2013 Sky Vineyards, Zinfandel, Mt. Veeder, Napa Valley.
Lore Olds’ Zinfandels are rare and compelling wines that in some vintages transform into the profound, these wines are rawly authentic and honest efforts, but with age can provide a surprising elegance and complexity, as this 2013 showed last night, making for glorious unexpected evening of vinous enjoyment. I have found over the many years I have been enjoying Zinfandel that, California’s grape, can be truly extraordinary with age and there is a point when some, especially those from mountain sites, turn from flamboyant fruity to almost Bordeaux like, as this wine is doing right now, reminding me of a fine Saint-Julien with one of my favorites, Leoville Poyfrerre coming to mind, with a lovely sense of dark currant, loam and mineral going fabulously well with the briar laced classic raspberry core. Anyone who’s had 20 to 30 year old Ridge or Joel Peterson’s well matured Ravenwoods, with his early 90’s single vineyard stuff in particular, that he sometimes pulls out at trade tastings, will certainly attest to how awesome Zin can age, and this 2013 Mt. Veeder Sky, an odd and unheralded year, is really coming into its own. I was making some Sunday night fettuccini pasta with a spicy sauce that included saffron/smoked mussels on a whim, which needed a nice comforting bottle to spend the night with and I decided to pull this bottle out, and even though the flavors were quite vibrant with a mix of heat from red pepper flakes and lightly briny/fishy, this Sky Zin provided some sublime companionship with a stunning performance. The Sky Zin starts more subdued that many of its contemporaries, though with the grape’s notable raspberry essence being present, it takes on the mentioned currant, as well as plum and black cherry fruit, along with dried acacia flowers, a touch of cedar, anise, earth and cinnamony spices. This wine takes a few minutes to wake up in the glass with well integrated tannins and feels supple in the mouth, filling out to a perfectly portioned medium bodied with non aggressive acidity and a welcome low 13.4% natural alcohol. The quirky and rustic Sky Zinfandels have certainly impressed me over the years, after being turned on to them by my writer friend Brad Gray, who many years old got a remarkable interview with Lore Olds and his daughter, for Sonoma Magazine, both being media shy and hermit like up at their spectacular vineyard up on the southwestern face of Mount Veeder in the Mayocamas mountain range, and more recently by Kermit Lynch Imports salesman Matt Gerloff, who as a family friend of the Olds, has worked many vintages there, as well as battling swarms of wasps, rattlesnakes and the devastating recent fires.
The no nonsense and naturally hand crafted Sky Zinfandels are California treasures and should be on any Zin fans radar, they are unique wines that are terroir driven and offer a ton of soulful personality that activates the way back machine, these are true old school charmers. Sky Vineyards also does a fine Syrah, that also should not be missed with deeper fruit intensity and meaty quality, but also with a sense of grace and with a lovely violet perfume and a spicy pepper and wild sage note, plus a very rare Rosé, which I’ve only been lucky enough to have had but once! Sky Vineyards, founded back in 1973, set high up between the Napa and Sonoma valleys, resting as the Olds put it, on the picturesque crown of Mt. Veeder that is open to the expansive sky, where it gets its name and provides the inspiration for Lore’s beautiful artwork that grace the brilliant labels. The small family estate has fourteen acres of vines, as they also note is planted at an elevation of 2100 feet on their sun catching eastern-facing hillside where the Zinfandel and Syrah grapes enjoy plenty of sunshine and are refreshed by fog laced evenings that ripen these mountain grapes perfectly with an added terroir influenced intensity and structure. The reddish volcanic soil, this special climate and unique physical characteristics of the Sky estate come together along with the Olds respectful and gentle touch help makes wines that are distinct and have a sense of place. Sky uses holistic methods and is very green in practice, they are off the power gris, using only solar power, with sustainable practices, that includes, the use of permanent cover crops, dry farming all the vines, with promotion of birds and beneficial insects to minimize pests, plus a minimal use of water as well. In making the wines themselves, Sky is basic and traditional with hand-harvested grapes and mainly native yeast fermentation in open top one-ton bins that includes a workout of hand punch downs three times a day. After primary fermentation the wine is basket press-pressed into and aged in mostly well seasoned French oak barrels, all to capture exceptional purity and transparency. After have an extra glass or two of this beauty, I am looking into getting a few more bottles, luckily Sky is offering a few more bottles of this vintage and they are offering it at a special discount, so I highly recommend checking them out, plus the current 2014 and 2015 releases, which are also nicely priced and getting on their mailing list! It is a great time too support our hard working small family wineries that have been going through a cascade of tough times.
($39 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive