As my mother used to say when I would take her up to Brandlin Vineyard, high in the hills of Mount Veeder,“ this is as close to heaven as I am going to get.” It’s a magnificent and magical setting that ultimately finds its way into the wine. There are many well-made technically sound wines out in the marketplace, but few can capture the soul and personality offered by Brandlin. Since 1991 I have worked with this vineyard, and each vintage I can feel the energy and excitement because I know these are grapes that will never disappoint!
In the early 1920s, Henry Brandlin and sons Richard and Chester began planting vines on an eastern exposure hillside 1200 feet above the Napa Valley floor. They adhered to the regimen of “filed blend”—a mix of different varieties. Today these are probably the oldest vines on Mount Veeder, and they continue to produce intensely flavored grapes, growing for all these years without any irrigation other than the winter and spring rains. The vines are head-trained, independent of any trellis, and do not require much manipulation.
2016 rewarded us with another marvelous vintage. Sunshine and a warm dry spring led to mild and ideal growing conditions throughout the summer. Because of late winter rains, the vines began their growing season a little happier and less stressed than in 2015. With no weather extremes to interfere, grapes ripened slowly and evenly, resulting in beautiful concentration of flavor and aromas.
I like to ferment our Zinfandels at temperatures slightly lower than those for Bordeaux reds to accentuate the zesty and forward fruit character of the variety. Aging exclusively in Burgundian French oak barrels adds complexity as well as refinement to the wine.
My immediate impression of the 2016 vintage—classic Brandlin! Brilliant medium ruby with an array of aromatic notes—bramble fruits, white pepper, basil, rose petal, and a touch of sweet oak. The palate entry is gentle, leading to flavors of anise and strawberry. The wine embraces that PF goal of a structure that is elegant, balanced, lively and refreshing. The lengthy finish will return to remind you how much you are enjoying this wine,
We’ve savored quite a few bottles of this wine recently—now it’s your turn!