Located northeast of Napa Valley, Lake County may not have Napa or Sonoma’s star wattage, but its Red Hills appellation is prime zinfandel country, as evidenced by our third vintage of Snow’s Lake Vineyard Zinfandel. We have three distinctive clones of Zinfandel planted at Snow’s Lake, including heritage selections from Mendocino and Amador counties and a Primitivo clone. The vines are rooted in magnificent, red volcanic soils at elevations surpassing 2,000 feet, with a perfect southwestern exposure. The site’s warm sunny days and nights cooled by breezes from nearby Clear Lake provide an ideal microclimate for Zinfandel.
The advantage of high-elevation vineyards in cool growing seasons like 2006 is that they receive more sunlight and ripen sooner than valley floor vineyards. This was the case with Snow’s Lake Vineyard in 2006. The growing season began with a wet winter, which delayed bud break and the flowering of the vines. It also fostered dense vine canopies, which proved a godsend in July when an unprecedented heat wave struck Northern California. Fortunately, temperate weather returned in August, which enabled us to harvest our perfectly ripened Snow’s Lake Zinfandel grapes in early September with an ideal balance of sugar and acidity.
Each of our three Zinfandel clones at Snow’s Lake was harvested and fermented separately. After a short, warm fermentation in stainless steel tanks to fully extract color, flavor and tannins, the wines remained on the skins for another two weeks to further enhance color and flavor extraction while softening tannins. After pressing the wines off the skins, we transferred the lots to French oak barrels, 37% new, where they aged before the final blend was assembled in May, 2007. The wine then aged another eight months in barrel before bottling in January, 2008.
Our 2006 Red Hills Lake County Zinfandel opens with a lavish nose of toasted black plum, sweet black cherry and wild blackberry fruit, with cracked black pepper, black licorice and briary spice tones completing the varietal portrait. On the dense, full-bodied palate, the wine’s potent black fruit flavors are impressively deep and concentrated, while the finish showcases the zesty black pepper spiciness unique to Zinfandel. While this youthfully intense Zin is delicious now with hearty foods like grilled pepper steak, barbecued ribs and spicy, red-sauced pastas, its classic structure and deep reserves of fruit ensure it will age beautifully for another 5-7 years.