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Tasting Library Wines at Joseph Swan Vineyards

Today, I headed up to Joseph Swan Vineyards in Russian River Valley. They were celebrating their 40th anniversary as a bonded winery by pouring library wines.


Above, winemaker Rod Berglund holds the oldest wine I was able to try. It's a 1972 "Lot 2" Zinfandel. It turned out to be one of the best aged red table wines I've ever had... of any variety. It was also still very fresh. I'm sure it could easily go another fifteen years. Sadly, there aren't many bottles left. Rod's eyes bugged out when he saw it had been opened.

This particular wine showed its age in its garnet color and broad pale rim. However, the intensity of the color was still good and there were younger wines poured that had gone past garnet to orange or brown. On the nose, there were moderately intense aromas of raspberry and cherry leather with accents of cigar box, rose petal, pencil shavings and dried herb. It showed great balance of acidity and tannins and an astonishing amount of fruit for its age. It's an epic wine. If somehow have some in your cellar, send me your address...

Other wines tasted:

1994 Sonoma Mountain Pinot Noir - Garnet/orange color with cedar, stewed cherry, tart fresh cherry, dried herb, great balance of acidity and tannins, very good to outstanding.

2005 Mancini Ranch Zinfandel - bright ruby with a big raspberry nose that reminded me of Chambord. Very good.

1993 Sonoma Mountain Pinot Noir - Medium garnet/orange color with dried herb, light sweet cherry and cigar box on the nose and sweet fruit on the palate. Slightly better than the '94. Outstanding.

1991 "1906" Zinfandel - Apparently, some folks referred to this one as "red road tar" when it was young. Nearly twenty years later this wine based on vines planted in 1906 still has a nose dominated by tar. You might like it. Most people have a hard time with it. If you can smell past the tar, you get some prune and then a bunch of black cherry on the palate. I thought it was interesting. You might agree or you might hate it.

1991 Porter-Bass Vineyard Zinfandel - This wine was a slightly cloudy orange-brown, which caused me a bit of concern. However, it had very attractive raspberry and strawberry flavors and did not smell or taste flawed in any way. It had impressive body and intensity of flavor and a good balance of acidity and tannins. It's a very good wine.

1988 Sonoma Coast Frati Ranch Zinfandel - This wine's age was shown by its ruby/garnet core and garnet/orange rim. Cherry leather and cigar box on the nose also indicated its development. The palate remains fresh though with tart raspberry, vanilla and cedar. It's a good to very good wine with some room to develop further.

1999 Laguna Ridge Zinfandel - This wine, much younger than most of others is in an awkward phase. It's got bright fruit but is a bit disjointed and definitely in the midst of a transition from youthful enthusiasm to the complexity of age. It's a good wine at the moment, but I'd suggest leaving it alone for a couple of years. It might be quite a bit better once it has found itself.

Joseph Swan Vineyards is located on Trenton Road north of Forestville. Frankly, an address won't help you much. The best way to find it is to take River Road west from Hwy. 101. Make a left on Trenton Road when you see small signs for the winery and then continue to follow the signs. The rustic tasting room always has plenty of library wines on sale along with the current releases. Their "Joe's Drinking Buddies" wine club is flexible and a good bet if you like your wines balanced, terroir driven and with "old school" alcohol (eg. less than 14%).

Note: Despite sharing the name Swan, I am not related in any way to Joseph Swan or the winery. (Drat.)

This article is original to Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

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