2014 Black Sears Estate Zinfandel
The 2014 Vintage
While 2014 is probably best remembered as the year of the big Napa earthquake, the vintage itself was memorable for how quietly perfect the weather conditions were throughout the growing season. With a worsening drought, and on the heels of two record-setting yields in ’12 and ‘13, the vines set themselves up for a smaller crop in ’14. But a substantial and violent set of spring storms eased the stress and the vines were off to a vigorous start. The summer weather was warm, but consistent; without the spikes, extremes, or surprises that can chip away at quality. And with July and August only in the 90s, plus the warm Howell Mountain nights, everything ripened smoothly and consistently with very little intervention required from us farmers. Perhaps most importantly, our vines were harvested and even gleaned by the black bears well ahead of the autumn rains, since early autumn rains are what we mountain Zin growers fear most.
The drought, the lovely weather, and the smaller crop meant that every milestone arrived earlier than usual in 2014. Bud break came early. Veraison came early. And in mid-August, unable to believe our eyes, we ignored what the calendar said and started tasting and sampling, historical records and 40 years of growing experience be damned. And then the Zinfandel harvest arrived, early, on September 12. The earliest ever at Black Sears.
The 2014 Black Sears Estate Wines
The quality of the 2014 vintage is easily on par with both recent “classics” in ’12 and ’13, but the wines are characteristically somewhere in between. While 2013 produced some of the biggest, boldest, baddest wines many of us have ever seen, the 2014s aren’t far behind with their darkness and intensity. But the energetic ‘14s enjoy the benefit of shining bright in their youth with much softer, more luscious tannins, making them far more round and integrated than the tightly packed ’13s. While the ascetic ‘13s are in the cellar studying and preparing to become giants who one day take over the universe, the ‘14s are raucous, juicy and ready to party.
The 2014 Black Sears Estate Zinfandel – Official Tasting Notes
In the glass, the 2014 Black Sears Estate Zinfandel is an opaque purple with an electric ruby edge. The nose is blackberry bramble with lavender, forest floor, white pepper, and a kiss of anise. With a taste, this is a big, thick, ripe Zin with everything we love about the 42-year old Black Sears vineyard seemingly crammed inside to the point of bursting – briary, black-fruited “Zinberries,” plenty of pepper and hillside spice, smoky grille, and an array of herbs and spices that only a place like the top of Howell Mountain can deliver. The bright Howell Mountain acidity ties the whole affair up with verve in a finish that lasts and lasts until the next sip. This wine is the Lush Life. Pair with John Coltrane, leg of lamb, a city skyline at night, and the one you love.
340 cases produced
19 months on 100% French Oak (1/3 new, 1/3 year-old, 1/3 neutral)
Thomas Rivers Brown, winemaker
The 2014 Black Sears Estate Zinfandel – Unofficial Tasting Notes
Let's say the 2013 Black Sears Estate Zinfandel is Jay-Z: fierce, hardened, yet dapper and trendsetting; Larger than Life in NYC, courtside at the Garden or on the corner in Bed Stuy; All with a swerve and a flow that embody a natural and vital artistry, wisdom and respect for Craft…
...well, then the 2014 is Beyoncé: luscious, sexy, and beautifully soft, supple, vivacious, and thick in all the right places... all while possessing a feminine Power and Mystery that could crush us all like a great flood and remake the world.