1993 Montelena Estate Zinfandel

Often during the past ten years, people have asked us “Why bother with Zinfandel?” Cabernet Sauvignon, especially our Estate Cabernet, is surely the once and future king of the Calistoga appellation. The steadfast crew of Chateau Montelena replied over and over, “Pardon Señor, but we need something to drink at Salvador’s Carne Asada barbeque in the Vineyard.” Thus the trusty Zinfandel (the oldest vineyard on the ranch, planted in 1970), was saved from being torn up and replanted by pure hedonism. Boy, are we glad we kept it. The vineyard’s getting older and gives more distinctive grapes each year, thus allowing us to apply our “fine turning” winemaking philosophy to Zinfandel, as well as Cabernet.

This vintage of Zinfandel represents the first in a series of vintages with winemaking enhancements. We thin the fruit from the vine for smaller crops (2.7 tons per acres) to achieve more concentration and better ripening, and we pick each area of the vineyard a little differently to get the best from the vines. But since it is a mature vineyard, (can I say old by California standards?) and still going strong, our farming is relatively straight forward. Where the action is is with the Montelena Estate Zinfandel is at the old Chateau. After carefully hand picking the fruit, we adjust our crushing and destemming equipment to leave just the right amount of whole berry content?this results in a nice, fruity wine. During winemaking, we are very careful with the yeast strain, barrel aging, and blending so that we make our Zinfandel with a balance of powerful flavors and solid structure?we keep the wine soft, yet determined and persistent across the palate.

vintage weather

Cool. Average rainfall with some rain every month through June. Cool spring and cool weather at harvest, good fruit maturation. Crop size average, excellent flavor development.

tasting notes

This wine has all the Montelena Estate Zinfandel characteristics our aficionados will readily recognize??bright, yet dark ruby color and ready aromas of spice, brambles, and blackberry. It is in the taste and texture that this wine shows where our Zinfandel is headed with our fine tuning. It is super soft across the palate, but then just ignites to display the full, spicy Zinfandel flavor. Peppery, but only slightly so…that's how Zinfandel tastes from the upper Napa Valley…with more richness than the weight would suggest. The mostly berry fruit gives way to a nice, earthy extract from the old vines. We have worked diligently in our old Zinfandel vineyard, and in the cellar, to give this wine a mouthful of flavor and a luxurious finish. We think we have done so; it is smooth and leaves your palate saying, "Ummm, that's really good." Enjoy.

Harvest Date September 29 & 30
Sugar At Harvest 24.0º brix
Barrel Aging 12 months
Bottling Date April 1995
Release Date March 1996
Cases Produced 1,800
Alcohol 14.0%