This is Day 4 (and the final day this week) of a series for Robert Biale Vineyards commemorating 25 years of their dedication to preserving historic vineyards. It’s not just about growing wine grapes for the Biale team. It about history, people, wine grapes, terroir, and the best use for all of it. On Tuesday, I attended the Robert Biale Vineyards’ Vintage Review Tasting. (I’ll also blog about that event in the future.)
Perpetuating and Saving Zinfandel
Our Dedicated Vineyard Partners
Stagecoach, the Next Stage of Zinfandel
Also in 1999, the Biale partners, in search of new sources of top grapes, approached Jan Krupp, the managing partner of Stagecoach Vineyards. The purpose was to plant a specific Biale Zinfandel vineyard at this remarkable location, on Napa Valley’s eastern ridge. This area had quickly become regarded by winemakers as being among the most significant vineyard projects, of Napa Valley’s modern era. Ambitious in scope and featuring rocky soils, it had the perfect exposure, along with a newly-discovered abundant water source. Stagecoach had quickly become a lightning rod of interest to winemakers looking to add highest standard grapes to their blends and designations. No one had yet taken on Zinfandel, though. That same year, a cooperative project commenced, whereby Krupp would plant old Biale Zinfandel clones on a slope. It had a dramatic view of Oakville and the entire Napa Valley. The Stagecoach Zinfandels have since gone on to become a key feature in Biale’s portfolio. They also embody the winery’s devotion of perpetuating Zinfandel’s legacy.
Old Kraft Vineyard, Saving a Piece of Napa Valley History
Shortly after the Stagecoach Zinfandel vineyard was established, wine industry executive Bill Hart and his wife Margie purchased a historic property, which was an abandoned vineyard, on St. Helena’s west side. Their objective was to build a family home and plant outstanding grape varieties. After consulting with winery friends, and with the very careful consideration that there are aren’t many of Napa Valley’s historic vineyards left, the Harts decided to embark on a vineyard preservation project. This endeavor was intended to revitalize old vines, which they discovered were originally planted by winemaker Franz Kraft in the 1890s. Enlisting the expertise of Bill Pease (Madrigal Vineyard Management) and Bob Biale, the Harts laboriously pruned and shaped up the overgrown vines, removed vigorous invasive weeds, laid drainage tile, cultivated and amended the soil, and inter-planted missing vines. The results were slow but steady. And the grapes proved to be so impressive that Biale bottled its first Old Kraft Vineyard – a 2006 Vintage in 2007.
The Historic R.W. Moore Vineyard, Heritage on Hagen
Biale Vineyards is thrilled and humbled to be a producer of Zinfandel from the historic R. W. Moore Vineyard, in Napa Valley’s Coombsville Appellation.
Historic Hagen Road runs east/west across Napa Valley’s Coombsville Appellation. This newly recognized rural district near the city of Napa is quickly gaining recognition for producing many elegant, polished, and finely balanced wines from many varieties – both reds and whites – which speak to the region’s cool and hilly conditions, in south Napa Valley close by the San Francisco Bay. Here, Henry Hagen’s legendary Cedar Knoll Winery won many international awards for its wines, before it was closed due to Prohibition.
The surviving historic landmark of Coombsville vineyards, though, lies smack dab in the district’s middle on Hagen Road, adjacent to Sarcos Creek, with a looming Mt. George to the east. In 1905, this is where the family of a seafarer by the name of Pleasant Ashley Stevens planted vines. Most of those vines still exist today, thanks to the dedicated farming and preservationist sensibilities of Bill Moore. Bill is a retired dentist, who purchased the property as his first home in the 1980s. This is the oldest vineyard in Coombsville; and, amazingly enough, the region’s only Zinfandel. Bill’s rare and iconic old vineyard came into prominence under the Turley Wines label. Then in 2009, it became a family project, when it came under the direction of Bill, his new nephew-in-law Mike Hendry, and Bill’s wife’s niece Molly Hendry. Biale Vineyards received a welcome phone call in 2009, when Mike offered to share some of his family’s grapes from this grand old vineyard. This is a vineyard Biale had long admired for its ideal site and twisting gnarled vines, and we were thrilled to add this Zinfandel to our repertoire of wines. Now, this vineyard is important to the wine industry, as its genetic heritage is being carefully preserved and propagated through the U.C. Davis Heritage Vineyard project.
Robert Biale Vineyards is a key longtime supporter of ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers), a multi-winery and consumer-supported non-profit, whose programs raise the money needed to save our Zinfandel legacy for future generations.