1996 Montelena Estate Saint Vincent

1996 was a great year for the Zinfandel, the essence of our St Vincent proprietary Red. Harvest was very early due to the hot summer. Crush ’96 began with Sangiovese from the very rocky hillsides on Aug. 29 and finished with the last of the Zinfandel on Oct. 16. How about that! Over six weeks of harvest for one wine, certainly one method to achieve complexity.

The Saint Vincent is from sections of our estate acreage dedicated to the SV, as we call it. The most fun part of making this wine is the careful blending in the cellar to achieve a distinctive style. Each vintage we adjust the varieties up or down to achieve a consistent and distinctive style that highlights the vintage. By this methodology we moderate the stylistic swings associated with Zinfandel - one year it could be 16% alcohol, smoky and tarry- your basic bottled raisin juice- and the next year a delightful fresh berry soft earthy Pinot style. In 1996 we were very stoked on the super Tuscan styling, and this wine reflects that shaping in the blending. The wine is certainly Zinfandel, but in a very soft and complex style, quite a bit different from the currently popular monster retro style. To ensure extraordinary grape quality we pruned and thinned the Zinfandel to one cluster per shoot. Very severe. The 1996 Sangiovese was very shy bearing due to the fact it is growing in pure rock.

vintage weather

Hot. Average rainfall. Mild winter, untimely spring rains and intense summer heat resulted in low vineyard yields. Ripening weather in September-October was excellent. Lightest crop size since 1988, very high extraction and very concentrated juice.

tasting notes

The blend of these grapes results in a wine that is a medium ruby color. Both the nose and palate have more intensity than the color alone would indicate. It has an earthy brambly bouquet. The aroma shows blending with several different berry tones, mostly raspberry and black cherry; and the Sangiovese shows up as a cranberry note in the background. Even with the hot summer our farming and winemaking avoided the overripe prune or raisin. On the palate it has a very bright front of spicy fruit, followed by a moderate richness and very smooth finish. There is soft tannin and a fruit aftertaste, but it is dominated by berry fruit flavor. Here the other varieties come into play, a cranberry brightness from the Sangiovese, and a richer dried berry finish. Chateau Montelena Zinfandel fans will easily recognize the basic framework of this wine but with a much broader fruit spectrum and extremely fine balance. It is unmistakably Zinfandel, so that's where it belongs in your menu and wine list thinking. We are very excited about how the good old field blending has enhanced our perennial home favorite Zinfandel as it evolved into the Saint Vincent. We are sure when you taste the SV you'll see why we went to the lengths we have to plant new varietal vineyards and make a big commitment to this Zinfandel based wine.

Harvest Date Sangiovese August 29; Zinfandel September 4, 12 and October 16
Sugar At Harvest 23.4º to 24.0º brix
Barrel Aging 12 to 16 months
Bottling Date April 1998
Release Date March 1999
Cases Produced 1,700
Alcohol 13.5%