Zeitgeist Cellars was founded by the Napa husband-wife winemaking team of Mark Porembski and Jennifer Williams. Both work on Zeitgeist but also work for several other small wineries in the area. Mark is winemaker at Anomaly and Charnu and Jennifer is head winemaker at Spottswood Estate.
Mark’s background is not in wine – rather he was an English major but remembers becoming interested in wine in college. While studying in Dallas he incidentally met two guys from St. Helena. There are those winemakers who have truly followed their passion and thrown caution to the wind. Take Mark for instance; after college he packed everything into his car and drove out to the Napa Valley without even lining up a job. Fortunately he arrived during harvest when seasonal jobs are easier to find and as it were, he found a job the day he arrived. Internships at notable Napa wineries including Far Niente, Araujo and El Molino followed.
2005 was Zeitgeist’s first vintage; the wine has been made every year at the boutique Behrens and Hitchcock Winery, high on Spring Mountain. Zeitgeist has used two vineyard sources for their first few vintages – St. Helena and from the eastern side of Coombsville near the town of Napa.
Their focus is on producing a single Cabernet Sauvignon each year – one that delivers quality at a reasonable price. They have sourced small quantities of Syrah in the past (not made every year). The name Zeitgeist means “the spirit of the times” a term that relates to the current wine industry very well. In the 1960’s there were maybe 30 wineries in Napa – today there are well over 400 with more than twice that number being virtual producers. As Mark says, there are many more small virtual producers today who are helping push the envelope for quality. There are certainly more options for success today then say 30 years ago.
We tried the 2006 and 2007 vintages. There are some noticeable differences between the wine (both sourced from the same two vineyards), some of which can be attributed to bottle age, vintage and proportion of vineyard source used. The St. Helena vineyard tends to contribute more fruit to the blend while the Farella vineyard (slightly cooler growing region) contributes the structure and layers.
The 2006 shows an elegant bouquet with a mix of both red and dark fruit notes including red plum, red and black cherry. This is a classic Napa Cabernet bouquet with just a hint of dustiness. The palate shows good acidity and balanced fruit. The finish is pleasing; it is clean and supple with just a hint of lingering mocha on the palate. The tannins are fine grained and soft, complementing rather than dominating the finish.
The 2007 has a more restrained nose than the 06′ with nice notes of sweet fruit on the bouquet – red cherry and raspberry. This is a layered wine with bigger structure than the 06′. We tried this wine right before release; it should benefit from additional bottle age. It has good structure, depth and acidity to carry it for a number of years.
Zeitgeist is very careful during their winemaking, most notably during two stages; one with their sorting – they sort multiple times taking care to remove any desiccated fruit or unripe berries – and then again during their blending trials. They will only blend the highest quality barrels and if a barrel “is on the fence” as Mark says, it will not make the final blend. One year they started with 18 barrels and ended up only using 5 for their release.
Zeitgeist has a fairly good distribution within the Napa area and you can often find the wine at 750 Wines, ACME, St. Helena Wine Center and V Wine Cellars in Yountville. For more information visit: