Sunday, September 11, 2005

Rattlesnake Hill

Monte Rosso wineries. Home of some serious old gnarlies, baking happily high up on Rattlesnake Hill. It looks like Oklahoma up there, the soil's so freaking red. Both Robert Biale and Louis Martini source fruit from this vineyard. Mr. Martini himself was on hand with the winemaker from the Biale winery to talk to us about the vineyard.

I freely admit it: Zin ain't my favorite, especially the way it's tarted up these days into a massive, boozy fruit bomb. However, the first cellar sample of the day was quite nice: the 2004 Trocadero Zin had gobs of deep red-over-black fruit, nice zippy acidity and a long, rich finish to even things out. It was fine sipping, especially looking out from the heights, where on a clear day, you can see all the way to the City.

By the way, the pic on the left shows why Zinfandel sports both ripe black fruit and tart red fruit flavors at the same time: the berries ripen unevenly. Did you know that? I did not know that. How I love to learn things.

Mr. Martini (pouring barrel samples, left) and the winemaker for Biale. I can't remember his name, okay? So sue me.

We tasted four other barrel and cellar samples that day: a flight from Biale and one from Louis Martini. Everyone stood around the winemakers, slurping and nodding while the two men talked brix levels and fermentation techniques. I tried my best to pay attention, but what I really wanted to do was escape the dark barn and walk around the vines for a while. I'm just an odd one like that.

View of Mt. Veeder from Rattlesnake Hill.

The history of this hilltop vineyard revealed over a century of struggle with weather, economy, and the waxing and waning of intrest in Zinfandel in America. Tim Gaiser, our instructor, was adamant that we never snub the pink stuff, because it's popularity saved acres and acres of ancient Zinfandel vines from becoming compost. Okay, fine; but I'm still going to try to get people to drink Cabernet D'Anjou instead.

2004 Trocadero. Deep, rich, beefy. Can't complain, but I'd trade it in for a glass of French Syrah in a hearbeat. That's just me.

So here's what bugs me. The esteemed gentlemen who were leading our tour start talking about the 'unique terroir' of this vineyard. If there was terroir to be detected, it was pretty well buried under a mound of fruit.

Illustration of fruit/terroir ratio

I don't know if I'll ever be able to call myself a Zin fan, but I can appreciate the allure.



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