Seattle Wine Blog

This blog is dedicated to commentary on all aspects of wine, especially short entries to help you find the best wines without the usual hype and spin. These are my frank, independent opinions, usually based on tasting wine at a public event, off the shelf or at the winery. "All creative acts must arise out of a specific soil and flicker with a spirit of place" -D.H. Lawrence

Monday, September 18, 2006

A Sedimental Journey - 1976 Burgess Zinfandel

Just as it is now de rigueur for young men to shave their body hair, it is now necessary that a wine not throw any sediment in the bottle. Back in the 1970s, winemakers wanted to make wines that would age like European wines and so they made some huge wines with lots of acid and tannin that threw massive amounts of sediment. When Tom Burgess made the 1976 Zinfandel from Sonoma grapes, it caused a sensation. The drought in 1976 resulted in even bigger, more tannic wines than usual and the hype around the Burgess was profound - an exceptional wine that would last for ages! I bought a case and have tasted it several times over the past thirty years. Until today, it tasted primarily of sandpaper and grit. Huge amounts of tannin so dominated the wine that it wasn't really clear if there was any fruit in the bottle.

Tonight, thirty years and six bottles later, the wine finally revealed it's elegant self hidden in a monster costume for thirty years. It threw down vast amounts of sediment, finally discarding its disguise as a brute. This evening the wine was dark brick red revealing delicious blackberry and plum flavors, followed by slightly astringent tannins. The wine still isn't quite there yet and maybe needs another five to ten years to reach it's peak, but today for the first time , there was a glimpse of a smooth, balanced wine emerging from years of darkness. This bottle makes me wonder whether Robert Parker el al. may not have inadvertently killed off many future 50 and 100 year wines such as he has had the privelege of tasting at rarified tastings of old bottles over the years. The current preference for smooth, hairless wines reduces the likelihood of wines even being made in this style, although some of the mountain wines of Napa such as Godspeed, Mt Veeder, and Togni inevitably take this direction because their microclimate and the mountain men who make them.

Could you sell this wine today? Probably not! This is the opposite of a fruitbomb, more like a sandstorm. If you had brought this hairy monster home for an evening romp the day you had bought it, you would have choked on it, since for thirty years it did not go down easy. These days, very few would have the patience to wait thirty years for a swallow. The 2003 Goose Ridge Red we tasted recently, tasted very similar and was ready to drink the day we bought it. Thirty years from now there probably won't be any social security, wine could be verboten, and you could be dead.


  • At 10:01 AM, Blogger flo said…

    LOL. Great post. I actually prefer fur vs. the bare chest of today's youth so I'm inclined to think a nice full bodied well aged wine might be just what I need for an evening romp.


  • At 1:21 PM, Blogger SeattleWineBlog said…

    Flo, Thanks for your comment. As the French say, "Chacun a son gout", each to his or her own taste. Gene


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