2022 Stagiaire Wines 'Still Life with Hillside' Zinfandel
Playing around with Zinfandel in red(ish) form again for the first time since 2018. It was that wine and vintage where I began playing around with infusions of whole clusters in direct-pressed juice. A way of drawing out maceration periods without creating overly tannic and weighty wines. Some great flavors and nuanced characteristics often dont come out until fermentation is almost finished and this allows me to capture those while maintaining vibrancy and elegance.
The Hillside vineyard Zinfandel was planted in the 70s… on a hillside… over the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas near Talmadge. These dry farmed and head trained vines stand stalwartly on their slope, soaking up the mendocino sun, free to bend as the wind wills them and reach wherever their arms see fit. Working with this variety is so exciting and stimulating to me, as it feels like it belongs to California more so than most other varieties, so to experiment and craft wines with this material that so many other winemakers have wielded is humbling and grounding.
Whole clusters steeped in direct pressed juice for four weeks. No punchdowns or pumpovers. Just loving hands, tenderly pressing the cap down just low enough for the juice below to soak the grapes skins that have floated to the top. Allowing whatever is in the skins to be freely given to the must rather than forcibly extracting it. After fermentation, it aged in neutral puncheons and barrels for 9 months.
Strawberries and strawberry jam. Watermelon candy. Touch of spices like clove and cinnamon. These bright flavors balanced with just enough bitterness to lengthen the wine and keep it from being one of those glouglous. Chaparral. Lavender. Dandelion root. A first date. Maybe the first one you’ve been on in a while. It’s going really well and you are already visualizing the rest of your life with this person. You tell yourself to calm down even though you don’t want to.
This is the only red wine from 2022 that I feel ok with releasing right now. The others will all be in a much better place at the end of the year. This one will too, I’m sure, but it is perfectly charming as it is now. I encourage holding a bottle though for 6-12 more months though if you are as enamored by it as I currently am.
From Brent of Stagiaire