The 1997 vintage was one that had Napa growers smiling from ear to ear. They brought in a large crop of excellent quality, with 144,000 tons harvested compared to an average of 121,000 tons over the preceding decade. The optimum growing conditions over the summer and through the harvest produced wines that are superbly concentrated, dense, rich, and powerful yet balanced.
The growing season got off to an early start with bud break coming a month early in the warm late-winter and spring conditions. The vines seemed to shrug off a little rain that fell in early June. The summer was warm but not too hot, with one heat spike in early August, followed by moderate to cool temperatures, to slow ripening. September conditions were excellent — the grapes had a long period of ripening without any heat spikes, allowing growers to wait to pick at optimum ripeness. It is one of the greatest vintages of the decade, with wines that are firmly in their prime today. They have incredible extract, depth, and structure, with solid, dense fruit centers to match.
Early bud break, due to dry spring
Unexpected rain had little to no effect
With no vineyards of its own, Rosenblum Cellars' home base is a giant hangar next to the docks in Alameda. Here, winemaker John Kane directs his focus to Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Syrah...but mostly Zinfandel. They like it so much at Rosenblum that they make over 20 varieties. And although these wines come from vineyard sites all over California, the huge range of Zins are reliably rich and extroverted, typically made in a super-ripe, high-alcohol style. Kane took over in 2009 from Kent Rosenblum, the King of Zin.
Bold, assertive red wines often showing jammy fruits and impressively high alcohol
Grilled meats and barbecue
Zinfandel is not the rage it was in the 1980s and early 1990s, as there are now too many wines made from overripe fruit or from young vines, or overwhelmed by excessive use of new barrels. Today's Zinfandel styles range from elegant, taut, and claret-like midweights to superripe and potty behemoths, with off-the-charts alcohol levels, distinctly exotic character, and, frequently, noticeable residual sugar. Classic Zinfandels are normally medium to full in body, with fruit-driven aromas and flavors of fresh berries, black pepper, and spices, sometimes with notes of citrus zest, chocolate, and briary underbrush; they are rarely overwhelmed by oak notes. Many of the best producers continue to work largely with very old vines (some-times with "field blends" that include other grapes such as Petite Sirah and Carignan), which give consistently low crop levels and make wines with atypical creaminess of texture, aromatic complexity, and aging potential.