Light garnet. Betcha didn’t see THAT one comin. Wait, Zinfandel? A ruddy transparent? Delicate and light on the nose too, pretty flowers, crushed and slightly drying, ground into wet sand–a windswept, rocky Bolinas coastline, savory only as far as you can see in the fog, everything cool and mossy, a spicy pepper bursting timidly from inside, briar also muted, playing behind the figgy fruit. There’s so much thin beauty to it. Peach-butter and milk chocolate, a dirty cardboard serving tray.
This week a very smart winemaker friend said, “Zinfandel requires a freshness that isn’t inherent.” Instantly it spoke to my years-long issue with (almost all) Zin. Zinfandel is a very peculiar grape, with a distinct flavor profile. It ripens unevenly, causing many producers–in their un-ending pursuit of perfect ripeness–to pick twice or wait for-EVER or sort fastidiously. I have always maintained Zin needs to be picked all at once in its imperfect state. The best thing that ever happens to Zin is some Grenache-colored fruit and some shot berries. I shared this quote with friends and instantly was shot down. But I am standing by it. I think there’s places Zinfandel shouldn’t be grown. I think Paso is one of those places. I think the Sierra Foothills is another. Lodi for #3. HOW MUCH DO YOU HATE ME RIGHT NOW. I don’t care.
Swan is one of those wineries where NOTHING has changed in 40 years. I’ve been visiting for most of those years and can attest to this. This is a winery DOING IT RIGHT. Prices don’t change, styles don’t change, #influencer will never visit this place and splash wine in the air. I know Pinot is the big dog from this producer, but do NOT leave Syrah, Zinfandel, or Gewurztraminer off your order sheet.
A great watery-syrup invades the mouth. More of that white pepper ping the edges. Firm cherry and acai run flat-out across the fresh blacktop smoothness. Shockingly bright, I would be surprised if this thing is over 13-oh. Stupidly good, unnervingly fresh–so much life and spirit, non-existent tannin. All I ask is firm, juicy ship and a spicy star to sail her by. Swan does this. This will blow the mind of anyone who had tickets to ZINFEST this weekend, but THIS is what zin should taste like. Lookin at you, ZINBITCH.
2012 JOSEPH SWAN VINEYARDS Zinfandel Mancini Ranch RRV Sonoma 12.9