Old Zinfandel vineyards have always interested me. They combine two of my favorite things: wine and history. The idea that a vineyard planted 75 or 100 years ago is still producing great wine boggles the mind. Just walking through these vineyards with their bent and knotty vines is an experience. I’ve been doing a lot of that in recent months for an upcoming story on these classic vineyards for our Nov. 15 issue.
Few old vineyards are more storied than Pagani, which is located right on Highway 12, south of Kenwood in Sonoma Valley. It was first planted in the mid-1880s by Felice Pagani and is now farmed by his great-nephew Dino Amantite. This 52-acre vineyard is planted with a field blend that’s mostly Zin, along with a good dose of Alicante Bouchet, too. An additional 12 acres of vines will be in place this fall.
Amantite sells grapes to Bedrock, Robert Biale, Carlisle, Seghesio and, until recently, St. Francis. But it’s the Ridge bottling that really established the vineyard, and the 2009 is classic Pagani: bold and exotic and loaded with berry cobbler, pepper beef and licorice notes. It was still a bit untamed when I tasted it non-blind and rated it 91 points. It costs $35, but this Zin is built for the cellar.
WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Ridge Zinfandel Sonoma Valley Pagani Ranch 2009 (92, $35).
• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for Top Values among California Zinfandels.