11 May 2009

Green Winemaking Tour: Mazzocco

While I was running around Sonoma, I didn't have a set schedule or plan. I picked a few places ahead of time and then fell upon most of the rest, trying to keep with the theme of green winemaking. In the latter category would be Mazzocco. I knew that Fredric had mentioned this winery a few times, and as it was close to Ridge I was already in the neighborhood. I pulled my rental Buick into the parking lot and prepared myself for some Zinfandel.

Mazzocco isn't Certified Organic or biodynamic, but they do practice sustainable winemaking and follow many of the ethics supported by the other wineries I visited while on this trip. I really love the fact that they encourage birds of prey to settle in the area as a natural control for rodents. I'll take owls and hawks over cats any day of the week. And while no one mentioned it or made a big deal out of it, I appreciated the xeriscape design of the area around the tasting room (see the photo below). For instance, when I go to New Mexico I'd much rather see a rock garden with cactus than a lush lawn. If you really need that thick green patch of earth, move someplace like Memphis where, without any watering or fertilizing, the grass is so strong that you can throw soup bones out there and the lawn will digest them before the dogs can get them.

Founded in 1984, this Dry Creek winery is run by Ken & Diane Wilson with winemaker Antoine Favero. Although it's a bit newer than other vineyards I visited, some of the vines go back fifty years. They produce 150,000 cases each year, with bottles that range from $30-150. I would strongly recommend trying one of their wines if it's available in your area, at whichever price point is comfortable for you.

Charlotte, who was running the tasting room that day, had a lovely accent and as a linguistics fan I had to ask where she was from. "Austria," she replied. "Ah, Österreich!" I exclaimed. It's been my experience that Austrians appreciate hearing the native name of their country, the "Eastern Kingdom". "Ja, Österreich...", she continued, with the lovely Viennese pronunciation. My German is rusty and I'm afflicted with a guttural Schleswig-Holstein accent, but it's nice to get a chance to speak it once in a while.

If I learned one important lesson at Mazzocco, it was that Zinfandel is an extremely versatile grape when handled properly. Looking back over my posts for the past few years, I've noticed that I haven't tried a lot of Zin lately. At some point I got bored with high alcohol, thick, jammy Zins. Those wines have their place, but they become difficult to pair with food and can blast away the flavor of other wines on the table. In Dry Creek, I discovered that Zinfandel can be light, even refreshing at times. It's a good lesson in examining your wine habits and giving a grape a second chance.

The following wines are almost entirely Zinfandel, with a splash of Petite Sirah.

Wines Sampled at the Vineyard

Further details and ordering information can be found at the Mazzocco website.

2006 Lytton. Bright red cherry aromas, light, refreshing, creamy finish.

2006 Stone. Cream and black cherry, touches of seeds and skins for deeper flavor.

2006 Warm Springs. Earth and spice, blackberry flavors stand out.

2006 Warm Springs Reserve. Blueberry, touch of jam, roast coffee, touch of toast.

2006 Smith Orchard Reserve. Dry and restrained, touch of tea, chocolate and cherries, made me think about Sachertorte.

2006 West Dry Creek Reserve. Baked bread, dried cherries.

2006 Pony Reserve. Very light, more cherries and cream.

2006 Juan Rodriguez. Very light and delicate, soft cherry flavors in the background.

2006 Kenneth Cole. Just a hint of tannins here, with beautiful red fruit flavors of cherry and strawberry.

2006 Antoine Phillippe. Beautiful plum and spice aromas, medium body with a long finish. My favorite of the tasting, and highly recommended. At $120, it's a reminder that small production, higher price wines aren't just about hype and popularity.


The Wine Commonsewer said...

I'll take owls and hawks over cats any day of the weekHaving done it both ways, I'll take cats, any day of the week. Hands down. Cats do the job. Birds of prey? Not so much. And I've got more eagles, hawks, and owls than you can shake a stick at.

Cats are also far superior to poisons, traps (humane or otherwise), and any other form of vermin control I've run across in my days here at the Casa, thus making them somewhat environmentally friendly. Except for the lizards aren't buying off on that.

Plus the hawks are no match for the sharpshooters.

TWC said...

I don't know why blogger has changed the code so that sentences now run together. I suppose I'll remember sooner or later to take steps to see that doesn't happen.

TWC said...

And I mean the sharpshooters that devastate teh vineyards.

Benito said...


Re: Birds/Cats

That opinion was not based on any sort of agricultural experience, I'm just not much of a cat person. :)

I'll also state for the record that the black snakes in my backyard do a commendable job of keeping down the rodent population, and one of my dogs is an expert at catching and dispatching mice. In 12 years I've never seen a live one in the house.

TWC said...

The only vermin we get in the house are the ones that the cats drag in. The kill spot is under the glass table. It gets tedious, but they will run back out with the prey if you give them crap about it.Then you close the cat door for the night.

I am sold on cats. It's an easy sell because I like them, but still, I am AMAZED at what the cats have done for us.

One of my dogs seems like he may have some latent British Rat Terrier in him. He has been seen digging ground squirrels out of their burrows.

One thing I've noticed is that this is the third year that we haven't seen any rattlesnakes. That is rare around here, espc in the spring. I suspect they are staying away because there is no lunch to be had.

Shot one rattler last summer across the street. Scared the pants off The Boy when he reared up and hissed at him from about ten feet. It isn't really a hiss, but you know what I mean.

I think I did this once before but if you click my name you'll see what a couple of my cats did to a young rattle snake.