I had the pleasure of attending a tasting and dinner hosted by Tim and Kari Ramey of Zenith Vineyard for all producers of wine from Zenith grapes. This was the third annual event, modeled after the longer running Shea vineyard dinner that follows the same format. Taste through barrel samples of the prior year's wines from all producers in attendance, and follow it up with a nice dinner.
This year we were tasting 2010s, of course. Producers in attendance included Zenith and St. Innocent, both made by Mark Vlossak, Adelsheim, Ponzi, Biggio-Hamina, Seufert, Elemental Cellars, Wild Aire, and Grochau Cellars and of course my label, Vincent. Since John Grochau couldn't make it, I led the tasting for his sample as well as my own.
Essentially, each winemaker gets up and details what block the grapes came from in a given barrel sample, when the grapes were picked, how the wine was made, where the wine is in its elevage, and then people offer comments, opinions, questions. Sometimes lots, sometimes not much at all. For me, it's a chance to have several leading winemakers in our region try my wine and give their input. I happily wasn't nervous as I've been in the past. I'm happy with what I've produced and know others will enjoy it, provided they're looking for something translucent in color with delicate flavors that sneak up on you rather than hit you over the head.
I found it particularly instructive to taste everyone's barrel samples, hear how they approached the winemaking, where their wines are in their elevage, and what they thought of the wine. People are pretty honest, though they don't criticize so much. I think it's more about praise if the sample warrants it, then understanding of what the winemaker is trying to do, then keeping ones mouth shut if there's something they don't love about the sample.
How were the 2010s? From a big vineyard like Zenith, it makes sense to say - very good but all over the map. There were masculine, extracted wines. There were delicate, ethereal wines. There may have been some sense of place through them all. I'm not convinced though. I did find the wines interesting. Loved some of them, especially those that fit my style, which makes sense, no? And there's certainly a vintage signature - enough ripeness but not too much, reasonable alcohols, bright acids or flavors that convey more "crunchiness" than acidity levels might suggest. Call it a junior 2008, which is praise.
I came away both happy with my wine but also knowing I have lots to learn if I want to make truly great wine. I mean truly great, oh my god wine. Right now, I'm making what I think is very good wine. Wine I'm very proud of. But let's be real, I can do better and feel inspired to do just that. To continue learning and growing. So that I'm looking forward to this growing season and harvest, and many more after that.
Need more inspiration? How about a marvelous three course dinner that featured a vertical of Ponzi Reserve Pinot Noir from 1990 to 1996. That '90 was spectacular. The '92, from a hot vintage where harvest apparently started in late August (!!!), was really nice. The '95, from a rainy "wash out" vintage, I'd had before and it was again really nice, lighter for sure but all together and beautiful. Those were my favorites, though I was driving so I did much more sniffing than drinking.
Thanks Tim and Kari for the lovely event. I feel lucky to be part of the Zenith vineyard, even in my small way.