Rustic Zinfandel - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Rustic Zinfandel

Founder & Winemaker John Williams (left) with Winemaker Rory Williams (right) (Photo: Emma K. Morris)

Rory Williams makes this zinfandel from three vineyards in St. Helena, most of it coming from the Garden Vineyard on the west side, planted in 1978. He reports that dry farming through the third drought year in a row held yields down by 20 percent. If his 2021 shows the concentration in the zinfandel grapes…it also shows freshness. At least part of that freshness comes from a practice the team started to implement in 2018. Setting out to co-ferment some petite sirah with the zin, they faced the challenge of different ripening windows. So, in 2018, they decided to pick the petite when it was ripe, and hold the grapes in a cold soak until the zinfandel ripened about a week later. Then they added the petite to the fermenting zinfandel. “Cooling down the runaway train that is a zin ferment has the effect of extending the fermentation a few days, which helps even out the extraction and helps the yeast not get too stressed out,” Williams says. “We’ve had cleaner ferments on the zins since we started this practice.”

In another shift, while shepherding this wine into bottle, they started experimenting with concrete cubes for aging in 2016. They liked the results, Williams says, so they ordered more of the vessels; since 2019, about 65 percent of the blend ages in their 240-gallon concrete cubes. In 2021, the wine presents a rustic sense of old-time Napa, along with a seamlessly integrated structure. It’s clean and direct, with firm, blue-black fruit that lasts long past each sip. If you’re looking for an All-American Classic to serve with your Thanksgiving feast, check this out.


Frog’s Leap 2021 Napa Valley Zinfandel

Every week, our editors highlight a wine that intrigued them in our blind panel tastings, expanding on their tasting note in this space. These are entirely editorial choices; there are no paid placements. Subscribers can also access the original tasting note by searching here.

Joshua Greene is the editor and publisher of Wine & Spirits magazine.

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