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.