Joseph Swan Mancini Ranch Old Vine Zinfandel 2012
One of my favourite Sonoma producers are Joseph Swan. Joe Swan was a lover of French wine who in the late 1960s, under the guidance of André Tchelistcheff, planted Pinot Noir in the Russian River Valley. As one of the first serious producers of Pinot Noir in California, Swan had an important influence on those that followed him - to the point that there is a Pinot clone named after him.
Swan died in 1987, and his son-in-law Rod Berglund has been the winemaker since. The focus is still on Pinot Noir, as well as spicy Chardonnay, but there's an eclectic range of other wines as well. Despite specialising in Pinot, Rod also works with more powerful, warmer-climate varieties such as Tannat, Petite Sirah, and Zindandel.
These aren't your typical full-bodied fruit monsters, however. When Swan originally bought the property, he had access to old-vine Zinfandel, then a very unfashionable variety used mainly for table wine. Swan and Berglund have made Zinfandel in the same restrained style over the last fifty years as the fashion for Zinfandel has ebbed and flowed. The Mancini Ranch 2012 Zinfandel, from vines planted in the 1920s, is just 12.9%, a surprisingly low level of alcohol for any California wine but astonishing for Zinfandel which is often above 15%. That's not to say the wine is underripe: there's still lush, rich strawberries, blueberries, and boysenberries, with an aromatic floral nose. But because of the low alcohol, the ripeness isn't overpowering, lifted by a fresh acidity - a wine which is at once balanced and fruity.
Grape Variety: Zinfandel, with Alicante Bouschet and Carignan
Region: Russian River Valley
Ageing: all neutral oak
Food pairing: pizza; casserole; roast veg