Wine of the Week winner: Pellegrini, 2018 Alexander Valley, Sonoma County Zinfandel
Vintners will tell you there’s no playbook for extreme weather. They’re making decisions minute by minute as they grapple with our abnormal new normal.
“My family has been making wine from Sonoma-grown grapes since 1925, and this is the first time we’ve ever dealt with wildfire before harvest,” said fourth-generation vintner Alexia Pellegrini, general manager of Santa Rosa’s Pellegrini-Olivet Lane. “There is no precedent for wildfires beginning mid-August, nor the intense statewide lightning storms and tropical humidity that preceded them.”
Pellegrini said 2020 is the “year of the pivot.”
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, every week has brought a new challenge, change of strategy or government directive to study and disseminate to staff,” she said. “I look forward to a time where we have stability again and can again travel to visit with customers around the country.”
The pivoting vintner is behind our wine of the week winner — Pellegrini 2018 Alexander Valley, Sonoma County Zinfandel at $35. This is a food-friendly zin with high-toned cherry and cranberry fruit coupled with blackberry flavors. It has notes of allspice and fennel in the mix. It’s impressive and our kind of feisty.
Other tasty zins include: Eberle 2018 Paso Robles Zinfandel, $32; Fidelity 2018 Alexander Valley Railyard Zinfandel, $20; Quivira Vineyards 2017 Black Boar, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County Zinfandel, $55, and Castello di Amorosa 2017 Zingaro, Old Vine Zinfandel, $42.
As for the winning zin, it was built to age gracefully, though it can be enjoyed young, Pellegrini said.
“Our philosophy on making zinfandel is quite simple,” she said. “We have the same attention to detail and gentleness that is required for making pinot noir. Harvest early for bright characteristics, lower alcohol and mostly neutral French oak.”
The grapes for this bottling were sourced entirely from the Carlin Vineyard on Alexander Valley Road, Pellegrini said.
“The very back of the vineyard sits on a steep south-facing slope, with background hills which provide early shade for the fruit,” she said. “All blocks from the property are blended for one pick and single fermentation, including some white varieties vines inter-planted in the oldest section of the vineyard, which adds to its naturally floral nose.”
The first Pellegrini zinfandels were made from a vineyard the family planted off Olivet Road. They used the scion clone from the historic Saitone vineyard next door.
“Our first crop was in 2004, and at the time I was a full-time cellar rat,” Pellegrini said. “Tasting from the tank, we were blown away by its complexity. That zinfandel vineyard produced wonderful grapes, though it was tragically planted over to another, more profitable varietal by its new owners.”
Pellegrini, 40, said her personal interest in wine started when she took her first viticulture class at the Santa Rosa Junior College in 2000.
“Standing in a vineyard in Dry Creek on a field trip was where all the dots connected for me,” she said. “It all stemmed from working the earth in the vineyard to dragging hoses in the winery to designing packaging for bottling and opening those bottles with friends in celebration.”
Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at email@example.com or 707-521-5310.