July 12, 2016
Borden Ranch is a tiny Sierra foothills AVA approved by the BATF in 1995, largely on the strength of its combination of rocky soil and uncharacteristically cool climate. It sits in the northwestern corner of Calaveras County, at the base of the Sierra Nevada Range, in an outcropping of hard rock – mostly quartz and granite – brought to the surface during the formation of the mountain range several million years ago. This rocky base serves to reduce vigor in the vines, and provides a host of mineral components to the vines that will later influence flavors in the finished wine.
Moreover, the vineyard is planted to an heirloom selection of Zinfandel, so the clusters are small, and ripen evenly. This latter factor allows us to harvest the fruit at low sugar levels and still attain ideal fruit maturity. You don’t have to wade through a lot of alcohol to get to the heart of the wine. Moreover, while much of this part of California’s Central Valley simmers at high temperatures during the growing season, the climate at Borden Ranch is relatively cool – sometimes downright chilly – as a result of the brisk, westerly winds set in motion by a phenomenon known as the ‘Sierra Rotor’. The net result here is a Zinfandel from fully ripe grapes, loaded with flavor and low in alcohol.
I don’t know that there is any other place in California so well suited to the production of traditionally made Zinfandel, produced as our forebears intended.
We harvested the grapes in early September at 23.0 Brix, de-stemmed the fruit in our Delta grape de-stemmer, pumped the must to a chilled stainless steel tank, then, after warming the tank slightly, allowed the grapes to ferment naturally using the native yeast trapped on the skins. The must was macerated for 45 days or so, drained and pressed, then racked into 60-gallon used French oak barrels.
We aged the wine on its lees for six months, then bottled without fining or filtration in early July. The Neyers Vista Luna Zinfandel engages me primarily because of its grace and charm. At a finished alcohol level that is barely 14%, it provides plenty of satisfaction, without the hot, alcoholic finish. Here’s a chance to get acquainted with Zinfandel as it tasted before the days of ‘muscle wines’.
2015 Zinfandel ‘Vista Luna’ – $26/bottle