August 22, 2007
Montevina Looks West

If someone were to ask me which winery has been most instrumental in raising the profile of Amador County as prime zinfandel country, I'd be hard pressed to come up with a definitive answer, but Montevina Winery surely would be a contender. Under both its Montevina and Terra d'Oro labels, the winery has been turning out distinguished zinfandels for more than three decades.

Therefore, Jeff Meyers, Montevina's winemaker the past 26 vintages, stunned me yesterday when at a wine tasting he strolled up to the Sonoma County table, took a taste of Francis Ford Coppola's 2005 Director's Cut Zinfandel, and said he hopes to make a version as good or better this fall - with fruit from the same region as Coppola's, the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma County.

An Amador County institution making zinfandel from Sonoma County? Sounds like blasphemy. What's it mean? Not that Montevina is turning its back on the Sierra foothills, Meyers is quick to assure. Vineyards that surround the winery in the Shenandoah Valley will continue to provide the grapes for its several signature zinfandels.

Meyers is so confident that Amador County's and Montevina's reputation for esteemed zinfandel is so firmly established that it's time to start thinking outside the Shenandoah Valley. "We've proven everything we can prove with Amador zinfandel, so let's explore other regions and other styles," said Meyers. "That's not Amador County zinfandel," he says, pointing to the Coppola zinfandel. "It's got a ton of fruit, with softer tannins. It's classic Dry Creek Valley jammy fruit. Amador produces a more aggressive style, with more tannins and more spice."

If Montevina's Dry Creek Valley zinfandel is a success, don't be surprised to see the winery start to produce zinfandels from other appellations recognized for doing well by the varietal. Montevina thus would become the latest winery to follow the successful model of Rosenblum, Ravenswood and Ridge, other highly regarded zinfandel specialists that seek choice vineyards from throughout California for solid and stylistically varied interpretations of the varietal.

Meyers will be getting grapes for his Dry Creek Valley zinfandel from 90-year-old vines at Forchini Vineyard. "I couldn't ask for a better vineyard to start with," said Meyers. The wine is expected to be released under the Terra d'Oro label in two or three years.

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