Melanie Hoffman

If you are ever in the Napa Valley and are looking for a fun adventure, visit Robert Biale Vineyards. Located at the end of the T-Intersection of Salvador Avenue and Big Ranch Road at 4038 Big Ranch Road.

As you drive down the grapevine lined dirt drive to the winery, you will come upon a sign indicating to watch for the black chicken. And the story that is behind this sign is worth the visit alone. Tasting Room Manager, Jon Bain, is an animated character who truly enjoys his job. And who can blame him, pouring fabulously tasty wines for new and interesting people each day and sharing the colorful tales of the Biale family.

In the Napa Valley, the period following the repeal of Prohibition was relatively quiet. It just so happens in the town of Napa at that time, the mother/son team of Christina and Aldo Biale grew not only Zinfandel, but the classic Italian farming trifecta of prunes, walnuts, and white leghorn chickens. Aldo, figuring that he could earn more for grapes in their fermented state, began discreetly putting up extra barrels of Zinfandel in his barn.

The only problem was that he was underage and the federal government did not look too kindly on his entrepreneurial venture.

Which brings us to another namesake for the winery, and let me digress for just a moment. The Party Line Zinfandel came to be because at that time when you lifted the receiver to make a call, the party to which you desired a conversation may not be the only person listening. Which made it interesting and a bit of a trick to sell his wine.

The enterprising Aldo became popular among Napans with a yen for Zin and fresh eggs, although discretion was necessary to continue his winemaking business. Aldo came up with a codeword his customers would use without tipping off nosy neighbors or authorities who might be listening in on the Biale’s home phone service. The customer would request “a black chicken” and Aldo would deliver a jug of his illicit vinous beverage. Quite an ingenious strategy.

If you are in the neighborhood, call ahead and schedule a visit. You will not be disappointed, and if you can get there while crush is still in progress, don’t be surprised if you are asked help out and stomp a few grapes. Robert Biale Vineyards wine can be found in local Napa Valley restaurants or by visiting their Website at

Robert Biale Vineyards, 2007 Pollo Blanco Sauvignon Blanc, Unreleased ~ Complex nose of kiwi fruit and lemongrass that leads to tangerine and peach aromas. Full fruit forward bouquet suggests this is a crisp and clean wine. Palate explodes with tropical flavors of papaya and mango. This well-balanced wine offers easy and smooth, crisp and clean flavors. Round mouthfeel with added white fig, Myer lemon, and a Mandarin orange finish. Lots going on with this wine.

Robert Biale Vineyards, 2004 Jack & Jill Syrah, Sonoma Valley ~ Full rich nose exhibiting earthy cedar, juicy blackberry, and blueberry aromas. Added vanilla oak and white pepper on the back end of the bouquet. Nice tannin structure opens the palate. Jammy flavors of mulberry and black cherry evolve on the juicy mid-palate. A touch of sweet oak and a smoky nature rounds out in the lingering finish.

Robert Biale Vineyards, 2005 Party Line Zinfandel, Oak Knoll District ~ Floral nose filled with cherry blossoms and blackberry flowers that lead way to vanilla oak. Enjoyable palate full of raspberries and cream. Jammy and deliciously long palate showcases cranberry and red currants. Nice tannins and a touch of caramel in the finale.

Robert Biale Vineyards, 2005 Black Chicken Zinfandel, ~ Spicy nose of peppercorn melange with a big jammy dose of blueberry. Added espresso and leather with a hint of peppermint on the end of the bouquet. Wow! Huge palate of loganberry jam, long and smooth. More leather and espresso add to this nicely balanced and well structured wine. Extra blueberry flavors find their way again in the finish.

Robert Biale Vineyards, 2005 Monte Rosso Zinfandel, Napa Valley | 250 acre vineyard, 120 year old wines ~ Complex wine displays a mineral quality upfront on the nose. Intense bouquet of sweet tobacco smoke, white pepper and licorice. Dusty red earth rounds out the nose. Even, long, smooth wine. Flavors follow aromas with a mid-palate pleaser of smoky meat and fresh raspberries. Never ending finish exhibits the essence of humidor cigar tobacco.

Robert Biale Vineyards, 2005 Zappa, Proprietary Blend | Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah ~ Huge nose with spice aromas upfront that lead to holiday jam medley. Earthy, meaty, with hints of molasses and cassis. Very balanced palate with great tannins. Huge jammy flavors, a bit dusty with a long finish that continues to the next sip.

Robert Biale Vineyards, 2005 Royal Punisher Petite Sirah, ~ Black cherry aromas open the bouquet with hints of caramel and a touch of coffee latte. Intense nose continues with the scent of blackberry. This wine has the most amazing bouquet. Gigantic palate of blackberries and dark chocolate. Additional vanilla bean and cedar round out the flavor experience. Long jammy finish, easy and smooth.