On day two of my journeys through Napa, Biale Vineyards was our first stop, home of the Black Chicken. It was a clear and sunny day stunning, especially after the threat of it being a cold and rainy day, however it was quite windy.
Getting there a little early, I took a quick stroll back down the driveway, almost getting blown away in the process. Heading back towards the barn and the storefront for tasting, I was able to appreciate for the second time the beauty and quaintness of the winery. Walking along the side of the building towards the store front were tables all set up for outdoor tasting overlooking the rolling vineyards. Unfortunately, due to the wind we were unable to enjoy the space. The inside was as beautiful with handcrafted wood bars.
We were immediately greeted and provided with glasses for our tasting and a menu outlining the 5 wines provided for tasting, heavy on the Zinfandels (their specialty). The start was their staple: Black Chicken Zinfandel. A blend of grapes from all their vineyards to produce an approachable and full bodied red. Classic notes of blueberry, figs, plums and black cherry all present with vanilla, leather and slight tar. It was a great palate warmer to the day.
Biale produces 12 single vineyard Zinfandels from many areas of Napa. The single vineyard wines are where the winemaker has had some fun playing around with the terroir and flavour profiles. There are vineyard plots from higher elevation and further into the valley. Tasting the single vineyard Zinfandels together allowed us to taste the slight differences between them. Each vineyard is maintained by a family, and often named after those who take care of the land.
The Verozza was the first we tasted. It was a little richer than the Black Chicken in terms of flavour and overall mouth feel. The second was the Old Kraft Vineyard. Made with vines planted in 1860 then replanted in 1880 after phylloxera. These were the oldest vines we tasted, and I was surprised at how light the wine was on the palate. Grown in higher elevation, the wine supported high acid and balanced sugar content. Presenting qualities of more dried fruits such as date, fig and apricot along with leather and tobacco.
We then tried the Pagani Vineyard which is actually grown in Sonoma. This is much younger fruit than that grown in Kraft, planted in the 1920’s. The acid once again is high in this wine. The younger fruit of this region produced a bigger fruit bomb. One that hit up front, and followed through to the finish with notes of anise, eucalyptus, molasses and clove.
This was followed by one that quickly became my favourite of the line-up. The Old Crane Ranch Zinfandel. This vineyard has recently been purchased by another winemaker in the area therefore the 2011 vintage is the last produced by Biale. This wine offers full fruit flavours, spice, oak, fine and supportive tannins, round and full mouth feel, and an overwhelming sense of satisfaction. The high alcohol content is not noticeable through the balance of the acid and slight residual sugar. The nose is of ripe and dried fruits with spice and flair.
Similar to Old Crane Ranch is the Aldo’s Vineyard. Again, slightly younger grapes, which is noticeable after having the Old Crane. The potential hidden in the Aldo’s wine is so prevalent that you want to purchase it and sit on it for a while. A wine that could easily age for another 5-10 years, and will soften and open up gracefully with age.
After this we went to the “dark side” of Petite Sirah. Starting with their blend quoted as being GSM on steroids, a blend of Petite Sirah, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Zinfandel this wine kicks off your palate. Thinking it was going to be super spicey with the use of both Petite Sirah and Syrah I was please fly surprised by the overall balance of pepper, spice and fruit. The pepper is there, but is not the lingering flavour, in fact it is the blueberry and ripe figs that linger on the after palate. The Mourvedre and Zinfandel offering the sweetness and balance of dark fruit to the blend. A spectacular blend for the cellar with major aging capabilities.
This was followed by their 100% Petite Sirah. They had decanted the wine early in the morning which had allowed the wine to open up and make it more approachable. A very dark black cherry core with a lighter cherry rim almost completely opaque in the glass. Full notes of blackberry, molasses, white and black pepper, anise and eucalyptus, leather, tobacco and smoke. Full bodied, rich and memorable with aging capability of over 10 years.
The piece de resistance is the dessert Petite Sirah, or the Biale Port. A wine that anyone would want to have after dinner with the perfect level of sweetness and full flavour. The acid still singing in your mouth to create a well balanced and exciting experience.
There is so much to experience here on site and many wines to visit and play with. I strongly recommend making this a stop in Napa.