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Sep. 17, 2011 Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel 2008

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Edoardo Seghesio planted his first Seghesio Zinfandel vineyard in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley in 1895. Since then, four generations of Seghesios have tended the Sonoma vines. Allegedly only initially intended for family consumption, the Seghesio family decided to share their wines by releasing them commercially in 1983 for the first time. Frankly I’m very grateful.

I first discovered the Seghesio through their limited growth (just five acres of vines) Seghesio Barbera which I tasted back in June. In that Seghesio Barbera I found a wine that despite being radically different from Barbera grown in it’s homeland of Piedmont, Italy, it was a wine which expressed the sun-baked terrior of the Seghesios’ “Home Ranch” Sonoma vineyard perfectly, as well as remaining rich, complex and nuanced.

A large proportion of this Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel is also from the Seghesio “Home Ranch” vineyard, with other parcels of fruit coming from the Seghesio holdings of “San Lorenzo” and “River Road” in the Alexander Valley and the “Cortina” vineyard in Dry Creek Valley. All within the wider Sonoma region, Zinfandel plantings account for half of the Seghesios’ 400 hectares of vines. Whilst Zinfandel fruit from the oldest vines (60 years+ with most closer to 90 years old) makes it’s way into the Seghesio Family’s “Old Vine Zinfandel”, the vines that produce this young(er) vine Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel are still 25-30 years of age.

Running right from the west coast, to many kilometres inland, the Sonoma County of California sees a variety of climatic and soil conditions which affect the style of wines produced. Sitting well inland from the sea, the Seghesio Family vineyards see a warm and dry climate, with occasional fogs a reminder of the family’s original home of Piedmont, North West Italy.

Harvested in several parcels from each vineyard, 35 separate lots of Sonoma Zinfandel are vinified and blended by winemaker Ted Seghesio to produce this Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel. As is common with Californian Zinfandel, a little Petite Syrah is also included in the blend to add complexity to the finished wine. This Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel is aged for 11 months in 75% American oak prior to release, with additional time in bottle. 68,000 cases are made.

Awarded 93pts by The Wine Spectator and being ranked at number 10 in the top 100 hundred wines of 2008 by the same publication, it would be fair to assume that winemaker Ted Seghesio’s suggestion that the 2007 Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel was the best Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel release since it became commercially available may not be that far off the mark. Now it's time to see how the 2008 Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel lives up to that reputation.

Interestingly this Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel is sealed with a screw cap...I am sure I remember the Barbera coming with a fantastic quality cork. Whilst Zinfandel flavours are often accessible for drinking immediately, it would be interesting to see how this Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel fairs a few years down the line with a screw cap closure and the potential issues with reduction that can occur. (For those of you who aren’t too anorak-wearing about wine, “reduction” is essentially a rubbery aroma than can occur as a result of a wine suffering oxygen starvation. It appears that this can occur more with wine sealed with a screw cap than with a natural cork, although obviously wines with natural corks can become too oxidised and turn out like vinegar instead!)

In the glass, this Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel is an intense and rich sloe to cherry colour with massive legs adequately displaying this Zinfandel’s prodigious alcohol. Despite weighing in at 15.5% alcohol, this Seghesio isn’t the heaviest Californian Zinfandel out there (far from it – some examples reach 16%) but it’s probably fair to say that this Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel isn’t a before dinner wine. Naturally generating high sugar levels in it’s grapes, in California, under the hot sun beating down, Zinfandel really can produce some blockbuster reds.

The nose of this Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel is big too. Reminding me of my father’s homemade damson gin, it is an opulent hotchpotch of deep, dark fruit. Damsons, blackberries and raspberries abound in this Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel, in a collection of aromas which is enveloping and persistent.

In the mouth, this Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel is at first a little more tart than you may expect from the soft and rounded nose, with just under-ripe cherries an initial flavour. Although this Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel does then meld itself into a well resolved blend of forest gateaux and liquorice, with toasted vanilla from the oak smoothing and unifying the separate flavours. Not that long in the palate, the real beauty of this Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel is in the length and nuance that can be found in the finish. Strawberries, raspberries and a hint of barbeque smoke undulate softly, long after the wine itself has gone.

In truth, this is the excellence of this Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel – it is not over-blown and over-flavoured in the style of so much Sonoma Zinfandel. Instead, this Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel exudes a richness, subtlety and balance rarely found. Excellent indeed!

Seghesio Family Vineyards, Sonoma Zinfandel (2008)

Score: 89/100 – Nuanced and balanced, long and excellent finish.

Value for Money: 7/10 – Despite a price four times the UK average spend on a bottle of wine, this is in-line with other top US Zinfandel.

 - 09/17/2011

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