With a nose of black currant, boysenberry, tobacco and clove, this medium-to-full bodied wine boasts a seamless integration of all components that is directly attributed to the 100-year-old vines. The palate has forward flavors of black cherry and dark plum, a middle of ripe dark fruit and outdoor grilling, and a finish of vanilla, mocha, sage and toasted oak. All are delivered with velvety texture, rich mouthfeel, supple tannins, and sound acidity. Age three to five years.
Eastern Contra Costa County has been a reputable wine region since the late 1800s. Cool afternoon breezes blowing off Suisun Bay and the Sacramento River delta temper the warm daytime temperatures during the growing season. Soils consist of sandy loams that offer near-perfect drainage. Some blocks of wizened old-vine zinfandel are over 100 years old, but many vineyards have been gradually replanted with Rhone varieties.
Sandy Lane Vineyard overlooks the Sacramento River delta near the town of Oakley. Called “the oldest inter-planted vineyard in California”, it was inter-planted with mourvèdre (aka mataró), zinfandel and carignane in the early part of 20th century on St George rootstock. These ancient head-trained, spur-pruned vines benefit from the cooling effects of the water, and are dry farmed in soils that are as sandy as Waikiki Beach.
Each interplanted variety is hand harvested separately with the grower standing watch and calling out the varietal name of each vine as our crew passes over the rows. This one-of-a-kind planting yields small crops that have a rare degree of color and depth of flavor for mourvèdre.
Vintage 2011 began with a series of January storms followed by occasional warmth and rain through mid-March. An April freeze damaged the primary buds of early ripening varieties along most of the Central Coast. April and parts of May were exceptionally cool and damp in many areas while rain plummeted the North Coast in early June. Temperatures were mild with a few heat spikes in July and August, but veraison was uniformly delayed because of the spring frost and cool summer. We harvested before or after untimely storms in September and October, but the vintage was saved by what initially jeopardized it: the frost and rain reduced crop size, allowing the remaining fruit to reach physiological maturity despite the cool summer.