Sonoma Winter WINEland 7: Mazzocco
After our trip to Ridge, we still had time to squeeze in one more winery on the Winter WINEland tour before the supposed 4pm cut-off. Back at Taft, earlier in the day, we’d been recommended to visit Mazzocco, which was fortuitously located almost next door to Ridge, in the heart of Zinfandel country, Dry Creek Valley. When we arrived, the wine appeared to flowing freely, and the sound of loud chatter indicated that we’d reached the point where imbibing had superseded tasting. And with a designated driver at hand, we were happy to join the throng.
The wines at Mazzocco are wonderful, but before I get to that, I have to vent a very serious criticism, one that left something of a pall over an otherwise perfect day. At every other winery we had visited, every bottle that was open was open to everyone; that, surely was the whole point of buying a ticket for the event. At Mazzocco, most – but not all – wines were open for everyone; however, by some odd coincidence of business, the majority of these wines were officially “sold out” to the public and yet available for sale to Wine Club members, and the staff were on a heavy sales pitch to sign us all up. Now, membership was not necessarily expensive – just the guarantee of purchasing a case or two a year, but for someone looking to take home a bottle of something they’d enjoyed, the pressure to sign up and commit to a case instead felt almost like a bait and switch. In addition, there were some other wines – some of the best wines of course – that were only being poured for club members. This approach went completely against the grain (or grape) of the event, and we didn’t enjoy being put under this kind of sales pressure when we were tipsy to begin with. Mazzocco is part of the Wilson Family of Artisan Wineries which includes Pezzi King and St. Anne’s Crossing (more of which later), and I would ask the Wilsons, if they are reading this, and the Winter Wineland people as well, who really should be reading this, to either exclude Mazzocco from future events or ask them to desist from the Cellar Club sales pitch if they wish to take part.
That said, let’s move on to the wines. These are, essentially, Zinfandels as we love them, know them, and sometimes fear them: big, bright, fruit-laden, bright, chewy, ecstatic, somewhat pricy, alcoholic monsters. They do, truly, epitomize the idiosyncratic nature of the Zinfandel grape in its Californian homeland in all its glory. Almost everything we were poured was a Vineyard Designate, hailing from the supposedly troubled 2010 vintage, though if Mazzocco suffered the same hardships as the Ridge Lytton Springs vineyard down the road, it certainly didn’t show in the bottle. I noted of the 2010 Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley Sullivan (with 4% Petite Sirah, aged 15 months in French oak, bottled unfined, retailing at $32) that it had “very good texture, not too pronounced up front, solid finish.” The 2010 Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley Thurow (5% Petite Sirah), one of those wines supposedly Sold Out but apparently available to Wine Club members (also at $32), showed its bright Zin berry notes with particular allure, and had a notably long finish; the oak ageing helped masked its 15.8% alcohol content. Both these wines were priced at $32, quite reasonable considering their limited quantity and excessive quality. The 2010 Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley Warm Springs Ranch (100% Zin, $34), wore its 16.2% alcohol more overtly; I noted that this was big and bruising. (The Winery uses the word “corpulent.”) The 2010 Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley Serracino, from 80-year old vines (with just the slightest addition of Petite Sirah) struck a much better balance: very pronounced up front but settling down nicely on the back end. At $38, it was not overpriced; it was just unavailable to non Club members. A 2009 Petite Sirah Dry Creek Valley Briar was even darker than the zinfandels but had a zin-like freshness to it; at some point, the terroir comes to dominate the palate if not actually the bottle.
In Mazzocco’s favor the pours were quite large (although I think this was to encourage us to be loose with our wallets per the Wine Club) and that allowed us to put our feet up outside, alongside the Sullivan Vineyard itself, in the unexpected spring-like mid-winter sunshine, and enjoy the wine in the glass at hand, knowing that we no longer had to rush to the next location. And as we did so, it was evident that my tasting partner Suzie had fallen in love with these Zins. What, after all, is not to love? (Other the potential hangover the next day from drinking wine that is almost as high in alcohol in port.) These were classic Dry Creek Valley Zinfandels, truly exceptional in quality and remarkably good value, all things considered. And in terms of making a journey through the Winter WINEland, gradually tasting through the Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley, and Dry Creek Valley, and working our way up to steadily bigger wines, they were the perfect conclusion to the ideal wine tour. My only regret? That I couldn’t put Sunday aside to enjoy Winter WINEland further. Thanks to all the wonderful wineries who participated and who were, mostly, so generous and enthusiastic in the process.