2015 Jessie's Grove Zinfandel
Greg Burns, proprietor/vineyard manager/winemaker of Jessie’s Grove and the ancient “Royal T” Zinfandel vineyard near the banks of the San Joaquin River is the 5th generation of his family to be custodian of this hallowed plot of California viticultural heritage. The oldest Zin vineyard in the region and one of the most venerable in the country, the vines are a mix of 5 varietals: Zinfandel is the primary (86%) with the remainder being a shotgun-planting approach of Carignan, Mission, Black Prince and Flame Tokay. The last 3 of these are heirloom varietals no longer planted but having rich histories dating back to the 1500s in the Iberian Peninsula and ultimately transferred to the New World. Welcome to our new world of ancient vines!
Wafts of chocolate, raspberry and morel mushrooms announce the fruit presence. What follows is a clamor of dark cherries, plums, blueberries and baking spices on the palate. The smooth conclusion is balanced, long and unrushed.
This wine shows how adaptable Zin is in the winemaker's hands, exhibiting nuances and grace that are usually reserved for Pinot.
VINEYARD and SOILS: Planted in 1889, The “Royal T” vineyard was struck on its own roots in sandy silt river-overflow soils formed during the last 100,000 years as erosion deposits from the newly-formed (and still uplifting!) Sierra Nevada mountains. The 5 varietals, scattered randomly across the vineyard, manifest a standard planting scenario for the period. Now deeply rooted (30’ and counting), the vines are dry-farmed to organic standards.
HARVEST: The 2015 vintage was tiny but ideal, with no hiccups. We chose to harvest in the first week of September, a full 2 weeks before most of the local Zin producers started their harvest.
FERMENTATION: Done according to the auspices of the Lodi Native Society, both primary and secondary fermentation were conducted using indigenous or native yeast and ML without any additions, but with a twist. The Flame Tokay, Black Prince and Mission grapes were gently placed as whole-cluster (without de-stemming) at the bottom of the fermentor, and these grapes were kept anaerobic while the de-stemmed but uncrushed Zin and Carignan were placed on top. This mixture was chilled overnight and then allowed to ferment as a semi-“carbonic maceration”, with the wild yeast fermentation taking off after 11 days of cold-soak and carbonic maceration. Total time en cuvaison was 21 days.
BARREL AGING: The wine was transferred immediately from the press to all French, twice- and thrice-used barrels. Since the whole-cluster portion gave up a fair amount of sugar, the primary fermentation finished in barrel and was kept on the lees for 11 months with first weekly, then monthly stirring.
PRODUCTION: 75 Cases unfined and unfiltered
Label Artwork by Carole Rae Watanabe