The Alexander Valley in Sonoma is today's stop for The 12 Days of Zin. In addition to Zinfandel, when I think of Alexander Valley, tremendous Cabernet Sauvignon comes to mind. The history of Sausal Winery dates back to Leo and Rose Demostene family purchasing the Sausal Ranch in 1956. The winery itself was launched in 1973 by their four children. So their history in Sonoma goes back a ways. While Sausal Winery produces a number of other varietals, all from estate fruit, Zinfadel is firmly at the center of their family operation. Today I'll look at two of their Zins, both from the 2005 vintage. The Sausal Winery 2005 Family Vineyard Zinfandel is 100% varietal and all Estate fruit. The vines for this selection have an average age of over 50 years old. This wine spent 18 months in a 50/50 split of French and American oak. Just over 3,000 cases of this selection were produced and the suggested retail price is $19.
Raspberry pie notes, underscored by a touch of vanilla fill the nose of this wine. While giving this Zin a chance to breathe allows it to really open up, it's ready and jumping out of the glass from the word go. There is an intensity of fruit throughout the palate. It's solid and even keeled, never relinquishing its core fruit flavors. It persistently delivers solid, approachable, at times big, fruit flavor. Tea notes at the end of the mid-palate lead to a lingering finish dotted with lots of white pepper notes. I had this wine with meatloaf and it matched perfectly.
The 2005 Family Vineyard Zin is a classic example of what can be done with this varietal in the Alexander Valley. While this wine is fruity, full and exuberant it exhibits restraint, stopping short of going over the top. At 3 years old it's vibrant, fresh and just at the beginning of it's drinking window. This one will drink well for at least 5 years.
The second Zinfandel I'm peeking at from Sausal Winery is the 2005 Private Reserve. This one was made from estate fruit and vines averaging 90 years of age. This offering spent 19 months in exclusively French oak. It's also 100% varietal. 2,000 cases of it were produced and the suggested retail price is $23.
From the outset, the differences between the two Zinfandels are apparent. The Private reserve is deeper and darker in both color and fruit characteristics. This one also benefits more obviously and immediately from a solid hour in the decanter. Once it's opened up, dark plum and blackberry notes accompanied by cedar and subtle vanilla fill the nose. The palate of this wine is full of deeper, richer and more intense fruit than the Family Vineyards Zin. The added age on the vines is apparent in how much more layered and complex the fruit is throughout this wine. The dark fruit notes carry through the finish joined by mocha, spice and earth. Good acidity and a solid tannic structure keep this wine balanced. This one will be an excellent match for bigger meals. Hearty stews, leg of lamb and roasted game are all good choices.
As with the Family Vineyards, the Private Reserve is also an excellent example of Zinfandel from Alexander Valley. The wines share as many similarities as they do differences. The Private reserve is likely to improve in the short term and drink well for a minimum of 8 years. If you like well made Zinfandel in a classic style, you will want to keep your eye out for what Sausal Winery is doing.
Up Next: The 12 Days of Zin Continues!
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