Zinfandel of the Month is a regular feature on Zinfandel Chronicles. Keep in mind that although the Zinfandel of the Month might be an older bottle, the current vintage will be one you can find at retail or via the mailing list.
The December Zinfandel of the Month is the 2008 A. Rafanelli Zinfandel.
Alberto Rafanelli, an Italian immigrant, first founded A. Rafanelli Winery in the early 1900’s. It wasn’t until the early 70’s that Alberto’s son, Americo, came out with the present day label and started selling the wine commercially. David and Patty Rafanelli now run the winery and a 4th generation Rafanelli, their daughter Shelly, is the winemaker. The winery is perhaps best known for their Zinfandel but also produces Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with all the fruit sourced from their vineyard in Dry Creek Valley.
It has been almost a half year since I featured an older bottle from the cellar for my Zinfandel of the Month. Most Zinfandels are best consumed in the first few years after they are released, but a select few including Rafanelli, Ridge and Williams Selyem really blossom with 5-7 years of bottle age.
Bright crimson in color. 14.8% ABV. Savory nose of red and black fruits, pepper and wet pavement. Medium body with juicy acidity. Perfect balance. Blackberry, black cherry, boysenberry and black pepper on the palate. The finish is long and spicy. One of the few Zins I trust in my cellar to show well for up to 10 years. In a great spot right now. Drink over the next 1-2 years.
Rafanelli is very traditional in how they run the winery. If you want to join the mailing list you need to send them a letter. They do not correspond via email, but will likely answer the phone if you give them a call. The extra effort required to acquire the wine is worth it. The tasting room is open by appointment and is always worth a visit to try the new releases.
Betz Family Winery was founded in 1997 by Bob & Cathy Betz. Critical acclaim from local and national wine publications has put Betz Family Winery at the forefront of Washington wines alongside Cayuse, Leonetti and Quilceda Creek. The winery was sold to Steve and Bridget Griessel five years ago. Louis Skinner, a longtime assistant of Bob’s, is now the full time Winemaker.
2009 was the third vintage of La Côte Patriarche. The fruit is from Red Willow Vineyard in Yakima Valley. The Syrah at Red Willow was planted in 1986 making it the oldest Syrah vineyard in the state.
Violet in color. 14.7% ABV. Brooding nose of black fruits, coffee, game and flowers. Big, rich and seamless. Full bodies with acidity in spades. Black cherry, blueberry, espresso and white pepper on the palate. The finish is long and plush. This Syrah is the classic iron fist in a velvet glove. Tremendous wine. Drink over the next 6-8 years.
My rating: 93 points.
I understand the mailing list is full, although I suspect the wait isn’t too long. Fortunately, the wines from Betz are readily available all over Seattle almost year-round. The 2014 La Côte Patriarche was released to the mailing list several months ago and should be available at retail. I’m a buyer.
Dehlinger Winery is located in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County and was founded in 1975 by Tom and Carole Dehlinger. Eva Dehlinger took over winemaking duties in 2007. Known for their Pinot Noir, Dehlinger also makes Chardonnay, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah.
The grapes for Dehlinger Wines are largely grown on the Estate Vineyard in the Russian River Valley. The initial vines were planted in 1975 and followed by subsequent plantings through 1989.
Light magenta in color. 14.8% ABV. Fragrant nose of black fruits, cloves, nutmeg and mushrooms. Medium body with perfect acidity. Black cherry, pomegranate, cranberry and baking spices on the palate. The finish is long, rich and plush. Just a tremendous Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and everything I expect from Dehlinger. The bar is set high for Dehlinger and this is just more proof that they have hit their stride again after some sub par vintages in the mid 2000’s. Drink over the next 2-4 years.
My rating: 94 points.
Dehlinger Winery has a great reputation among wine connoisseurs. Wine writers have consistently given strong reviews while praising the winery for its uniqueness, quality, consistency and value. About 75% of their wine is sold via the mailing list. Amazing wines that are well worth the search.
The 1998 Vieux Télégraphe was the winning bottle in the November Installment of Pick My Next Bottle. The bottle was not decanted and was served with Thanksgiving Dinner.
Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, in the Rhone Valley, was founded in 1898 by Hippolyte Brunier. Located on the highest terrace of the appellation, the domaine was named for an 18th century telegraph relay tower located nearby. Today the 173-acre domaine is run by Daniel and Frederic Brunier, the great grandsons of the founder. Vieux Télégraphe is one of the appellation’s most admired estates. The vineyards are planted to 65% Grenache, 15% Syrah, 15% Mourvedre and 5% Cinsault and other grapes.
Light red in color. Almost translucent. 14% ABV. Restrained nose of red fruits, kirsch, iron and herbes de Provence. Medium body with plenty of acidity. Precise and complex with pure, sweet fruit. Dried cherries, garrigue, iron and game on the palate. The wine picks up weight and becomes more intense with time in the glass. The finish is exceptionally long. Aging beautifully. Well stored bottles will drink well for another 2-4 years.
Araujo Estate is a 38-acre vineyard in northeast Napa Valley, east of Calistoga. It was established in 1990 when Bart and Daphne Araujo bought the historic vineyard from Milt and Barbara Eisele, who planted the vines in the 1960s. For nearly 40 years the Eisele Vineyard has been known as one of the valley’s great vineyards, consistently producing outstanding wines. The Araujos have completed many renovation projects since they acquired the estate, and have planted many varietals including Petit Verdot, Syrah, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. Nevertheless the estate’s signature wine is its highly regarded Cabernet Sauvignon.
Pitch red in color. 14.8% ABV. Stunning nose of raspberry liqueur, baking spice and flowers. Medium body with tremendous mouthfeel. Raspberries, minerals, earth and smoked meats on the palate. The finish is tremendous with sweet, silky tannins. In a great place right now and much better than a bottle last year. Drink over the next 1-2 years.
My rating: 92 points.
Several years ago Bart and Daphne Araujo sold the winery to Francois Pinault, the owner of Chateau Latour. The winery is now known as Eisele Vineyard.
Spottswoode is a family owned winegrowing estate located on the western edge of St. Helena in the Napa Valley. The 46 acre estate, established in 1882, is distinguished by the historic Victorian home depicted on the label. Its entrance is graced by classic formal gardens, while the vineyard stretches behind to the Mayacamas Mountains.
The Spottswoode Estate was bought by Jack and Mary Novak in 1972. The first Cabernet Sauvignon was produced in 1982. Spottswoode also makes an exceptional Sauvignon Blanc, a second Cabernet named Lydenhurst and a Rhone blend known as Field Book.
Lyndenhurst is primarily sourced from the Spottswoode Estate Vineyard although a few other vineyards figure in the mix as well in 2013.
Purple in color. 13.9% ABV. 92% Cabernet Sauvignon with small amounts of Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Sublime nose of black fruits, violets and licorice. Complex, fresh and silky. Medium body with impeccable balance. Black cherries, currants and a touch of cassis on the palate. The finish is fantastic with grainy tannins. Drink over the next 6-8 years.
My rating: 94 points.
The 2013 vintage was released recently and is readily available. At $80 it is fairly priced given the pedigree.
The November installment of Pick My Next Bottle focuses on some special bottles that might grace the table at Zinfandel Chronicles Headquarters this Thanksgiving. As I mentioned in the first installment, the purpose of this series is to provide insight into specific wines or producers you may currently have in your cellar. I plan on opening the winning bottle on Thanksgiving and will publish a Bottle Note shortly thereafter.
As it pertains to vintages, 1998 for Châteauneuf-du-Pape, 1997 for Napa Valley and 1990 for Bordeaux, are without question some of the all time greats.
1998 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe “La Crau” Châteauneuf-du-Pape – Between 1978 and 2007, this 1998 is the greatest Vieux Telegraphe that was produced. It has taken a good decade for this wine to shed its tannins and come out of a dormant, closed period. It has finally emerged, and notes of iodine, seaweed, black currants, incense, and sweet cherries as well as hot rocks jump from the glass of this full-bodied, powerful wine. It possesses considerable elegance and purity, along with loads of raspberries and incense, in a round, juicy, rich style that is just emerging from the closet. The wine is still youthful and a pre-adolescent in terms of its ultimate evolution. Approachable now, it will continue to evolve for another 15-20 years. Bravo! 95 points from the Wine Advocate.
1997 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red – The finest Proprietary Red produced by Pahlmeyer to date is their 1997… A super-rich, blockbuster effort, it exhibits an opaque purple color in addition to a fabulous bouquet of black fruits, espresso, cocoa, mocha, and flowers. A prodigious red, with low acidity, spectacular concentration, and fabulous purity as well as overall symmetry, it can be drunk now, but promises to last for 20-25 years. 98 points from the Wine Advocate.
1990 Leoville Barton – Believe it or not, the 1990 Leoville Barton can actually be drunk – something that cannot be said about the broodingly backward, still excruciatingly tannic 1982. The exceptionally concentrated 1990 reveals more polished, sweeter tannins along with a big, sweet kiss of black currant, forest floor, cedar, and spice box notes. While it still has some tannins to shed, this full-bodied, powerful, long wine is approachable. It should continue to evolve for another two decades. 93 points from the Wine Advocate.
Which Bottle Should I open for Thanksgiving
1998 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe (42%, 23 Votes)
1997 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red (35%, 19 Votes)
1990 Leoville Barton (23%, 13 Votes)
Total Voters: 55
Thanks for voting! I’d love to see a comment below on why you picked one bottle over another. Also, let me know if you have any suggestions for the December installment of Pick My Next Bottle.