Saturday, 31 March 2012

Scotto Family, Lodi “Old Vine” Zinfandel (2008)

The Scotto Family’s Lodi “Old Vine” Zinfandel comes from the Scotto Family’s home winery in Lodi, California. Only founded in August 2009, the Scotto Family winery is one of Lodi’s newest wineries.

Sitting further inland than many of the high quality growing areas of California on the North Coast, Lodi (and the larger Central Valley as whole) has for many years been the Californian home of “jug” and bulk wines. A warmer Mediterranean climate than those vineyards nearer the coast sees large harvests of grapes and a lengthy growing season, something that makes the production of large quantities of wine easy. However, over the last five years or so, Lodi has also developed an increasing reputation for high quality wines at a reasonable price level too.

Zinfandel (such as this Scotto Family Lodi “Old Vine” Zinfandel) particularly enjoys this climate (being as it is reminiscent of its Mediterranean origins) and if the Zinfandel vine’s tendency to high yields is restricted, Zinfandel-based wines with depth and complexity can be produced in Lodi too. One example of this is Brazin’s (B)Old Vine Zinfandel, a Zinfandel that offers prodigious power and richness, but also nuance too.

Like the Zinfandel grape, the Scotto Family (the makers of this Scotto Family Lodi “Old Vine” Zinfandel) also originated in Italy. In the late 1800s, the Scotto family lived in Ischia (a small island west of Naples) repairing boats and making wine. In 1903, Dominic Scotto found a job on the East coast of America fixing and building wooden sailing ships. Between jobs, he made jug wine (sold in 5 gallon jugs!) before settling down to own a liquor store in Brooklyn after the end of prohibition. With future generations owning a wine distribution business and eventually migrating west to Lodi, today the Scotto Family winery is owned and operated by Anthony Scotto III, one of the fifth generation of Scotto family winemakers, who is assisted by his sister Natalie and brother Paul.

The Zinfandel fruit destined for this Scotto Family Lodi “Old Vine” Zinfandel is sourced from two 50 year old vineyards in Lodi. The Zinfandel fruit from each vineyard (one in a valley and one located on the hillside above that valley) that is destined for this Scotto Family Lodi “Old Vine” Zinfandel is vinified and matured separately prior to final blending and bottling. The valley Zinfandel fruit destined for this Scotto Family Lodi “Old Vine” Zinfandel is kept at a low temperature during fermentation and matured in stainless steel for 18 months to retain the freshness in the fruit flavours of the Zinfandel grapes. Whereas the hillside Zinfandel fruit destined for this Scotto Family Lodi “Old Vine” Zinfandel is matured in oak for 18 months. (5% Syrah is also blended into this Scotto Family Lodi “Old Vine” Zinfandel for complexity).

The bottle of this Scotto Family Lodi “Old Vine” Zinfandel is tall and elegant. A textured label carries an image of a sail boat sail, an image that represents the Scotto family’s past. This 2008 Scotto Family Lodi “Old Vine” Zinfandel is sealed with a screw cap.

In the glass, this Scotto Family Lodi “Old Vine” Zinfandel is a clear (i.e. non-faulty), moderate to intense ruby red. There is a clear rusticity towards the rim of this Scotto Family Lodi “Old Vine” Zinfandel, a product of the hillside Zinfandel fruit’s 18 months oak maturation. Alcohol is pronounced at 14.5% abv, however is considerably lower than some Lodi Zinfandel that can reach 15.5% abv.

On the nose, this Scotto Family Lodi “Old Vine” Zinfandel is clean (i.e. non-faulty) and pronounced. Dark in character throughout, upon opening the aromas of this Scotto Family Lodi “Old Vine” Zinfandel are wonderfully spice driven with black pepper and a touch of anise leading the rest of the aromas. As air permeates this Scotto Family Lodi “Old Vine” Zinfandel, black fruit notes become more prominent, with ripe and soft black cherry and plum coming to the fore. A degree of sweetness is alluded to by the presence of vanilla notes (presumably a product of the oak maturation seen by part of this Scotto Family Lodi “Old Vine” Zinfandel) although this sense of sweetness is less than in some Lodi Zinfandel where all of the wine has been matured in oak.

Once in the mouth, this Scotto Family Lodi “Old Vine” Zinfandel is dry and medium-to-full bodied. Rounded and enveloping black fruit forms the bulk of the palate of this Scotto Family Lodi “Old Vine” Zinfandel in the form of mulberries, black cherries and plums, with a prickly spice becoming a little more prevalent into the finish. Acidity is moderate (slightly higher than much Lodi Zinfandel) which prevents the ripe (but not overly ripe) fruit of this Scotto Family Lodi “Old Vine” Zinfandel from becoming cloying and will aid with food matching. There is slightly more drive and structure to the mid-palate of this Scotto Family Lodi “Old Vine” Zinfandel than there is with much Lodi Zinfandel, this is to this Scotto Family Lodi “Old Vine” Zinfandel’s benefit though. The tannins of this Scotto Family Lodi “Old Vine” Zinfandel are well integrated and grip just a little into the finish which is moderately long.

Overall, this Scotto Family Lodi “Old Vine” Zinfandel is a very accomplished wine. Slightly different in style to much Lodi Zinfandel (which either tend towards extreme ripeness and alcohol, or a lighter “table” style) the blending of hillside and valley fruit in this Scotto Family Lodi “Old Vine” Zinfandel, along with a specific winemaking decision to preserve acidity and freshness, has yielded a wine that is eminently drinkable alone or with a wide range of foods. A little more upright than some Lodi Zinfandel, at no point does the structure of this Scotto Family Lodi “Old Vine” Zinfandel become too prevalent.

In terms of food pairing, this Scotto Family Lodi “Old Vine” Zinfandel will work well with venison or other game. This Scotto Family Lodi “Old Vine” Zinfandel will also pair well with richer stews or braised meats (the acidity will help cut through the richness). A rarely used combination is Zinfandel and duck, which will emphasise the sweetness of the fruit in this Scotto Family Lodi “Old Vine” Zinfandel.

Priced at around £8 per bottle in the UK, this Scotto Family Lodi “Old Vine” Zinfandel represents excellent value. Rarely is high quality Zinfandel seen in the UK at less than £10 per bottle and this is certainly a high quality wine. The balanced style of this Scotto Family Lodi “Old Vine” Zinfandel is also more likely to appeal to UK palates than some more overblown American Zinfandels.
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Scotto Family, Lodi “Old Vine” Zinfandel (2008)

Score: 87/100 – An intelligently styled Zinfandel that is inherently attractive as a result

Value for Money: 10/10 – Retailling for around £8 per bottle, this Scotto Family, Lodi "Old Vine" Zinfandel is one of the best value wines reviewed this year.
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