D’Anneo Vineyard – There is a heart to the Napa Valley for old vine Zinfandel and that region is found in the far northern reaches of the valley in and around Calistoga. Select vineyards in this region are still planted to old vine Zinfandel and the gnarled trunks have been producing wine on the same vines for decades. Case in point is D’Anneo Vineyards who manages a 2 acre block of Zinfandel that was originally planted in 1924. This vineyard is entirely dry farmed; these are tough old vines that have been in the ground longer than most people have been alive.
Andrew D’Anneo was born in Rome, lived in France moved to New York and then settled in the San Francisco Bay Area and practiced law. He has enjoyed wine for many years (a nod to his European heritage most likely), and decided to take the next step in his interest in wine by purchasing property in the Napa Valley. He was looking for both a home site with vineyards (Zinfandel if possible) and ultimately purchased their property located just south of Calistoga in the early 1970′s.
At that time the vineyard consisted entirely of head pruned old Zinfandel vines. He sold the fruit to the Napa Winery Co-Op for a number of years and then sold part of the property to a neighboring winery. Their first commercial vintage dates from 1983 when Jerry Seps, owner of Napa’s northern “Zinfandel House”, Storybook Estate, made their wine.
Andrews’ son Allan remembers most of their first vintage being sold to Little Joe’s Restaurant in San Francisco – whose tagline was, “Rain or Shine, there’s always a line” – something about good wine being served too! D’Anneo made small quantities of wine until 1991 when they began to sell their vineyard’s fruit again.
Their property is 5 acres, of which 4 are planted. Two acres remain of the original head pruned Zinfandel vines on their property; they took bud wood from these old vines and planted two additional acres in the mid 1980′s. There is one non Zinfandel vine in the vineyard – a Muscat.
The label was resurrected in 2007 by Andrew and Allan. At the time Allan was in between jobs and selling wine was something he had prior experience with. For a number of years he worked selling wine for a wholesaler where he was able to taste and evaluate wines from around the world. He also managed part of a wine shop. After selling metal roofing and solar systems he was ready to get back into the wine business and its lifestyle – as well as the opportunity to run a small family business and work with this father.
Napa winemaker Scott Harvey was purchasing fruit from their vineyard for several years and when they decided to make wine commercially again it was a natural transition for Scott to make their wine. He has made every vintage since 2007. His style coincides with Andrews’ philosophy- the “old Italian way” if you will, where less is more in the vineyard and the winemaking. The wines are made in a more traditional style – including picking at lower sugar levels.
Allan says, “you can get fruit into the winery and make it without being an artist” but the real art occurs in the vineyard. They want their wines to reflect their small vineyard and old vines – as both are defining characteristics for D’Anneo Wines.
All wines are estate grown and 100% Zinfandel – with both their original and new blocks blended together. The 2007 Zinfandel is their current release as of the time of this review. This is an elegant representation of this varietal – a stark contrast to the common fruit forward California Zinfandels that can overpower one’s senses. Rather, this bouquet is balanced, refined and shows pleasing aromas of lavender, raspberry and red cherry. The wine has an earthy component to the nose that shows in both vintages (2007 & 2009). The core of the palate is red fruit – the tannins are there and provide decent structure (bigger than the 2009 vintage).
The 2009 Zinfandel has not yet been released at the time of this review; it is a younger wine of course and shows more fruit aromatically. It is garnet in color in the glass. Again earthiness, forest floor notes and hints of vanilla show on the palate. These wines need time to open up and reveal additional fruit on the bouquet. As Allan told us – he finds the wines get better the closer to the bottom of the bottle! This wine is more approachable than its earlier vintage. Bright lively red fruit shows on the palate which also has a crushed rock component. While the 2007 would be our choice to pair with food, this wine will certain pair well, but drinks very nicely by itself. As with the 2007 vintage the 2009 has nice mouth watering acidity.
With a production that is usually around 500 cases their distribution is very selective – preferring to sell direct to consumer. Locally you can find the wine in Cal Mart and the Wine Stop in Calistoga as well as Sunshine Market in St. Helena.