by Fred McMillin
for December 3, 1997

An Original Zin

Prologue: Wine historian Charles Sullivan in his cellar selecting a Zinfandel: "Do you want a Claret style? Or do you want your head taken off?"

...from David Darlington's "Angels' Visits"

The Rest of the Story: "When Bernard Portet arrived in the Napa Valley in 1970...he enjoyed success with Zinfandel, creating a CLARET style that avoided the high alcohol and jammy flavors that characterized the Zinfandels of that era." Thus does James Laube describe the creation of Clos Du Val's original Zin. Bernard says he did it by "tempering the spicy, peppery character and rich berry fruit of the grape with a touch of elegance...With time my Zinfandels become more Claret-like, developing much complexity and finesse."

So, I asked my consumers' panel Charles Sullivan's question; did they prefer the high-octane, jammy style or the restrained, Clos Du Val version? Tasting blind, they gave 81% more votes to one than the other. The winner was the '92 Clos Du Val... suprisingly light and delicate, but full of harmonious fruit and spice from lip to throat. Believe me, this one will not take your head off!

The Wine:
1992 Zinfandel, Stags Leap District, Napa Valley
Clos Du Val Wine Company
Silverado Trail, Napa, CA
Contact—Margaret Kearns, (707) 259-2200

Postscript: Why did Bernard Portet add a French touch to a non-French grape?...because Bernard IS French, born in Cognac and raised at Chateau Lafite Rothschild, where his father was director of winemaking.

Note: For more about the creation of Clos Du Val, see the July 8, 1997 WineDay titled "The Leap, From Bordeaux to Stags."

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

Read more articles by Fred McMillin in the eGGsf

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