Tasting an 8-year-old Zinfandel: Marr Cellars 2000 Old Vine Zinfandel Mattern Ranch Mendocino County

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Last night, after speaking to Bob Marr, owner and winemaker of a tiny winery called Marr Cellars, I pulled a bottle of his 2000 Mattern Ranch Old Vines Zinfandel Mendocino County out of my cellar.  We had been speaking about his current releases and his anticipation of the 2008 harvest.

Bob is a California garagiste, literally!  His winery is a cinder block storage space near Davis, California.  Bob makes wines with minimal intervention, preferring to let gravity and nature perform as many of the winemaking tasks as possible, be it filtration (gravity), fermentation (native yeasts),  racking (minimal) and pressing the grapes (as gently as possible).  Bob's vinyard sources are the growing regions where his favorite grapes do well, namely Rhone grapes like Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, with a particular fondness for brawny petite sirah and old vines Zinfandel.

Marr Cellars produces tiny amounts of hand-crafted wines.  Total production is under 2,000 cases.  Bob has sourced from some of the best undiscovered vineyards in Northern California, including one in the volcanic foothills of Mount Lassen.  His bottlings include two wines named after his children, Cuvee Selena and Cuvee Patrick.  The Selena is generally a typical rhone-style blend, dominated by grenache, with some syrah and viognier thrown in for spice.  The Patrick is petite sirah based, also blended with rhone varietals and some zinfandel.  Single vineyard Old Vines Zin and petite sirah bottling  from Sonoma and Mendocino,  Syrah from Sonoma, and blends from multiple vineyard sites round out his yearly offerings.  And sometimes he is offered a few tons of some impossible to get fruit, such as Hyde Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, which he crafts in his unique style.

Bob utilizes his food-friendly palate, honed by stints working in restaurants like Ray's Boathouse in Seattle, to create expressive, rich, powerful and balanced wines from these notoriously tricky grapes.  Zinfandel can produce staggeringly high sugar levels and become excessively alcoholic, while petite sirah is sometimes so tannic and monolithic that it can scarcely be enjoyed.  Bob's wines are emphatically not the case.

The 2000 Old Vines Zin from the Mattern Ranch in Mendocino County is deep colored, with dark currant fruits on the nose, as well as lighter cherry and cinnamon notes.  On the palate the wine has weight without being too heavy, and the fruit and spice balance the substantial alcohol level.

This wine shows few signs of being eight years old, other than the wood tannins have softened a bit.  The color is still dark and deep, nearly opaque.  The finish is long, with a touch of sweet jelly fruit giving way to spice and soft tannins.  Wow, what a great wine!  We enjoyed this with a pasta of mostaccioli, sun dried tomatoes, haricot verts and prosciutto, topped with freshly ground parmegiano reggiano

I am working with Bob's wines in New York and New Jersey, and will be pre-selling his latest releases to a select group of stores and restaurants in the tri-state area.

Please contact me if you are interested in carrying Marr Cellars wines in your store, restaurant or distributor.




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