Domestic Selection: Zinfandel, 1990. Winterbrook

Although established in 1983, the Winterbrook Winery’s success with Zinfandel can be traced back to 1890 when the more than 100 wineries dotting the Amador County landscape specialized in Zinfandel production.

The winery is located in the fer­tile Jackson Valley of the Sierra Nevada Foothills approximately fifty miles southeast of Sacramen­to. A three man partnership doing business as The Jackson Valley Vineyards, Ltd. purchased Winter-brook less than a year ago. John H. Bree II, son of one of the part­ners, is vineyard manager. He is a fourth generation viticulturist. The winemaker is a University of Cali­fornia-Davis graduate, Mark Matheson, who enthusiastically considers this wine, “…a real spe­cial project and one that can truly break new ground in the indus­try… I challenge those who raise their eyebrows at the thought of a chilled red to raise a few glasses of Early Harvest Zinfandel and give us a chance.”

Zinfandel did not start off as the ubiquitous chilled white wine we are now so accustomed to seeing. Up until about 1978, Zinfandel grapes were generally used to pro­duce big, full-bodied room temper­ature reds, predominantly of the jug “burgundy” type. Brought to California over a hundred years ago from an unknown European source (Italy? Hungary?) this gen­erous-bearing vine flourished prolifically throughout its adopted new home annually yielding ton upon ton of hearty dark-skinned grapes. Then came the white wine boom. Someone got the bright idea to vinify Zinfandel as a white wine and… Voila! The blush wine’s meteoric conquest of the market is history. Chilled red Zinfandel is an obvious next step, or so bets the Jackson Valley contingent. In­cidentally, Frenchmen often rec­ommend that their light-bodied reds (like Beaujolais Nouveau, which this wine resembles more than just a little) be served, you guessed it, chilled!

This wine has a clear, light-raspberry-syrup color (!) and gives a burst of fruit in the nose. (Rasp­berry! Blueberry!) In the mouth the body comes on relatively light, yet well-defined: tangy acidity; just a drop of tannin; no sweetness, yet intense fruit (Cranberry!); very smooth. And all those lovely ber­ries persist in the aftertaste.

Great with a turkey sandwich, beef stir-fries or B.B.Q.

Cellaring Notes:

Best now through summer 1991.

Reviewed by Larry Tepper


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