Zinfandel is the quintessential American grape, reaching its zesty, berry-scented heights in only select California vineyards and, like this country, constantly reinventing itself.
The Seghesio Family Vineyards 2002 Zinfandel Home Ranch Alexander Valley ($30), rated 93 points by Wine Spectator (Cigar Aficionado's sister publication), is delicious proof of a remarkable metamorphosis. In 1994, Seghesio was dealing with tax problems that nearly forced it to sell off much of its property after 98 years in business. It owed the Internal Revenue Service $4 million, and nothing in its portfolio—dominated by second-rate Chardonnay and Cabernet—foretold the lusciousness of the '02 Home Ranch, just one of five individual Zinfandel bottlings it produces for the wholesale market. The winery appeared hopelessly out-of-date, low on cash and running out of time.
The only option—other than going belly-up—was to get better. And it did that by tapping the potential of 80 acres of Zinfandel vineyards planted before the repeal of Prohibition. Seghesio dumped the Chardonnay and Cabernet, cut production from 120,000 cases to 35,000 cases, and embraced cutting-edge farming techniques that coax the most from finicky old vines.
"When you look at it now, we were pretty reckless. But we felt we had nothing to lose," says Pete Seghesio, 40, then the general manager and now the company CEO.
Against those odds Seghesio has joined the ranks of the top Zinfandel estates in California, producing wines like the 2002 Home Ranch, which bursts with a medley of wild berry, blackberry and boysenberry flavors. It's made from the family's oldest plot, eight acres planted in 1895 by their grandfather Edoardo. At $30 a bottle, it's an excellent value, with fine balance and lively intensity that also make it food-friendly, capable of harmonizing with grilled meats, pizza or pastas in spicy tomato sauce.
Best of all, nothing tastes quite like Zinfandel. Call it a uniquely American flavor of success.
Visit www.seghesio.com or call 866-734-4374.