Appetizers
July 20, 2006
A Walk Through Walker Vineyard

When people learn you earn part of your living writing of wine, they say things to indicate that they think the task is all about traveling to glamorous wine regions, touring historic wine cellars, and sitting down to tastings that cover about 100 years of the winery's signature wine.

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Actually, like a lot of journalism today, the job involves a computer and a telephone. For every hundred or so days in the office, I actually get out into a vineyard and winery. Today was one of those days. I spent it with the gents pictured here, Greg Boeger, on the left, and Lloyd Walker. They're next to Walker's zinfandel vines, which top a knoll overlooking the canyon of the North Fork of the Cosumnes River about eight miles southeast of Placerville in El Dorado County.

Since around 1980, Boeger has been making a Walker Vineyard zinfandel at his family's Boeger Winery on Apple Hill. Vintage after vintage, it's been one of my favorite zinfandels, which I've appreciated for its clear berry fruit, supple texture, notes of peppery spice and overall elegance.

I'll be writing more of Walker Vineyard in a future Dunne on Wine column in The Sacramento Bee. But for the benefit of people who have collected Walker Vineyard zinfandels over the years and are curious about how they might be aging, I have some advice based on a vertical tasting of several vintages over the past 20 years. This we did in the cool comfort of Boeger Winery following the trek about the vineyard. If you have vintages from 1984 through 1991 in your cellar, I'd drink them now, or soon. They are holding up remarkably well, with amazing vitality for a varietal underappreciated for its aging potential, but they aren't likely to improve. From the mid-1990s on, the wines should continue to evolve quite reliably for another decade for the older releases, longer for younger vintages.

We finished with the latest release, the 2004, already sold out at the winery and probably going fast in wine shops and restaurants, in part because wine critic Robert Parker Jr. recently annointed it with 90 points. It's a lush and lovely take on the varietal, brimming with jammy berry fruit and structured firmly without being hard, its oak finely integrated. If they sold stock in Walker Vineyard, I'd say buy whatever you can right now, but settling for the wine alone is no less a pleasant alternative.

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