The main difference is that it is above Napa Valley rather than Sonoma.

The new Stagecoach Zinfandel vines began producing their first grapes in 2002 and in 2004. The crop was of such quality as to merit a new Biale vineyard designation. “The 2004 Stagecoach was different than any other Zinfandel we had in our repertoire,” says Dave Pramuk, co-founder and marketing strategist for Biale. “Ideally, we have a series of Zinfandels that are very different from one another. Stagecoach had a black plum / Bing cherry flavor profile, with an underlying power and a sleek structure that was very different from what we expected,” says Pramuk.

In 2007, a widely recognized great Napa Valley vintage, Stagecoach Zinfandel began to reveal its potential, producing not just a delicious Zinfandel, but also a serious red wine. It evoked a vivid expression of its site: harmonious, seamless, mineral-laced, and complex.

In 2008, spikes of summer heat wreaked havoc among California’s vineyards, but weather moderated in the fall. Steve Hall, Biale’s new winemaker, approached Stagecoach with a new take on the vineyard’s ripening pattern according to its soils profile. The selective picking regimen produced a Zinfandel of brightness, purity, uniform ripeness, and textural loveliness.

In 2009, with its ideal season and moderation, Stagecoach reached another level in its development, producing an uncommon Zinfandel that combines finesse, power, and identity in the same package. For Biale, the ideal wine is the ultimate expression of where it’s from.

Mountain-raised, and making the torturous struggle to slowly ripen grapes, the vines at Stagecoach are producing Zinfandels that would make the Zinfandel forefathers proud, and delight the avid fans of this legacy to America’s viticultural origins.

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