‘Old and Mature Vines’ Zinfandel from Scherrer

When it comes to Scherrer Winery, there is no other way to put it but to say I’m a huge fan and as such am biased when it comes to their wines, especially their ‘Old and Mature Vines’ Zinfandel. Scherrer’s ‘Old and Mature Vines’ Zinfandel has a finesse and depth that can only come from really, really old vines and from a winemaker who is intimately connected to them, as is the case with Fred Scherrer. Where to begin? How about way back when I was just barely legal to drink and still studying at Cal? Back then when I needed a break I would escape to my parent’s cabin up on the Russian River for a quiet weekend, driving up after classes on Friday and often making a quick stop at Dehlinger Winery. This was when Dehlinger still had a tasting room and anyone could swing by, taste, and actually buy something if they wanted. It wasn’t uncommon for me to be the only one at the tasting bar, which was really just a makeshift one in a warehouse. The guy who usually poured the wine was personable, tall and lanky and incredibly knowledgeable. It was like getting a private tutorial in wine production and evaluation. Little did I know at the time that this guy, Fred Scherrer, was also the winemaker. When Fred began making wines for himself, I was on board right from the start.
The ‘Old and Mature Vines’ Zinfandel comes from Fred’s father’s vineyard in Alexander Valley which he inherited from his father. Most of the vines for this bottling were planted in 1912, though the property dates back to 1899. Fred’s father still farms the vineyard and is himself a fascinating character and a pleasure to talk vintage specifics with. When I tasted the ’09 out of barrel and Ed Scherrer said he had never experienced a vintage like ’09 before, I believed him! The 2007 is the current release to the public. This may seem curious given that many Zinfandels on the market are already ’10s, but Fred does things differently. Most of his wines end up on restaurant lists, so he is careful to make available wines that are more ready to drink. In preparation for this review, I indulged myself by opening a bottle and having a glass last night so that while writing today my impressions were still fresh in my mind. The fruit is not as flamboyant and berrylicous as so many Zinfandels can be, instead the ‘Old and Mature Vines’ has integrated fruit notes of a berry compote, a slight dusty underbrush character with supple oak tannins that carry forth the long finish. The 2007 has a zing to it that is unexpected but welcome as it polishes off nicely with food. It doesn’t lie heavy and flat on the palate. It’s a Zinfandel I would prefer to serve with duck in some kind of fruit sauce rather than spicy sticky ribs, if you get my drift.

I don’t visit as many wineries as you might think, or that I should, but I try to visit Scherrer at least once a year. Last weekend I made my yearly pilgrimage to Scherrer, bringing along with me an entourage that included my brothers, their spouses and some friends visiting from Ukraine. We had a fun time “testing” the wines, as my Russian-speaking friends say. Though we tried some great wines out of bottle, the highlight for me was sampling the 2011 ‘Old and Mature Vines’ out of barrel. My assessment: yum! Zinfandel is intrinsically a nostalgic wine for me as it is the first varietal I truly loved and one that will always be connected to my summers up at the Russian River. When I get a whiff of that dusty note I mentioned above in the 2007 ‘Old and Mature Vines’, I am reminded of late summer smells of sticky blackberry bushes, dropping Redwood needles and dusty paths. Isn’t it a wonder what a glass of delicious wine can conjure up in the senses! —Anya Balistreri

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