Zinfandel, 1980. Burgess| Vintage Wine History and Information

by Paul Kalemkiarian Sr | April 1983


From Hopewell Junction, New York, to St. Helena, California, is a long hop; but for jet pilots like Tom Burgess, it is just next door. That’s where Tom and Linda Burgess hail from. They purchased the original Souverain Cellars in 1972, renamed it, and started a new career in the heart of Napa Valley.

The winery site is at about 1000 feet elevation on the west slope of Howell Mountain, just north­east of St. Helena. It occupies a stone and redwood building constructed in 1875. (In the 1800’s, and before prohibition, the wine produced in the cellar was sold in bulk and transported by horse drawn tank wagons to larger wineries in the Valley.) Under the diligent direction of Tom, and the winemaking talents of Bill Sorenson, this estate has become a prestigious Napa label.

“To make great wines, you need great grapes” is the Burgess philosophy. They grow their own, and supplement by purchasing from growers who are anxious to have their grapes achieve their full potential. This is a family operation; production is small, and the wines are limited in availability.

Zinfandel, most unique to California with that name, is an emerging varietal that has attracted the attention of serious wine enthusiasts. It is capable of many faces, and is being experimented with by winemakers all the time. Basically, it makes a robust, fruity, dry red wine that can have ageing potential. Regional variations exist, and our wine is a good example of Napa Valley Zinfandel made as a dry red wine. (Other variations are white style zinfandel, late harvest dry style, late harvest dessert port style, and nouveau style.)

This Burgess zinfandel is deep purple red in color. The aroma is closed at this stage of its ageing, but some varietal berry character shows through, followed by a hint of fragrance. The second you sip it, you have a mouthful of bursting fruity flavor. This follows with a soft middle taste of berry character. The finish is long and complex. Serve at room temperature with hearty marinara pasta dishes, roasts, beef stroganoff.

Cellaring Notes: Will open and mellow for 5 to 8 years. Tracking this wine can be an education in zinfandel ageing.

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