Putting the OLD in Old Vine Zinfandel (Tasting Wellington Vineyards)

Vinted on February 22, 2010 binned in wine review

When it’s cold outside, as it has been the last few weeks in the Mid-Atlantic, one craves a wine that is… warming, big, bold.  When there’s a blizzard, as there was in the Mid-Atlantic not too long ago, one doesn’t reach for Orvieto; one reaches for something, well, just… obnoxious.

Bone-warming wine calls for dark color, big fruit, and – most of all – hot toddy levels of booze (at least).  So naturally, one raids the zinfandel area of the sample bin. At least, that’s what one does when one is 1WineDude and one has my sample bins.

What came out, though, was actually not a sample but a bottle of 2004 Zinfandel wine I’d purchased myself for $50 in Sonoma a couple of years ago, from Wellington Vineyards.

At 15.5% abv, it certainly fit the bill for “potentially obnoxious” but what really pulled me in was the fact that when the vines whose fruit eventually produced this wine were planted, St. John’s in Newfoundland was on fire, St. Petersburg was incorporated in Florida, Benjamin Harrison was president of the United States, and a new small company called General Electric was founded.

The year was 1892.

Now that is some old vine ‘Old Vine’ Zinfandel…

According to Wellington’s website:

“This could be the last Zinfandel we bottle with this designation.  From both 2005 and 2006 we have blended the Zin from the ancient vines with that from more recent plantings that were grafted using wood from our old vines…  2004 was a warm vintage, and this wine shows it, with aromas of sun baked blackberries, black currant and licorice.  It has great complexity, with new aromas at every whiff: dried herbs, chocolate, molasses, hints of tar and prunes.  True to form, our 2004  Estate bottled Zinfandel is what the French would call a masculine wine – muscular and structured, big, but not sweet…  Typical of our Estate Zins, this wine should age well for at least ten years.  Our Zinfandel is field blended with small amounts of Durif (aka Petite Sirah), Syrah, Tempranillo, Carignan and Mourvedre, all planted in 1892.”

Only 94 cases of the wine were produced, primarily because when vines get that old they don’t produce a lot of fruit – but the fruit that they do produce is often considered very concentrated in flavor.

And if this wine is anything, it’s concentrated. I’m not going to put the ‘focused’ or ‘complex’ tags on this wine, but the blackberry, dark cherry, and dried prune characteristics are really concentrated, in that almost-raisiny-but-not-quite-like-raisins(and not overly-extracted) way that only fruit from old vines can deliver.  It’s like the crack cocaine version of Zin.

Big? Yep – but also quite balanced and a treat to drink even totally on its own.

And it certainly scared off the winter chill.






  • @suburbanwino

    I'm a little taken aback you neglected to mention that Dadabhai Naoroji was elected as the first Indian Member of Parliament in Britain in 1892. Embarrassing snub, methinks.

    • 1WineDude

      I'd like to apologize to India. And Parliament. And Parliament Funkadelic.

  • Steve Maden

    love the blog look forward to reading more about other wines…

    Caviar Merchant Company

    • 1WineDude


  • lauren

    I love "Old Vines" and I'll never forget touring a vineyard in Napa and the guide explaining to me as I stood among the vines the roots went down 60 feet below the soil. Impressive

    • 1WineDude

      Yeah – they give off that "old soul" vibe :-).

  • Old Vine Zin

    While there's no legal definition for "old vine" or "ancient vine," it would be nice to establish an unofficial standard.

    I like Joel Peterson's take on this issue: "“Old Vines are 50 to 80 years old. When they’re more than 80, they’re ancient!”

    What say you, 1WD and others?

  • Old Vine Zin

    Do you think the Australians are more realistic with the "Barossa Old Vine Charter?" It goes a little something like this:

    35 => Old
    70 => Survivor
    100 => Centurion
    125 => Ancestor

    Yeah, I know the correct symbol is the ">" sign with the line under it, but who has the time to figure out that keyboard combo. Don't like it? Check out my Lady Pyramid!!!

    I'd be hard-pressed to go against Joel Peterson when it comes to anything Zin. It's like Moses coming down from Mount Sinai and looking for a bottle of Wite-Out.

    • 1WineDude

      OVZ – Yeah, Joel is The Master. When I interviewed him over lunch, before long he'd turned the tables entirely (well, not literally!) and was interviewing me. Super-sharp guy.

      • Old Vine Zin

        I remember that "rising tide creates more boats" interview you did with him — good stuff.

        For me, the Holy Trinity of Zinfandel consists of Mr. Peterson, Paul Draper and Bob Trinchero.

        I put Mr. Trinchero in there because if he hadn't come up with White Zinfandel in the '70s — even if it was by accident — a massive number of old Zinfandel vines would have been ripped up and replanted with Cab or something else.

        If you appreciate Zinfandel and don't think much of White Zin, you should still never disparage it. That juice saved the varietal.

        • 1WineDude

          OVZ – man, what a great insight… I'd never considered the impact that White Zin had on saving zin vines…!

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