Russian River Valley AVA
This incredible, authentic Old Vine Zinfandel has earned over 28 awards so far!
When the term “Old Vine” developed buzzword status some ten or fifteen years ago, the California wine industry and wine consumers in general naturally associated the phrase with the great old zinfandel vines that flourished in various viticultural growing areas of California.
As we are all aware, the term is overworked today, as witness to the myriad of “old vine” Zins that originate from all over the Golden State. Happily, there are still some prime examples of true old vine Zinfandel available such as the excellent 1997 wine from the Russian River Valley’s Fanucchi Vineyards.
The reason that this wine is a factual example of marvelously aged vineyards and vines is none other than Peter Fanucchi, the venerable and oft quoted owner of the plot located on the esteemed Wood Road Bench of Sonoma County. The vineyard traces its roots (literally) back to 1906; a fact that makes it eminently qualified to utilize the term “old vine.” Fanucchi’s parents purchased the property in 1972 and sold the resulting fruit to local growers for use in their Zinfandel blends.
Back in the mid-1980’s, Peter Fanucchi’s father passed away, leaving the second-generation Tuscan grape grower with an important decision about the 20-acre plot of aged Zinfandel. Fanucchi considered his options and decided to instigate a long-term project to reinvigorate each and every plant in his plot. He took his plan several steps further, from utilizing rootzone stimulation using only organic materials to gently training new arms on each plant, appendages Fanucchi considered more photosynthetically efficient.
Fanucchi attacks his role with a demonstrable attitude and precise plan. He prunes each vine himself and mows and tills as often as needed. More importantly, he walks and monitors the 9,000 vines nearly a thousand times a year, much more often than is normal. By doing so he has become a legend in the organic farming movement that continues to build momentum and followers each day throughout California. He is widely quoted and his opinion is much sought after by growers and vintners alike.
Peter Fanucchi has also overcome the economics of his actions. Faced with the realization that he could reap greater rewards by replanting the valuable plot with other varietals such as Chardonnay and Merlot, he opted to stick with the Zinfandel vines and their paltry yield of around 2.5 tons per acre.
Quite obviously this low yield means an extremely limited production, but that doesn’t bother the opinionated farmer one bit. In 1992, he created Fanucchi Vineyards and began producing a wine to his most specific standards. He utilizes most of the grapes for use in his Old Vine Zinfandel, but continues to sell a small portion to another winery.
Peter Fanucchi consults with his wife Karen Banke concerning important winemaking decisions and more recently has retained the services of consultant Barbara Lindbloom. But make no mistake; the wines of Fanucchi Vineyards are a mirror of Peter Fanucchi’s roots and nurturing.
The six hundred cases of Fanucchi Vineyards’ widely acclaimed 1997 vintage are only found in top wine shops in a handful of states. Fanucchi stresses the fruit aspect of this wine, a stance that also supports his own goal as a vine master, namely to showcase the wine’s fruit first and the oak and alcohol last. He also insists that despite the emphasis on fruit above all the Old Vine Zinfandel tends to get much better with age.
Such is the case with Peter Fanucchi who prefers the title vine master to any other designation. He is a rare throwback to some of the pioneering types that inhabited Northern California in the 1950’s and 60’s, when the real advancement toward ultra premium wines was initiated.
Gold Medal Wine Club is pleased to share his 1997 Old Vine Zinfandel with our members. We know it will be a most memorable experience.
Dear Platinum Series Wine Club Members,
Congratulations, you are receiving a bottle of Old Vine Zinfandel from the vintage 1997, that I consider to be the healthiest, most balanced wine-growing season I have experienced in my nearly 30 years on Wood Road! Nature finally rewarded my meticulous effort to personally rehabilitate these ancient vines in Russian River Valley. The uniform growing conditions enabled this wine to capture the grand burst of Zin’s Raspberry fruit flavors balanced with its dark fruit tannins, a perfect acid and tame alcohol. It allows all flavors to show brilliantly and pair with your meal more vibrantly than the best Tuscan Sangiovese.
I find that my wines from this vineyard open up later than the traditional concept of Zinfandel. Over the last couple of years I have seen this wine slowly evolve. And while it is far superior now than it was when I originally released it, if properly stored, its balance will allow it to age 3 to 7 more years. (My best guess!)
Year 1997 conditions allowed normally weak areas of the vineyard to bless us with a few more bottles than usual. Since then, an EL NINO year and a LA NINA year has stressed the old vines so far back that the combined production of ’97, ’98, ’99, & ’00 may be less than 1,800 cases! This rare wine will be more rare!
Enjoy it with a few of your best friends
Peter Fanucchi - Vine Master