2013 Pioneer Cuvée
It must have been a real challenge for the first grape growers here in Sonoma County as there wasn’t any experience to tell them what and where to grow vines and they just had to learn on the job. When they were successful, the vines endured and we still have some of these vineyards that were planted more than a hundred years ago. One of these vineyards is the Rossi Ranch here in Glen Ellen. This year I’ll be getting grapes from one of these original blocks, although about half the old vines are missing and have recently been replanted. These old vineyards are what we call “field blends” containing many different grape varieties, all usually picked at the same time and co-fermented. It is interesting to see that at the Rossi Ranch, the replacement vines in one of my blocks have continued the heritage of mixed vines in addition to Zinfandel. Sleuthing around, I’ve noted many of the usual suspects, Alicante Bouschet (for color), Petite sirah (structure), Grenache (for acidity) and on my last trip I found a few I couldn’t positively identify. One turned out to be Tannat, with the budwood taken from the historic “Old Hill” vineyard also here in Glen Ellen.
My tribute to the old vineyards is this Pioneer Cuvee, based on Estate Zinfandel but then adding Grenache (from Rossi Ranch) and Petite sirah (from Kick Ranch). The blending is done months after making the individual wines, so I can get just the right percentages. This has more Zinfandel than the 2012 version, making the wine just a little more fruit driven than before and also a little smoother and richer and with lower acidity. Almost too easy to like, it will be perfect with anything grilled now and for the next 5 years.