The story goes: In 1856 a German-Swiss immigrant named Adam Uhlinger brought the first Zinfandel vine planting over from Europe and started a winery in Amador County. Now, the Sobon family owns the original vineyards, which still are home to those original Zinfandel plants; which brings us to our wines this month. Sobon Estate Old Vine Zinfandel and Viognier are made by the Sobon family in a state of the art sustainable facility.
The lineage of California’s Zinfandel vines dates back to the mid-1800s. Although, the claim of Mr. Uhlinger was not legally recorded, it is uncertain if the vines Adam Uhlinger planted were the first Zinfandel plants in California. Nevertheless, for argument sake, we will say they were. Since then, the deed to the vineyards has traded hands multiple times. The original winery “D’Agostini Winery” started by Mr. Uhlinger. still stands. This historical building, made from hand cut stone from a nearby quarry and contains barrels used by Uhlinger that he made himself from California Oak, is now a Museum, displaying the relevance of Amador Wine Country. The Sobon family purchased the land and winery in 1989. The Sobon Estate has taken increasing strides year after year to become a natural and sustainable winery. Along with their other property, Shenandoah Vineyards, the Sobons have taken Amador County wine making to the highest level.
At Shenandoah Vineyards, a state of the art solar system has been installed. This 63-Kw photovoltaic system supplies the winery with 100% of its electrical needs; as well as having been retrofitted with the most efficient lighting technology. The carbon footprint of both wineries has surpassed the neutral rating. Meaning they eliminate more CO2 from the environment than they use. Both properties recycle everything back into the eco-system. All paper, glass and metal waste is reused as seen fit. All the compost is put back into the vineyards to guarantee fertile soil, crucial for the vines vigor.
Leon and Shirley Sobon founded Shenandoah Vineyards in 1977. They have grown their winery from producing 1,200 cases to well over 40,000 cases per year. Their goal has always been to produce wines that showed the true character of the grape and terrior, with allowing as little input from humans as possible. Now their son Paul carries on this tradition. Paul’s knowledge of wine making and vineyard management stems from his experiences in Europe, Australia, Japan and his degree from UC Davis in California. Paul has taken tradition one step further, by using hand sorting methods from the vineyard to crush and crushing the Zinfandel grapes by foot, this eliminates another step often done by machinery.
Sobon Estate is responsible for making some of the best Zinfandels in California; as they should be, if they are using the oldest Zinfandel vines in the state. This month our red wine is one of those wines. The Sobon 2010 Old Vines Zinfandel received a score of 91 points, phenomenal for a wine that retails for $14.99 a bottle. This is a fragrant, rich, full-bodied Zinfandel with a bold fruit forward approach. It is a wine made for everyday consumption; however, it will improve for up to five years of bottle age. The wine is comprised of 97% Zinfandel, from several of their old vineyards, and 3% Petite Sirah. The use of older oak barrels during the aging process helps maintain the fruits freshness. In 2012, this Old Vine Zin won a gold medal at The World Wine Championships and a silver medal at the San Francisco State Fair. This wine pairs well with any grilled meat or pasta dish. We also recommend pairing this Zin with BBQ chicken wings, pizza or any other football game fare you may bring to the table.
Our white wine from Sobon is their 2011 Viognier. The Sobon family has committed this Estate primarily to Rhone style wines. The vineyards are comprised of not only old vine Zinfandels, but also Rousanne, Viognier, Syrah, Tannant, Petite Sirah, as well as Sangiovese and Barbera. I believe this (Sobon) Viognier is one of the best I have ever had, including wines from France. The grapes are from mature vines, receiving no irrigation, which produce small yields of highly intense flavored berries. The aromas are capturing. The smell of meadow flowers along with hints of peach and honeysuckle transform into a mouth-watering seduction of fruit and spice with a long lingering finish. This Viognier was barrel fermented and left on lees to create its dynamic flavors. The winemaker recommends seafood and even pepper-steak to pair with this wine. We agree with the pairing of pepper-steak, but this leaves the door open for other spicy foods such as Szechwan or a milder green curry dish. Honestly, this wine is perfect by itself and food need not get in the way of the wonderful flavors that Paul has obtained in this wine. Just a note, the Viognier is a small batch wine and is completely sold out (we got everything they had left)!