Taste of Wine

Century-old vines rule the roost in land of Zin

Spring has again brought life to the venerable old vines, whose ages reach back more than 100 years in the root stocks of Mother Clone Zinfandel at the Sonoma vineyards of Pedroncelli. This spring, the buds that will be concentrated juice are now leaves and showing another year of life. Plenty of “Goldilocks” rainfall, not too much and not too little, support the delicate leaves and shoots that will shape the 2010 harvest.
Jim Pedroncelli watches over his first generation Mother Clone Zin vines like a mother hen would over her eggs.
The 2008 vintage is just out, from 30 acres of second generation Zin vines using budwood from the original century-old vines, adding a Pedroncelli flavor to this classic blackberry, spice, black currant beauty. Five percent Petite Sirah has been added for color and tannin balance.
Old Vine Zinfandel has been planted on the property since 1904. The Pedroncelli family purchased the home vineyard in 1927 in a district of Sonoma called Geyserville. The family scraped through Prohibition by selling grapes to home winemakers with a 200-gallon government mandated limit. It wasn’t until 1934 that Pedroncelli could bottle wine under its own label due to restrictions after Prohibition was lifted. Fast-forward to this day and this winery is still a personal, family operation with sustainable agricultural practices that preserve the environment, reducing water consumption and keeping the soil healthy for the next generation of family. All pruning, thinning and picking of the second generation Zin vines is done by hand, better to respect the Mother Clone vines that have been among the longest producing of any in Sonoma. Other wines that are popular with the Pedroncelli Wine Club members and area restaurants are Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel Rose, Cabernet, Pinot Noir and Merlot. The price range is a pleasing — $10 for the Rose to $25 for the Estate Cabernet. The Mother Clone Zinfandel is just $15. Mark Abraham, the Pedroncelli Southern California sales manager, is a popular guy when he delivers his latest releases to client restaurants. There is no better value in a bottle, and business has never been better. After all, mother would want it that way. It’s a family tradition. Learn more at www.pedroncelli.com.
More Zins and other rednecks
After exploring what’s new at the Zinfandel Road Show Tasting and the California Wine Festival in Orange County then the Rhythm and Vine  Festival in Escondido, my tasting notes show a few standouts that deserve attention:
— Ancient Peaks 2007 Zinfandel, Paso Robles for $16. Sizzling nose, fruit forward and packed with tangy herb accents.
—  Cakebread 2007 Zinfandel, Napa Valley for $44. Class act, classic Zin with a zesty, super-long finish.
— Four Vines 2007 Zinfandel Maverick, Paso Robles for $25. This one jams with super fruity taste and a nutty injection.
—     Artezin 2008 Zinfandel, Napa Valley for $17. Well-balanced fruit, more earthy than most.
— Cass 2008 Mouvedre, Paso Robles for $38. Rhone Valley grape usually used for blending. Just a touch of Syrah added here with spectacular results.
—   Lucas and Lewellen 2006 Petite Sirah, Santa Barbara for $28. Elegant tasting blue-blackberry texture with inky-black look. Big mouth-feel, smooth tannins. Silky finish.
— Just reviewed:  Zaca Mesa Estate Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley 2006 for $23. Aged in Oak 16 months, the high altitude, cool climate allows perfect expression of terroir. Syrah sales have tripled year over year at Zaca Mesa. The ’06 should provide more momentum.
Wine Bytes
—   South Coast Winery Resort and Spa in Temecula is hosting Rhythm on the Vine Benefit Concerts, with Jazz greats Stephanie Mills and Najee at 7:30 p.m. May 14 and country great Clint Black at 8 p.m. May 15. Full details and pricing at www.wineresort.com or call (951) 587-9463.
— Tesoro Winery in old town Temecula opens its newest SOCAL Artist Series with California artist Richard Powers at 7 p.m. May 13. This free showing includes Tesoro wine and cheese selections. Call (951) 526-4540 for details.
—  Holiday Wine Cellar in Escondido holds a Vintage Chardonnay event on at 5:30 p.m. May 17. California and French vintages compete. Cost is $5. Call (760) 745-1200 for details.
—  The 12th annual San Diego Museum of Photographic Arts Grand Tasting and Auction is from 6 to 9:30 p.m. May 22. The best of California wines will be poured, paired with farm-fresh local dishes from the best restaurants. Auction will include the finest lots of rare wine vintages. Cost is $100 each, with VIP pricing for special feature packages. Go to www.mopavintage.org or call (619) 238-7559, ext. 207.
— The California Center for the Arts in Escondido is the place for the 15th annual Rotary Club of Bonsall Wine, Brew and Blues Festival from 4 to 10 p.m. May 22. Wine, handcrafted beer, tasty bites, dessert court, two stages for live blues bands, dancing and a live auction. Tickets are $60. For more information and tickets, visit www.bonsallrotary.com or call (800) 249-2024.