Friday, April 17, 2009

Wide-Ranging Zinfandel

The Hendry vineyard is home to some of the truly great fruit of the Napa Valley. From Pinot Noir to Cabernet Sauvignon to a remarkable Pinot Gris and more, George Hendry’s attention to detail and passion for his work shine through not only in his estate-bottled wines, but also in those that other producers craft from his fruit. (The Rosenblum Cellars Zinfandel “George Hendry Vineyard” 2004, for example, is wonderful.)

Earlier this week, I had the chance to taste a dozen wines from Hendry with Susan Ridley, George Hendry’s partner, and Laura Lamprecht of Specialty Wines and Liquors, their distributor here in the northeast. Of those wines, the Zinfandel lineup was among the most fascinating. Each bottling is sourced from particular blocks and specific clones within the vineyard, which affords Hendry the unique opportunity to express not only the differences in terroir on the vineyard, but also the surprisingly varied characteristics of each clone.

My tasting notes are below, after the video. But before reading them, take a look at Susan describing what exactly it was that I tasted.

The Hendry "Block 7 and 22" 2005 was, as Susan described, exceptionally elegant. She called it a “Pinot Noir-lovers” Zinfandel, and she was right on the money: It was far more restrained than many Zinfandels, and possessed a lovely herbal note that came out especially well after having tasted the other Zins.

The "Block 28" 2005, on the other hand, showed a significantly darker, richer berry note, and a palate that was buttressed by tannins that, despite their excellent integration, possessed a great deal more grip. The flavors ran the gamut from ripe dark berries and kirsch to licorice, and really called out for hearty, meaty food to enjoy alongside it.

The Primitivo "Block 24" 2006 had a creamy, velvety, almost melted texture, and despite all the pronounced fruit of the nose, it tasted far more restrained and minerally than I’d expected, finishing on notes of graphite and baker’s chocolate. As Susan said, it was, simply, "yummy."

More and more producers are making the most out of the range of characteristics that Zinfandel offers. I cannot state strongly enough how important it is to taste a number of wines like these next to each other. It’s one of the best ways to wrap your mind around a specific grape’s—and vineyard’s—possibilities and pleasures.


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