Wine of the Day #12: The Zen of Zin

2011 Ottimino Zinfandel
Biglieri Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley

You’ll want to sit for this one! 
This Gold Medal winner comes from an all-time Member favorite producer. And who can blame our Members? Ottimino only makes Zinfandel, and they make it absolutely perfectly. This Zin-exclusive estate doesn’t make much of it, either, which makes Ottimino’s cult status even more unlikely. Plus, this single-vineyard offering represents a crazy discount — crazy considering we’ve never had any trouble selling Ottimino Zins!

So juicy and overflowing with fresh, ripe berries — this single-vineyard Zin is the adult equivalent of Hawaiian Punch, offering up an assortment of luscious, jammy fruits including boysenberry, pomegranate and spicy blackberries bursting with goodness. Let’s not forget, however, that this is Dry Creek Zin, which means the wine is also perfectly balanced and never over the top. A finish of firm tannic structure and a subtle toasty note from aging in French oak makes this Zin a great match for foods, especially those dishes laden with spice.

Reasons why we love it:

While the rains that hit during the 2011 harvest had a sometimes disastrous affect on tough-to-ripen grapes like Pinot Noir, Zinfandel did beautifully all over Sonoma County in 2011, showing ideal levels of ripeness and lots of plush, silky red fruit.

The Zinfandel was sourced from Dry Creek Valley, an appellation known for its lusty, brawny fruit. The Biglieri Vineyard is home to a host of old vines that cling to the vineyard’s loamy, rocky soil. Biglieri sits on the very eastern edge of the appellation, just a yard or two of the Russian River AVA. This is a cool spot compared to other sites in Dry Creek but is nonetheless significantly warmer than the Russian River, and the wines made from Biglieri show a beguiling balance between brawn and elegance.

Just how old are these vines? Pio Biglieri planted this site back in 1959, and amazingly, he owned and farmed the place himself all the way up to 2005. While Biglieri still oversees all aspects of grape growing here, the day-to-day work is done by Harold Hoskins, a well-known Zin grower who actually lives on the edge of this vineyard and is, by now, as attached to this land as its namesake.


Aromas of blackberry syrup and pomegranate interlace with black cherry and spicy French oak. The entry on the palate is juicy, adding flavors of boysenberry and ripe raspberry. The tannins are smooth and round and the expansive mid-palate leads to a firm and persistent finish. The balance of this quintessential Zinfandel allows great versatility with food.


The first vintage for Brad Alper’s Ottimino Vineyard was in 2004, making this the inaugural release from the “home ranch.” The vineyard, planted on land that previously nurtured Ottimino Christiani’s apple orchard, is located on the same ridgeline as Von Weidlich and Rancho Bello Vineyards, and Ottimino Vineyard shares their Goldridge soil structure and temperate climatic traits.

The vineyard rows run nearly north and south, providing proper exposure during the long summer days. The vines are trained to a vertical cordon, allowing the clusters optimal access to dappled sunlight and gentle, cooling breezes. Budwood was sourced from benchmark old vine Zinfandel vineyards, and two blocks feature the Mendocino and Bradford Mountain selections. A smaller block, planted a few years earlier, contains the Costa Magna selection and stock from the Von Weidlich and Rancho Bello vineyards, which extends the historical lineage of the area’s Zinfandel. The rootstock is the vigorous, disease-resistant St. George, which minimizes virus potential and aids vine growth under our dry-farmed conditions. Like all of Ottimino’s vineyards, the vines are cropped for low yields to achieve unique flavors and unparalleled quality.


Full-flavored meals such as spaghetti bolognese, pepperoni pizza, braised beef short ribs.


There’s nothing quite like a well made single vineyard Zinfandel from northern Sonoma county. You find such focus and depth in these wines, and 2011 turned out to be a great year for elegant, well structured Zin. This wine is ripe and well matured, with plums, black cherries and a platform of spices including nutmeg and cardamom. The texture is soft and lush with chewy tannins and a long, smooth finish, drinking in its prime. Enjoy now through 2020. — DZ


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