2013 Robert Biale ‘Black Chicken’ Zinfandel, Napa Valley
Wine Spectrum 94: Big flavors of mixed warm berries black cherries round tannins mulling spices and a touch of pepper and toasty vanilla. A comforting sipper on its own this fantastic classic also pairs wonderfully with smokey barbecue burgers, pizza or hearty pasta. For added softness and aromatics stash a few bottles in a cool cellar for 5-8 years.
This extremely special (and fully legal) Zinfandel from the Biale Family and nearby vineyards is still bottled in memory of the old days, and particularly in the loving memory of Aldo Biale.
Aldo Answers The Call.
“Hello Aldo, this is Giovanni. I’m fine, thank you. Per favore, when you come by on Friday bring me some tomatoes, a pound of walnuts, two dozen eggs and a black chicken… Prego.”
This was a typical phone order to the rural farmhouse on north Napa’s El Centro Avenue in the 1940’s and ‘50’s. In 1942, Aldo Biale and his mother Christina were left to run the family farm in Napa after Pietro Biale died in an industrial accident. To make a little extra money during those lean years, teenaged Aldo began making barrels of Zinfandel from which he would bottle wine for his family and friends in need of good table wine. Aldo’s home phone was on a party line where nosy neighbors could listen in on calls. To maintain privacy. he instituted the code name, “black chicken,” for his wine. This system of phone call orders for produce, eggs and “black chickens” lasted for decades and even Aldo’s immigrant bride, Clementina, wasn’t in on the code for years.
Wine Spectrum 94: The 2010 Laughlin Chardonnay keeps true to the vineyard characteristics showing off tropical notes of lychee fruit, bergamot, orange rind, and key lime. Sweet spice, graham cracker and vanilla notes intertwine with a granite and slate minerality. The Laughlin provides great presence and stain on the palate. The wine is focused from start to finish, and carries all of its fruit along the way. 250 cases produced.
Wine Spectrum 94: The first aromas that come from the glass are white peach and pear, which persist as notes of passion fruit and mineral qualities build. The mouthfeel is what you might expect from both old vines and the Russian River; a viscous texture, but it maintains a beautifully focused acidity. 200 cases produced.
Wine Spectrum 94: Beautiful, brilliant ruby core with delicate raspberry rim. A swirl of the glass induces cascades of subtle scarlet. Further coaxing opens evocative nose of ripe fruit with ethereal medium intensity. Notes of red cherry, black plum, and candied cranberry commingle with Brown Estate hallmarks of hibiscus blossom, pink grapefruit, clove, star anise, and Asian pear, followed by allspice, cinnamon, orange zest, and a hint of new leather. Succulent and extraordinarily juicy on the palate with dense concentration and rich mouthfeel. Ripe with strawberry jam, vanillin, and delicate herbs de Provençe. Seamless integration of jammy juiciness, vibrant acidity, and delicate tannins makes for an artfully balanced wine. Drink now through 2030.
Wine Spectrum 93+: Marty Mathis’ knowledge of the Santa Cruz Mountains allowed him to access grapes from superior small vineyards. These growers include a residential homeowner who’s grapes arrive at the crush pad in very small lots. Warmer growing conditions on the inland side of the coast range have proven to yield superb Cabernet for every vintage. In the hands of a seasoned Cabernet specialist like Marty, the results are extraordinary. The 2012 shows lots of bright red cherry, cassis, and a touch of cranberry. Hints of earthy minerality and brambly underbrush add to the complexity of this Cabernet. Soft tannins and balanced fruit components lead to a long, juicy finish.