65% Zinfandel, 30% Carignane, 5% Petite Sirah
Mazzoni Home Ranch
Persistent cold fronts swept off the Pacific this year, delaying the start of the growing season by several weeks. Summer heat was unusually intense through June and July, subsiding in August, and warming again in mid-September. Because of the spread between early- and late-ripening varietals, timing the harvest of old-vine field blends is difficult. We sampled repeatedly, harvesting the first blocks on September 10, the last nineteen days later. Blocks with a high percentage of carignane were fermented with a floating cap of skins and regular pump-overs; fruit from the one pure zinfandel parcel was given a submerged-cap fermentation. Natural yeasts brought fermentations to dryness in six days. Assembling the wine in blind tasting, we determined that the opulent carignane should dominate the blend. Zinfandel adds rich fruit; petite sirah provides depth, spice, and structure. This level of concentration—and at moderate sugars—is attainable only from century-old vines such as these. A higher percentage of new and one-year-old barrels was used in aging, further complementing the claret-like character of the wine. Enjoyable now, it will develop fully over the next five to seven years.
Giuseppe Mazzoni and his fourteen-year-old brother-in-law, Abramo Trusendi, arrived from Italy in 1898 and went straight to work at the Italian Swiss Colony vineyard cooperative in Asti, California. In 1899, the two managed to acquire hillside acreage nearby overlooking Alexander Valley from the west. By 1910 they had built a winery and begun making wine. Except for the Prohibition years, they produced wine there until 1978. The Mazzonis were great believers in the contribution each varietal in a field blend could make to the finished wine. Accordingly, their century-old zinfandel is interplanted with carignane, which adds elegance, and petite sirah, which provides spice and depth. The Mazzoni Home Ranch was purchased in 1988 by Niccolo and Flora Oltranti. They have replanted parts of the abandoned hillside to zinfandel, supplementing the old vines’ output.
Rainfall: Over 60 inches (above average), late spring and early summer rains.
Bloom: May (1-2 weeks early)
Weather: Cool, wet spring, warm and dry summer.
Harvest Dates: 29 September
Grapes: Average brix at harvest 25.8˚
Fermentation: No inoculation. Natural primary and secondary, daily pump-overs. Pressed at six days.
Aging: 100% air-dried american oak barrels (26% new, 53% one year old, 21% five years old)
Time in barrel: Fourteen months
Average Rating: 89.1
No. of Tasting Notes: 47
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