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Wine of the Week: Louis M. Martini 2016 Gnarly Vine Monte Rosso Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma County Zinfandel

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This week's blind tasting

Zinfandel

TOP PICK

Louis M. Martini
2016 Gnarly Vine Monte Rosso Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma County Zinfandel, 16.2% alcohol, $70. ★★★★½
A remarkable zin that will turn heads. It has a bolt of black raspberry fruit upfront, then a hint of sassy cranberry and snappy cracked black pepper. Full-bodied, this zin manages to be both supple and edgy. Gorgeous.


TASTY ALTERNATIVES

Ridge Vineyards, 2017 Pagani Ranch, Sonoma Valley Zinfandel 14.6%, $40. ★★★★: This is a racy zinfandel, buoyed with great acidity. Aromas and flavors of blueberry, cherry, cracked black pepper and mineral. Lovely.
Nick Goldschmidt, 2018 Alexander Valley Railyard Fidelity Zinfandel, 14.7%, $20. ★★★★: This striking zin has generous fruit and pitch-
perfect balance. Notes of blackberry, anise and cracked black pepper. Extremely well crafted.
Decoy, 2017 Sonoma County Zinfandel, 14.1%, $25. ★★★½: A tasty zin with notes of cherry, blackberry and savory herbs. Bright acid. Just the right kick of spice. Smart.
Peachy Canyon, 2017 Mustang Springs Zinfandel, 14.6%, $42. ★★★½: A smoky zin weighted to red fruit. Layered notes of anise, tea and caramel play back up. Pretty.

With a little imagination, the gnarled trunks of old vine zinfandel can seem like a centenarian with a cane.

These 120-year old vines are plentiful in the Monte Rosso vineyard, situated on a slope of the Mayacamas Mountain, 1,300 feet from the Sonoma Valley floor. But don’t be fooled. While these vines seem feeble, they still have plenty of life in them.

“Old vine zinfandel has a depth, complexity and concentration that you can’t find with younger vines,” said Michael Eddy of St. Helena’s Louis M. Martini Winery. “It’s the wisdom of age, of enduring through the challenges season after season. You coax these incredible clusters from the vine.”

Eddy and his wise vines are behind our wine of the week winner –– the Louis M. Martini 2016 Gnarly Vine Monte Rosso Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma County Zinfandel at $70. This is a remarkable zin that will turn heads.

It has a bolt of black raspberry fruit upfront, followed by a hint of sassy cranberry, savory herbs and cracked black pepper. It’s full bodied, and it manages to be both supple and edgy.

Other tasty, less-expensive zinfandels include the Nick Goldschmidt 2018 Alexander Valley Railyard Fidelity Zinfandel at $20 and the Decoy 2017 Sonoma County Zinfandel at $25.

With the popular ZinEX string of events this Thursday through Saturday in San Francisco, many zinfandel fanatics are gearing up to taste this varietal in all its incarnations.

There will be 101 wineries pouring at the Grand Tasting 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Pier 27 on the Embarcadero. Last year’s tasting reeled in about 1,200 people. Tickets, ranging from $75 to $185, will be available at the door. They’re also available on line at zinfandelexperience.com.

For those curious about the Louis Martini Gnarly Vine, Monte Rosso Vineyard Zinfandel, Vineyard Manager Brenae Royal is featured on the “Flights!” panel and tasting on Friday.

People from China, Italy and many U.S. states are making their way to ZinEX to learn more about zinfandel, the great immigrant success story.

Once California’s mystery grape, DNA fingerprinting revealed this renegade grape was genetically identical to Italy’s primitivo and the Croatian variety crljenak kastelanski.

The grape found its way to the U.S. in the late 1800s, where it has found both fame and fortune.

Eddy, 47, said he’s been a fan of zinfandel for decades, inside the classroom and out.

The senior director of winemaking earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Humboldt State University and a master’s degree in Food Science, specializing in enology, at UC Davis.

“Zinfandel can express itself in so many different ways,” Eddy said.

“The trick in crafting exceptional zinfandel is finding the vineyard sites that show off the style you want to taste in that glass. With Monte Rosso Vineyard, we have that signature spiciness, great acidity and hints of earth that you don’t always get from other sites.”

You can reach Wine Writer Peg Melnik at peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5310.

This week's blind tasting

Zinfandel

TOP PICK

Louis M. Martini
2016 Gnarly Vine Monte Rosso Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma County Zinfandel, 16.2% alcohol, $70. ★★★★½
A remarkable zin that will turn heads. It has a bolt of black raspberry fruit upfront, then a hint of sassy cranberry and snappy cracked black pepper. Full-bodied, this zin manages to be both supple and edgy. Gorgeous.


TASTY ALTERNATIVES

Ridge Vineyards, 2017 Pagani Ranch, Sonoma Valley Zinfandel 14.6%, $40. ★★★★: This is a racy zinfandel, buoyed with great acidity. Aromas and flavors of blueberry, cherry, cracked black pepper and mineral. Lovely.
Nick Goldschmidt, 2018 Alexander Valley Railyard Fidelity Zinfandel, 14.7%, $20. ★★★★: This striking zin has generous fruit and pitch-
perfect balance. Notes of blackberry, anise and cracked black pepper. Extremely well crafted.
Decoy, 2017 Sonoma County Zinfandel, 14.1%, $25. ★★★½: A tasty zin with notes of cherry, blackberry and savory herbs. Bright acid. Just the right kick of spice. Smart.
Peachy Canyon, 2017 Mustang Springs Zinfandel, 14.6%, $42. ★★★½: A smoky zin weighted to red fruit. Layered notes of anise, tea and caramel play back up. Pretty.

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