The Love Of My Life – Is Zinfandel-a-licuous

April 6, 2011 9:05 pm - Posted by Countess Rose Perry in Drink

My love of California Zinfandel is no secret. I’ve often said I’d bathe in it and spray it on my pulse points like perfume if socially acceptable. I am a self-proclaimed Zin-head, Zin connoisseur and Zin snob. I’m basically a walking, talking version of the Zins I adore; big, bold and mouthful of sensual spice with piercing touches of spice and layers of sweetness but no tolerance for bullshit. One of my absolute favorites to date, the one I am salivating over right now at the mere thought of the aroma, look, taste and feel of it, is Chiarello Family Vineyards’ Felicia Old Vine Zinfandel.

Since he was a Southern Italian little boy growing up in Central California, Owner and co-winemaker of Chiarello Family Vineyard’s Michael Chiarello dreamt of being a world class chef. He worked hard, trained hard and fulfilled those teenage dreams. He apprenticed in restaurants as a teen, graduated from the Culinary Institute in New York at 20, voted Food and Wine Chef of the Year when he was 23 and opened his first restaurant, Tra Vigne back in Napa Valley at 24. He recently opened his latest restaurant, Bottega.

Chef Chiarello may be a celebrity chef but don’t make the mistake of thinking he just slaps his name on a bottle and calls it his own. With the help of his full time winemaking partner Thomas Brown, he has absolutely followed his own mission statement in the winemaking process from the historic 94-year old vineyards surrounding his home in St. Helena, California. In 1997 he began the journey of ordinary self-sustainable farmed old vines and turning them into an extraordinary wine, determined to leave his land more fertile than he found it, 1997 was the beginning of my beloved Zinfandel’s journey.

Felicia {named after his daughter} old Vine Zinfandel is a complete labor of love from vine to glass. The original vineyards planted years before prohibition. Not having enough water the root had to fight, scratch and claw itself deep into the soil to get water and some form of sustenance. Chef Chiarello believes that is what helps make the deep, dark, complex result in his Felicia Zin. He makes less than 100 cases each year, making it that much more special. When you decant the Felicia it has an amazingly rich aroma of the ripest black fruits you could imagine, at the peak of their season. When poured into your glass the color is cobalt violet deep, glistening with dark amethyst hues. Inhale deeply and intertwined with the fragrant floral burst of violets, lilacs, tea roses and peonies, you can almost smell the history this wine holds, the love that went into making it. Take your first sip and begin the wonderment of being engulfed in mulberry, black currents, clove and allspice. Felicia is full in body and robust in your mouth, leaving you with the long lingering whispers of brown sugar and cinnamon dipped raspberries.

Thank you Chef Michael Chiarello. How you are able to be a chef, restaurateur, winemaker and dedicated family man, I cannot imagine. Fortunately, I don’t have to know how you do it, enjoy while you make the ordinary into the extraordinary.

Written by Countess Rose Perry

Certified Sommelier, WSET, CM

One Response to “The Love Of My Life – Is Zinfandel-a-licuous”

  1. LivedinItaly says:

    Have you had an opportunity to try the offerings from Papapietro Perry winery? IMHO they are exceptional wines.