What Do Those Guys Know Anyway?
We'd heard much about Bill Knuttel's Ottimino Zinfandels three years ago when those first samples arrived. Knuttel had already made quite a name for himself as head winemaker at Dry Creek, but Bill's heart was always at Ottimino.
The first bottle had been drawn from an old-vine plot long farmed by the Biglieri family. When the recession hit, Biglieri's oldest client had walked away from a contract. Knuttel swooped in and made a handshake agreement before the rest of the valley even knew Biglieri was up for grabs. The second was drawn from an improbable 70-year-old parcel farmed by the reclusive Robert Von Weidlich, high above Occidental. The old German's tree-like patch had been the source for Ridge's famed Zinfandel "Occidental." Knuttel's wines took a page right out of a Ridge Vineyard playbook.
The last was Knuttel's pride and joy, an estate-grown bottle drawn from precious Goldridge soils, set in the heart of primetime Russian River -- adjacent to Dutton Ranch.
Each wine spoke eloquently of the place from which it was drawn, yet all were cut of common cloth. All three single-vineyard Zinfandels were 'berried-up' and primary on the nose, juicy and primary on the attack, absent any of the dried fruit overtones that mar so many Zins these days. But most importantly, each wine was infused with scintillating, cool climate vibrancy, the ripe tannin backbone speaking of the variety's glory days, of Knuttel's mentors -- Joel Petersen at Ravenswood and Paul Draper at Ridge.
But in the end, equally captivating as the quality of Knuttel's wines, were their prices. Knuttel is a busy guy, stricken with the can't-stop virus that is common to so many of the coast's most inventive winemakers. In addition to his 40-hour work week at Dry Creek, Knuttel consulted for a half-dozen wineries, then spent his evenings and weekends at Ottimino. He barely had time for six hours of sleep, let alone the bandwidth for sales trips to destinations like St. Louis, Orlando and Minneapolis/St. Paul. It was the perfect marriage. Knuttel was a motivated seller. We stepped in with cash on the barrel.
For the last three years, we've treated many of you to a steady diet of Ottimino single-vineyard Zinfandels, garnering rave ratings from buyers. Knuttel has earned a whopping 184 5-star ratings and reviews -- the top performance in WineAccess history for any Zinfandel at ANY price! But as we approached the date for today's offer of the 2009 Estate Zinfandel, Bill was slow to respond to our inquiry. It took ten days to track Knuttel down. When we did, we heard the news we so hate to hear.
The 2009 Ottimino Estate is one of the juiciest Zinfandels of Bill Knuttel's storied career. Brilliant ruby/purple in color. The wild berry aromas are lush and primary, infused with dark chocolate, sprinkled with white pepper. Rich, and juicy on the attack with jammy wild berry concentration, the finish is fresh and vibrant, the Russian River tannins round and sumptuous.
So why is it that Bill Knuttel finally decided to send a bottle of the most hedonistic Ottimino Zinfandel in memory to Wine Spectator on the eve of today's offer? Why? Can someone please tell us WHY????
The good news is that Bill honored his price to WineAccess -- just $20/bottle, far and away the lowest anywhere in America. But as to our allocation, AFTER the Wine Spectator 91-point rave, Ottimino picked up a half-dozen wholesale customers, and our 112 case allocation was trimmed in half.
A request and a word of advice. If you subscribe to Wine Spectator, please cancel your subscription. What do those guys know anyway? And if you're interested in picking up a few bottles of the last of the great 2009 Zinfandels from Ottimino, hop to it. The clock is ticking.