By Jonathan H. Newman*
Landfarer 2012 Russian River Valley Zinfandel by William Knuttel
UNIT SIZE: 750.00 ml
REGION: Russian River Valley
ALCOHOL CONTENT: 14.50%
The Landfarer is a well-made and nicely balanced micro-production Russian River Valley Zinfandel by Zin specialist Bill Knuttel. This is made from two of his favorite vineyards for Zin and 12 is one of the best vintages in recent memory. The Rancho Bello Vineyard is 6.5 miles from the Ocean and is well known for its own Ottomino vineyard designate wine (The Ottomino label is used for Bill’s well regarded single vineyard Zins). The Windsor Oaks vineyard is the go to location for Rosenblum. Bill explained he loves these two vineyards because full physiological ripeness is achieved at lower Brix levels and his Zins are lower alcohol with higher acidity and thus more delicious fruit that has aging potential. Landfarer is distinctively Zin on the nose with a cornucopia of fresh berries and dark red fruit with cinnamon and root beer. Quite the solid palette with loads of berries, dark cherry, and plum with crème de cassis, sweet currants, a spice box and vanilla oak. Supple tannins and a smooth, mounting finish. 1,300 cases produced. Pair with Delmonico steaks with fresh garlic, hearty chicken in a mushroom wine sauce, baby back ribs in a dry rub, blackened catfish or Portobello mushrooms.
2012 Russian River Valley Zinfandel
TA: 0.62 g/100ml
VA: 0.070 g/100ml
RS: 0.08 g/100ml (Dry)
Bottled: August 2014
Two vineyards were blended into the backbone of the 2012 Landfarer Russian River Valley Zinfandel, from opposite ends of the appellation - the antipodes, as it were. First, older vines from Rancho Bello Vineyard in the Green Valley sub-appellation give the wine its forward berry and black cherry fruit, and a broad mid-palate; next, Windsor Oaks Vineyard in the Chalk Hill sub-appellation contributed the spicier tones from its hillside vines, as well as structure and nuanced complexity. A dash of the old vine fruit from Biglieri Vineyard, in a cool section of Dry Creek Valley on the border with Russian River, added flavors of pomegranate, boysenberry and orange rind. We prefer vineyards in these cooler areas, where we achieve full ripeness without excessive alcohol.
We cold-soaked the fruit for 2 to 3 days and then extracted it with 3 pumpovers per day through the peak of fermentation, backing off as the wines went dry. The average length of time on the skins was 14 days, or just a few days post-dryness. All lots were racked to French oak, approximately 30% new, for 20 months of aging, during which the wines were racked every four months. The wine is dense with ripe black cherry and bright berry aromas, laced with a plethora of cooking spices including cinnamon, cardamom and clove. The flavors expand into the mid-palate, revealing pomegranate and blackberry notes, and the lengthy finish is rich with fully resolved tannins and a foundation of sweet oak. The balance is juicy and the structure very full-bodied, giving this Zinfandel at least ten years of aging potential.
About the Winemaker
For the past twenty years, Bill has focused his winemaking on ultra-premium and luxury wines, gathering a wide-range of experience not only in winemaking but also in viticulture, winery construction and wine education. While his training is rooted in science, Bill’s approach to winemaking hinges on an artistic approach, letting instinct and experience set the tone while minimizing the use of technology. Bill was the winemaker at Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards & Winery for seven years and at Saintsbury for thirteen years. He also makes many wines for Mockingbird Hill and Ottomino winery. He has been recognized for superlative Chardonnay, Cabernet and, at Saintsbury, exceptional Pinot Noir. His wines are some of the most respected in Napa and Sonoma Valleys. A native of Philadelphia, Bill’s family moved to Rancho Cucamonga, California when he was a teenager. Intrigued by the pre-prohibition wineries there, his walks to school were often detoured through old vineyards. He graduated from California Polytechnic University, Pomona, with a BS in Chemical Engineering in 1976. His interest in the arts and humanities and the study of literature and history, however, made him more of a Renaissance man than a techie. With degree in hand, he entered the work world at Dow Chemical in San Francisco, specializing in plant design and start-up; great tools for a winemaker, who essentially builds new wines each vintage. While his days were full of analysis and lab work, he spent much of his free time reading, listening to music and pursuing fine wines. Eventually, passion took over and he gave in to wine, something that would ultimately fulfill his need for artistry and use of both his practical and technical skills. Bill accepted a scholarship from the University of California, Davis in 1981 and, after pursuing an MS in Enology and serving as an Enology instructor, he began his winemaking career at Saintsbury in 1983. Bill lives in Napa Valley.
[Info provided by J.H.N.]