Ottimino Biglieri Vineyard Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2012
Bill Knuttel has a huge following among wine lovers and quite frankly we love Bill also. And what’s not to like. He has an impressive resume, helping to establish Saintsbury, Chalk Hall, Dry Creek Vineyards and several other top wineries. It is his small production single vineyard Ottimino cult Zinfandels that get our Zin customers so very excited. And a couple of years ago, we were able to land an Ottimino Zinfandel and our customers have been asking us for another Ottimino from Bill. And we have been asking Bill to set aside one of his special Ottiminos for WTSO, and we have asked nicely and been patient and then we struck gold. And what a special Ottimino it was that we finally landed. We indeed love his BIGLIERI Vineyard and it is from the highly regarded 12 vintage. We only wish we could have got more. This wine has the ultimate in Zin pedigree, a great taste profile and a very hot price; at $19.99 it is a must buy for Zin lovers!
By Jonathan H. Newman*
Ottimino 2012 Biglieri Vineyard Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel
UNIT SIZE: 750.00 ml
COUNTRY: United States
REGION: Dry Creek Valley
This is a snazzy Zinfandel with really unique pedigree and a mighty fine taste profile. Dry Creek Valley’s Biglieri Vineyard is comprised of 53-year-old wines. It spent 21 years in Francois Freres French Oak, 40% of which was new. It then was given an extra year of bottle ageing before being released for optimal perfection. This is not a high alcohol, fruit bomb of highly extracted fruit but rather a well-crafted elegant Zinfandel that captures the best of the varietal. 2012 is perhaps the best vintage of this wine as this was universally known as one of the best even growing seasons. It’s a beautifully focused wine with harmonious dark red fruit including cherry liqueur, black raspberries, dark chocolate and plum with touches of licorice, cedar and spice. Made in an elegant style with polished tannins. Enjoy now and over the next several years. Pair with honey barbequed ribs, marinated London broil, skirt steak and friites, oven baked pot roast with carrots and potatoes and chicken tikka masala.
Biglieri Vineyard 2012 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel
Blend: 100% Zinfandel
Vineyard: Biglieri, 53 year old vines
Appellation: Dry Creek Valley
Cooperage: Francois Freres, Tonnelleries
Aging: Twenty-one months
Barrel Age: 40% new, 60% 2 year old
Production: 548 cases
Harvested: October 21, 2012
TA: 6.5 g/L
Bottled: August 15, 2014
TA: 5.6 g/l
Ottimino consciously set out to produce Zinfandels from cooler regions, thereby allowing more time on the vine to concentrate flavors and at the same time keeping alcohols at respectable levels. To that end, all the releases to date have been from the Green Valley area of the Russian River Valley. However, we have experimented with Zinfandel from other regions where cooler weather prevails, and one of our perennial favorites comes from the 53 year old vines at Biglieri Vineyard in Dry Creek Valley.
Octogenarian Pio Biglieri now has his neighbor Harold Hoskins tending the vines with a meticulous touch and a hands-off approach, but as the harvest date nears he thins the crop on a cluster by cluster basis retaining only the most evenly colored and ripened fruit. On picking day, additional clusters are eliminated through hand sorting. Given Zinfandel’s propensity for uneven ripening, it is always incredible when the Biglieri Zinfandel hits the crush pad looking better than everything else. After two cool vintages with low yields, the 2012 growing season put everything back onto a normal basis. With clear, warm weather well into the fall, the fruit ripened slowly and evenly into the third week of October, providing record hang time. After hand-harvesting, we cold-extracted the crushed fruit for three days with vigorous irrigations, coaxing color and tannin from the must early in the fermentation. The pumpover rate was decreased after peak fermentation, and the new wine pressed off at dryness to avoid excess tannin. Aging of the wine was entirely in French oak. Malolactic fermentation occurred spontaneously before the first quarterly racking. The wine was aged for twenty-one months with 40% new oak, as befits our claret style of Zinfandel. No fining was required at bottling.
Aromas of cherry compote, black plum and pomegranate interlace with spicy vanillin and cedar from the French oak. A broad palate entry shows great viscosity and leads into a fat midpalate, adding flavors of boysenberry and chocolate, and hints of ripe strawberry. The tannins are fully resolved and the expansive mid-palate leads to a firm, lingering finish. The balance of this quintessential Zinfandel allows great versatility with food, and its deceptive heartiness will reward experiments with exotic pairings.
Winemaker, William Knuttel
Long time California winemaker William Knuttel has concentrated on ultra-premium wine making for the majority of his wine career. Knuttel’s philosophy has long been to make an enormous range of wines in various styles in any given vintage, for the simple reason that a winemaker only gets to make a limited number of vintages over his lifetime. This wealth of experience has led directly to his adherence to traditional winemaking practices, which lead to balanced, elegant wines that pair well with foods and have excellent aging potential - the hallmarks of classic wine. To that end, Knuttel keeps himself incredibly busy. He consults for numerous clients, for whom he produces a broad stable of labels across many varieties of Napa and Sonoma wines. He is also Executive Winemaker for Dry Creek Vineyard, where he has completely re-honed the styles and quality of that winery’s extensive portfolio over the past seven years. He was ZAP’s winemaker in 2005, producing their Heritage Zinfandel, and President of the California Cabernet Society 1999-2003. Previously, Knuttel was owner/winemaker of Tria, founded in 1993 to produce fine Pinot Noir, Syrah and Zinfandel, and VP/Winemaker at Chalk Hill Winery from 1996 to 2003, specializing in ultra-premium Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris. Knuttel was Saintsbury’s winemaker from 1983 to 1996, establishing that brand as an international leader in high-end Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. William Knuttel lives in Napa with his wife Robin, a Cosmetic Dermatologist. His daughter Kate is a recent graduate from California College of the Arts, while his son Sebastian, a cellist, studies at UC Santa Cruz, majoring in Mathematics with a minor in music. As its President over five years, Knuttel developed the Napa Valley Youth Symphony, a non-profit dedicated to bringing professional orchestral experience to talented young musicians, and, as an avid supporter of the arts in general, he sits on the board of Berkeley Symphony as Vice President of Development.
[Information provided by J.H.N.]
*Jonathan Newman was Wine Enthusiasts’ Man of the Year. He also was Chairman of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, and received national recognition in Marvin Shanken’s Market Watch Magazine and many other international wine publications. He was also awarded the Guild of Sommeliers highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award. Mr. Newman's reviews have been published and quoted extensively online and in print. He travels extensively to many of the major wine growing regions and evaluates many of the wines we source from smaller and boutique wineries. We interact closely with him and the result is his rejection rate of over 96% of the wines evaluated.