Well, last Friday was another fantastic day for our tasting panel as we tasted the 2009 Russian River Valley ‘Old Vine’ Zinfandel ‘Amy’s Vineyard’. This is a very special wine, not just for my wife Amy and me, but for our entire staff and all of our long time club members! It is definitely one of our most sought after wines. Wow, what a beautiful intense ruby color. Aromas of fresh squeezed blackberries lured us in and we sipped. As the wine settled across our palates, the blackberry became more pronounced, leading to overtones of black plums and juicy cherries, coupled with a slight toastiness and a bit of white pepper and clove, giving this wonderful Zin the right amount of spice that really makes a great Zinfandel. It reminds me of every morning at 4:00 a.m. when I have my first meal – fresh blackberries and blueberries crushed over plain yogurt, topped with pieces of honey crisp apple and glazed pecans. Yum, I can’t go without it.
And every time I taste Amy’s Zin, I’m reminded of how that particular vineyard came to be ‘Amy’s Vineyard.’ It’s a story that I’ve wanted to share with all of you from a very important time in my life.
Back in 2001, Amy was working for me, managing all of our commercial space in my development company. One Friday I rode my Harley to drop off the payroll where Amy worked. As I was walking away from her office, I heard her say in a soft “not sure if she if she really wanted to ask” voice, “That’s your Harley out there, right?” I turned around and said, “Yep.” She said, “I was wondering if you were ever going to take me for a ride.” Somewhat shocked, I said, “Sure, when?’ She laughed, “Right now. But I have to work, so how about tomorrow? It’s Saturday.” I said, “Great, I’ll meet you here at ten.” She smiled that contagious smile of hers.
All night I pondered whether or not this was a good idea. Dad always said, “Don’t date anyone who works for you.” I said to myself, it’s not like this is a date, but I was wondering, does she think it is?
At 10am sharp I pulled into the parking lot and she was already waiting. My heart started to beat faster, and I thought, what I am getting myself into?
She climbed on the back and off we went. We were not a block away and I felt she was hanging on pretty tight so I asked her if it was her first time on a bike and she said no. I said, “Well you’re hanging on pretty tight there, girl.” She said, “You’re not ok with it?” I said, “Oh, I’m just fine.”
Amy had told me that her favorite wine was Zinfandel, so we headed out to the Russian River to taste at a few of my friends’ wineries where I knew we’d find some great Zins. As we were leaving Martinelli’s Winery, Amy asked, “Don’t you have Zin vineyards around here somewhere?” I told her I did, and asked if she wanted to go see one. She said she’d love to, so I headed over to an old vineyard that used to belong to a dear friend of my fathers, Ernie Bacigalupi. Ernie had planted this vineyard some sixty years ago and had sold it to Tom Fenney, and I’d been leasing it from him for some time. I was always excited about this one block that sat on top of the knoll overlooking the beautiful Russian River Valley.
We rode the Harley through the ranch to the top of the knoll and parked; as we got off I started to point to different blocks and talked about how, when I was a kid, my Dad and I would stop by to see Ernie. I realized I was talking a mile a minute, nerves I guess, but not quite sure why. Anyway, I just kept telling story after story.
Amy said it was too bad I didn’t think to bring some wine. “I could really enjoy a nice glass of Zin right now to go with this beautiful sunset.”
“You’re in luck,” I smiled. “I just happen to have one in the saddle bags.” I explained that while it wasn’t from this particular block, it was from this ranch. As we sipped the wine and watched the sun slowly disappear into the night, I talked about how much I loved this vineyard and all the great times I had experienced here as a kid with my father. I could tell she was really listening, looking intently into my eyes.
I was thinking, ‘what a nice lady’ and figured she was thinking the same thing, ‘what a nice guy’. Right then she said, “Steve, you know something?” I thought, here it comes, something really nice about me.
“You know,” she smiled. “I really enjoy. . .” (my heart started to race) “. . . this wine. It’s incredible! I just love the flavors, like a jammy blackberry pie.”
“I get that, too,” I said, laughing. I realized maybe I’d had enough wine and we’d better get going.
As you can imagine, we hold a very special place in our hearts for this little vineyard on the top of the knoll, this little slice of God’s Country. I have extreme passion not only for my wife, but for the wine we’ve produced from Amy’s vineyard over the years. Back in 2004, we started keeping this one block as a separate lot, and Amy and I have made some incredible Zins from it ever since.
I like to say that Zinfandel is not a sedan or a plow horse – it’s a sports car and a racehorse: Flashy, exciting, fun. When it comes to this wine, however, Zinfandel is romance.