Rafanelli Zinfandel 2009
Date Tasted: 2/17/13
Price: Suggested Retail is $53.00
From The Winery: 14.8% Alcohol. Dry Creek Valley AVA.
Impressions/Notes: A. Rafanelli Winery has been a staple in the Dry Creek Valley wine community since the early 1900s. Rafanelli’s wine lineup includes their famous and coveted Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Hillside Select, a reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Most of their wines are sold via their hard-to-crack mailing list, but they also sell a limited quantity at the winery. My wife and I visited the winery in 2011, which is where I procured the ’09 Zin. The winery is open by appointment only and reservations typically need to be made well in advance. When it comes to the Rafanelli winery experience, visitors’ accounts vary greatly. We read the Yelp reviews (my favorite review is written by David G. on 8/24/09) and this very amusing letter posted on The Ferm prior to our visit, so we weren’t exactly sure what to expect. Our experience was great–we met owner David Rafanelli and his daughter Stacy and were treated with warm hospitality. Rafanelli is now one of my wife’s favorite wineries and I had to get special permission to open the ’09 Zin.
Tom Lee of Zinfandel Chronicles indicated that he had read notes of brettanomyces being detected in recent vintages of Rafanelli’s Zinfandels. Wine Spectator’s Tim Fish said as much to him on Twitter. Wines affected with “brett” can exhibit aromas that range from bacon fat, smoke, and spice (sounds ok to me) to band-aid, barnyard, and even horseshit (not so ok)–the aromas depend on the specific type of molecule that presents. Fish gave Rafanelli’s ’09 Zin a lowly score of 83. After perusing Fish’s ratings for 2012 Zinfandels, I noted that we were in agreement on some Zins (Easton Amador County and Seghesio Sonoma County ’10) and in different area codes on others (he rated the ’09 Ridge Geyserville at an 85, I had it at around a 94). I hoped and expected Rafanelli’s ’09 Zin to be brett-free, if for no other reason than that I had paid over $50 for it. I sampled this wine at the winery and I didn’t remember any off aromas or flavors at the time, though I did not take notes on the visit.
Fish was right, according to my humble palate. There is a bit of a mulch/compost/barnyard aroma present in the wine. It did not overshadow the powerful black cherry and black currant fruit, which really came alive about four hours after opening, nor the dark chocolate or spice box notes in the background. The wine is smooth, with a great mouthfeel and a really strong acid backbone for a Zinfandel (Rafanelli’s Zins are built to age). I did shave a few points off of my rating for the slight presence of brett, as it did have an influence on my enjoyment of the wine.
Inevitably, as with any aroma, there are going to be some consumers that have an extra sensitivity to the barnyard aroma associated with brett (I suspect Tim Fish falls into this category, and would be curious to know exactly how many points he deducted solely due to the presence of brett). Take a look at the reviews of Rafanelli’s ’09 Zin posted on CellarTracker. There are some rave reviews of the wine and then there are reviews like the one from BEARCAVE, who states “I can’t believe that no one is talking about the fact that this wine is ridden with brettanomyces.” So who’s review is right? It depends on your palate. My palate appears to have a sensitivity to the barnyard aroma, but not to the level of being hypersensitive. For those who are brett-hypersensitive, this may not be the wine for you.
Rating: Recommended (88), 1.5/5 Value