2003 Montelena Estate Zinfandel

Overall, the 2003 growing season was very good. In March we had a good start to budding owing to a warm spell, then April brought much needed moisture to our dry-farmed soils, setting the stage for healthy and productive vines. Summer’s consistently moderate weather set the stage for an even harvest. Nonetheless, 2003 was more challenging for Zinfandel than any of the other varieties due to the heat spell in September. Zinfandel will often have the most difficulty when the weather shifts from cool to hot at the very important ripening stage because its big berry size, thin skin, and relatively high water content make it prone to shriveling, and this is exactly what occurred. As the heat continued we worked diligently in the vineyards to get the grapes off the vines before they turned to raisins.

We harvested our old-vines during the first September heat spell, preventing severe damage that would have resulted during the second wave of heat in late September. We picked this fruit primarily at night with headlamps to help us avoid super high sugars and resultant alcohol. Now here is where we began to make this wine in the vineyard… our younger vines, of a clone with smaller berry size, were also beginning to reveal some shriveling. We determined that, under these weather conditions, the crop size was too large and performed a significant thinning. We then observed that the more exposed southern side of the trellis was threatening to continue to shrivel, so we made a two-pass harvest. We picked the stressed fruit, mostly the southern side of the rows, on October 8, allowing the balance of fruit on the northern side to mature steadily. In the end, we harvested our 10 acres of young vines over a period of 24 days. That is one sure way to achieve complexity!

90Wine Advocate
vintage weather

tasting notes

The deeply colored wine is dark purple to the edge of the glass, typical of a red wine from a warmer harvest. The aroma is an immediately appealing bowl of berry, raspberry and plums with characteristic smoky Zinfandel blend of briar, and cedar box. The expectations created by these inviting aromas are fully met on the palate as spicy dark fruit flavors swathe the palate, and the warm-harvest concentration is balanced by the wine's soft, round body. The finish is long and stylish, preparing you for that next bite from the grill. Despite the heat at harvest, our "winemaking in the vineyard" has allowed us to stay true to our elegant, balanced claret style, uncommon among Zinfandels today.

Harvest Date Old Vines Zinfandel: 9/20 Young Vines Zinfandel: 9/30-10/23
Sugar At Harvest Old Vines: 24.0-25.4 Young Vines: 24.0-26.3
Barrel Aging 16 months
Bottling Date May 2005
Release Date March 2006
Cases Produced 4,400