The festivities of the Wine Bloggers' Conference 2009 (#WBC09) prompted Sean, Graham and me to do a little 'practical' training on the side and visit a couple wineries while we were down in Sonoma. We had all tasted and loved Mazzocco's Zins at the ZAP festival in January so it was not difficult to make the drive up to the winery to taste across their full range. Like Ridge, Mazzocco treats zinfandel like the serious grape it can be, and as a result they have managed to find a full range of expressions from single vineyard sites across Sonoma, although mostly from Dry Creek Valley.
It is fascinating to taste zins that vary from austere and tannic to jammy and fruit forward to spicy and punchy, but Mazzocco's wines express all of these characteristics and provide zin lovers with quite a wide variety of options and styles. Impressively, none of the zins show their alcohol, which generally means that the grapes have been allowed to ripen properly and bring gobs of fruit into the mix to hide the alcohol. Whether you like zin or not, this is the way to make zin taste great in my mind.
Lyton 2006: red fruits and spice box. Big up front but soft on the back end. Very Good to Very Good+. $29.
Warm Springs Ranch Reserve 2006: a nose of cherry and subtle spice, the palate had plenty of cherry, was quite smooth and had underlying notes of earth. Very Good. $50.
Smith Orchard Reserve 2006: plenty of caramel on the nose with big blackberry fruit, cloves and nutmeg. The palate was hugely spicy up front, and held notes of briar, and candied raspberry. Very Good+ to Excellent. $50.
West Dry Creek Reserve 2006: the nose on this did have strawberry fruit, but I appreciated its leather-like characteristics as well. With a palate of cherry, nutmeg, and strawberry, this wine is very pure and expressive and drinking great right now. Very Good+. $50.
Maple Reserve 2006: Strawberry, cloves and cinnamon on the nose. The palate had tons of cherry and cinnamon again, but was very very extracted. Nonetheless, I found this elegant for a zin. Very Good+ $50
Antoine Phillipe Reserve 2006: named after the winemaker and expressive of the style of zin he prefers, this is essentially a barrel selected zin using fruit from the other vineyards. The nose here is very deep, with rich and ripe plum, prune, and dark cherry. The palate is so elegant and possesses incredible purity of fruit. This zin develops linearly through the palate and is quite long with lots of leather and chocolate notes and a very full and layered mid-palate. The finish is plush and velvety and amazingly smooth. Simply put, this is one of the best zinfandels I've had. Excellent to Excellent+. $120.
While specializing in zinfandel, Mazzocco also puts together a few other reds from Sonoma County, most of which are quite well made.
Petit Verdot 2005: Aged in french oak, this has light red fruit on the nose and a woody, almost flinty, palate. This is soft, but has bright acidity and is bone dry. Very Good. $35.
Petite Sirah Aguilera 2005: A dark nose of plumy fruit and caramel, the palate consists mostly of pepper and plum. Certainly an enjoyable petite sirah without over-extraction. Very Good+. $35.
Petite Sirah Aguilera Reserve 2005: With a nose filled with stone fruits, the palate on this PS was surprisingly quite soft. With very plummy fruits predominating I enjoyed how long and smooth the finish was on this, especially for a grape that can sometimes go over the top in its extraction. Very Good+. $45.
Cabernet Sauvignon Dry Creek Reserve 2005: Lots of candied dark fruits on the nose and palate with an earthy, minerally back-end. Very Good to Very Good+. $50.
Chardonnay Stuhlmuller Reserve 2006: A key lime pie nose bright with minerals. The palate was very citrusy and enjoyed a fresh mid-palate with proper acidity. Very Good to Very Good+. $36.
In the final analysis Mazzocco is all about zinfandel, and they are one of the few wineries in Sonoma giving this grape its due and understanding how to produce high alcohol zin that is still balanced, fruity, and food friendly. It is very impressive for a winery to showcase the full range of what zin can do and present the itinerant wine drinker with options that fit many palates and many moods. A must visit for any zin lover and a great standard bearer for this truly Californian grape.