The 2017 vintage was one that was not for the faint of heart. The year began with much welcomed rain that ended a 5 year drought in California. The dry farmed vines in the Carreras Ranch Vineyard could finally relax and recharge having worked extra hard to produce fruit through the extended drought. During the growing season there were 5 heats spikes that once again tested these old vines but with proper canopy management the fruit prevailed and was harvest in September before the devastated fires of 2017 began. With all the challenges that had to be overcome in 2017 the wines are showing the perseverance of the vines and community as a whole.
Selecting when to harvest a vineyard block is always a critical winemaking decision and there are many factors to consider. When making a harvest decision on a field blend vineyard it is even more challenging because the different varietals ripen at slightly different rates. If you are not going to go back to the same block multiple times to pick you need to harvest when you can get the best out of all the grape varietals.
This Zinfandel is made using many traditional techniques with modern touches to maintain quality. The fruit is fermented in small fermentation bins where the color, flavor and aromatics are extracted from the skins and delicate punch downs are done by hand. Using native yeasts from the vineyard gives a further sense of place to this wine, fermentation was monitored closely and complete after two weeks. After pressing the juice from the skins and seeds, secondary fermentation commenced to soften the acidity of the wine. Barrel aged in 30% new French oak for 21 months before bottling in July 2018.
The Carreras Ranch Vineyard reminds, Jim Demuth, the founder of Gregory James Wines of his love of farming and tradition. The vineyards were first planted by Italian immigrants to the Dry Creek Valley, in Sonoma County, over 100 years ago. Planted on the east side of the Dry Creek Valley, the Carreras Ranch Vineyard is situated on bench lands with volcanic soils that are rich in iron. The original vineyard blocks were planted as “field blends,” meaning the vineyard was not planted to just one varietal. The majority of the vines that are sourced for Gregory James Wines are Zinfandel, although there are some Carignane, Napa Gamay, Golden Chasellas, Petite Sirah and Grenache vines mixed in. Mixing in these blending varietals, even a few vines, has a big influence on the flavor and balance of the wine.