Calaveras County Zinfandel was the theme for the Thursday night tasting at Fine Wines of Stockton. Mike Stange, owner and winemaker at Metate Hill Vineyards and a board member of the Calaveras WineGrape Alliance brought Zinfandels from six different wineries. All except one had the grapes grown in Calaveras County while the Ironstone’s grapes were from the Lodi area.
Mike explained how the diverse micro climates in Calaveras County made their wines different from other areas including neighboring Amador county. In general Amador County Zinfandels exhibit a characteristic peppery flavor, where as Calaveras county Zinfandels tend to have a smoother fruit. Calaveras County has many diverse microclimates due to significant elevation variations within the county. The vines in general are more stressed than Amador County which has fewer abrupt elevation changes. In general, the vineyards in Calaveras County are spread out based these microclimates.
2009 Black Sheep Calaveras County Zinfandel – This wine is yet to be released by the winery. The nose showed ripe dark fruit with rich ripe fruit flavors. The wine was not over ripe however, had good acid and a moderate amount of tannins.
2009 Newsome-Harlow Zinfandel Calaveras County – This wine showed smoother fruit flavors with good acid and was less tart than the Black Sheep Zinfandel. The wine was rounder with smoother tannins and flavors of cloves in the background.
2007 Hatcher Estate Zinfandel Calaveras County – A little sweeter flavors, with ripe dark fruit and a slightly hot finish. There was a bit more wood influence in this wine. Upon re-tasting after the initial tasting, this wine really stood out among the group as our favorite. The flavors were complex, the wine well balanced and the tannins very pleasant.
2008 Ironstone Estate Reserve Old Vine Zinfandel, Rous Vineyard Lodi – 90 plus year old vines. The nose was stinky initially, but blew off to show very ripe dark fruit. The fruit had a slightly baked flavor with significant tannins and less acid the previous wines. This may be a reflection of the grapes being grown in Lodi and not Calaveras County.
2009 Renner Zinfandel Calaveras County – The grapes are from the Angels Camp area, a slightly cooler growing area. the flavors were a bit restrained, but show good promise with the expectation that flavors will evolve. The tannins were moderate and the acid good. It was well balanced and would probably age well.
2009 Milliaire Zinfandel Calaveras County Heritage Old Vine Ghiradelli – 104 year old vines. This wine showed a restrained fruit nose with pleasant but somewhat restrained fruit flavors and big tannins. this wine was much less ripe and had less up-front flavor, but was still very complex and very pleasant.
This Zinfandel tasting was very interesting. All of the Zin’s had plenty of ripe fruit flavor without being over ripe or jammy. There was good acid and a pleasant amount of tannins in all of these wines. They would all be good food wines or appreciated just by themselves.