What makes Zinfandel different than other grape varieties?
There is no other grape like it for excitement, pleasure, fun, drinkability, food matching. California’s old Zinfandel vines are some of the oldest in the world and they produce grapes of tremendous character.
Why did Biale choose to focus on Zinfandel?
The Biales began growing Zinfandel in Napa in 1937 and even before that, Pietro and Cristina Biale worked among Zinfandel vineyards at the Gier Ranch on Mt. Veeder in the 1920’s and 30’s. When we launched Biale in 1991 we saw an opportunity to take a position as preservationists of Zinfandel’s rich tradition in Napa Valley.
Where is Zinfandel from?
We now know for certain that Zinfandel originated from what is now Croatia. Researchers from U.C. Davis and the University of Zagreb teamed up and proved that it is identical to an ancient variety growing on the Croatian island of Kastel called Cerljenak. In central Europe, it is an ancient grape variety also known as Tribidrag. Cuttings migrated to New York and Boston in the 1830s as a then to California in the 1850s where Zinfandel flourished and spread all over the state.
Are Zinfandel and Primitivo the same grape?
Basically yes. We liken them to non-identical twins – same DNA but slightly different appearance and taste. Primitivo is identified as being from Puglia in Italy and Zinfandel is identified as California’s heritage wine grape variety.
What’s unique about Biale’s style of Zinfandel?
When we started up we decided to treat Zinfandel more like Pinot noir because of their physical similarities and cool climate influences. Biale’s style in general is vibrant and elegant as opposed to so many of the heavier “fruit bomb” versions that were popular for so long in the 1970s and 80s.
Is it true that all Zinfandels are very high in alcohol?
They can be but it’s dangerous to generalize about the category. Zinfandel can dehydrate on the vine if you are not careful and the natural sugar might rise to high levels, resulting in high alcohol. No denying those powerful wines have their fans! There are many examples, however, of Zinfandels that are balanced and classically styled red wines which is where we prefer to be, but with a touch of that robust Zinfandel fruit character.
Are Biale wines made from all estate vineyards?
Biale grows Zinfandel at the Biale family vineyards and at the winery estate which accounts for about 25% of our total production. The rest of the grapes are grown among other family vineyards across Napa and some from Sonoma. Bob and Tres maintain close ties throughout the seasons with every vineyard to ensure that the farming practices are properly done in order to ensure best possible quality grapes.
Can you age Zinfandel?
Yes. Many but not all. Zinfandel aficionados know that there are examples of Zinfandel that have aged as well as any red varietal. It’s a big volume category so most Zinfandels are best to drink early – but there are those than can develop and maintain in the bottle for years. You have to be selective about those. You can put Biale among those that will typically drink well for 5-7 years and beyond – if you have a cool cellar.
Have you ever considered producing Cabernet?
We flirted with it in the beginning, but not really. Biale is surrounded by Cabernet Sauvignon in the Cab-dominant Napa Valley but it’s not really what we are about–which is elevating Zinfandel to its rightful place as one of the world’s most enjoyable and compelling red wines!
What food is the best match for your Zinfandel?
One very prominent chef we know who produced a Biale-specific dinner simply answered that question– “everything!” She wasn’t exaggerating. Zinfandel, especially in our fruit-driven and elegant style, is a “chameleon” wine in that it easily adapts to its surroundings. Dress it up, dress it down, Zinfandel seems to find a happy place with all sorts of cooking. In fact, Zinfandel may be the most versatile wine with food. At our Biale-focused dinner events, chefs often pair Biale with duck, pork, and braised meats. Many firm cheeses work beautifully. Sometimes a fruity or chocolate dessert! Because of Biale’s zesty acidity and brightness, it shows amazingly well with classic Italian dishes, rich sauces, and ethnic cuisine from around the world: Morocco, Turkey, India, South and Central America. Being an American-identified wine, perhaps the classic match for Zinfandel is good ol’ fashioned slow and smoky barbecue!