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December 30, 2016 Wine Pick of the Week

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2013 OldVine Zinfandel bottle rgb1 Picmonkey

2014 Old Vine Zinfandel


Dry Creek Vineyard

Dry Creek Valley

Alcohol: 14.5%

Suggested Retail: $32

“Ever wonder why you don’t hear about ‘Old Vine’ Cabernet Sauvignon or ‘Old Vine’ Merlot? The answer could get complex, but the first issue might be to define ‘old.’ Though there’s lots of oversight and regulation of the wine industry, there is no official or governmentally-mandated standard for this category.

“Another reason is that there aren’t nearly as many old Cabernet and Merlot vines (or Pinot Noir, or Chardonnay or so many other now-common varieties) as there are Zins, which have been a vineyard staple in California since way back in the 19th Century.

“Dry Creek Vineyard is reputed to have come up with the phrase ‘old vine’ and defines it as coming from vineyards whose vines average more than 50 years old. For their 2014 Old Vine Zinfandel, the wine we salute as our Pick this week, the winery has sourced grapes from vines more than 95 years old and in some cases more than 110 years. Ninety-five years before the grapes for this week’s wine were harvested, American doughboys were just coming back to farms in Sonoma County after seeing combat in France during World War I. Babe Ruth was transitioning from pitcher to outfielder and still wearing a Boston Red Sox uniform. The Volstead Act, which outlawed alcohol in the U.S., was going into effect and would lead to unprecedented lawlessness until repealed 14 years later. It was a lousy time for vineyardists and wineries alike and the overall wine industry didn’t recover until many years after the law’s 1933 Repeal.

“Fortunately, many of the vineyards of that era survived to provide grapes for some of the best Zinfandel available to today’s consumers. Modern methods dictate more efficient trellising methods, but these old vine relics don’t hang on wires. Their pruning is described as ‘head trained’ and they have that gnarly look the way all grape vines did those many years ago. For the most part, these old vines are unable to produce fruit quantity in the tonnages that are economically advantageous these days. These vineyards might struggle to produce a ton or two per acre. A recently planted vineyard in the same area would likely yield five or six tons. Yield is poor, but oh the quality. There is an intensity and a unique character to the fruit of these ancient vines that is really special.

“The Dry Creek Vineyard 2014 Old Vine Zinfandel contains smaller amounts of two other grapes—Petite Sirah (19%) and Carignane (3%). While the winery doesn’t state the age of the vines providing these components, Petite Sirah and Carignane are grapes that have been popular in California for over 100 years and are frequently blended with Zinfandel.

“Though a robust 14.5% alcohol as befitting a modern Zin, this wine exhibits some of the hallmarks of really good Zinfandels from an earlier era of when plenty of flavor could be had at a point or two lower. The fruit is there, but the charm for this reviewer is in the nuances of white pepper and dried herbs that give a complexity both in the nose and on the palate. Aspects of dark plum, black cherries and raspberries are suffused in a surprisingly melded personality, given that the wine is so young. The 2014 Old Vine from Dry Creek Vineyard is a really appealing Zinfandel that will continue to improve in the bottle for several years.”

Food Affinity: “A T-Bone, grilled rare and served with homemade French fries cooked in duck fat and a side of creamed spinach.”


Editor’s Note:  Wines reviewed in Taste CaliforniaTravel are encountered by our staff in several ways. They can be discovered at trade tastings or visits to wineries. They may also be purchased by staff members for their own tables or be those sent by wineries for possible review. This is an editorial feature, not advertising, and appearance cannot be secured by payment. More information can be had by contacting This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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