Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Introducing the Wine Guerilla

The Wine Guerilla is not the big hairy beast you might be imagining, but a relatively new winemaking concern in Sonoma with a passion for Zinfandel (among others), particularly old vine Zins. California’s love affair with this grape goes back to late gold rush days. As the gold fever subsided, planting of this grape with origins in Croatia has been steady and rising beginning in the 1980s. Guerrilla actually refers to revolutionaries and Bruce Patch is certainly working his own revolution in Zinfandel wine making with a big focus in Sonoma County, home to many of California’s best Zins.

Old vine Zinfandel is just that, aged vines that take on complex flavors even as the production per vine drops. Mass produced Zinfandel seldom gets the chance to show this character as older vines are yanked for newer, higher-yield vines. Not so for those winemakers that love the grape, and that certainly includes Bruce.

The first Zinfandel wines I fell in love with were in the Santa Cruz Mountains, including Zins made with 80-year old vines at Congress Springs. I even had taken cuttings of these vines and planted them at my home in Los Altos. After many years of touring and tasting wines in Sonoma, I developed a passion for Russian River and Dry Creek Valley Zins. I still remember swatting at fruit flies while tasting Zins at Lytton Springs Winery, which is now owned by Ridge Winery.

Fast forward to now and I’m sampling the Wine Guerilla 2009 Clopton Vineyard Zinfandel, which is in the Russian River Valley appellation. This is mostly Zinfandel fruit with a bit of Alicante Bouschet added, probably for added depth and color. The nose is redolent of old vine with forest floor (yeah, but who’s forest?), mushroom, spice with an undercurrent of red and black fruit, which predominate on the palate. The fine tannins help shape the mouthfeel at mid-palate and the finish trails some of the earthen flavors on the nose. The 14.7% alcohol is fully integrated into the wine, which is well balanced.

I recently attended a wine dinner at La Casa Sena in Santa Fe, which featured five of Mr. Patch’s wines. This wine was paired with Achiote grilled Prawns and complemented Chef Garrity’s dish perfectly. You’ll find a wealth of different Zinfandel wines; single vineyard and blends that will have you in a revolutionary spirit as well. Check them out here.