Like Early Pioneers, Robert Biale Vineyards Continues to Preserve California’s Classic Varietal–Zinfandel!

Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. Zinfandel vineyards are currently only 2% of Napa Valley plantings, and Napa Valley makes up only 4% of California wine produced. What was once a California staple is now a hidden treasure.

Robert Biale Vineyards specializes in preserving California’s heritage wines:  Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. Zinfandel vineyards are currently only 2% of Napa Valley plantings, and Napa Valley makes up only 4% of California wine produced. What was once a California staple is now a hidden treasure. With over 14 different Zinfandels, Robert Biale Vineyards is the champion of this noble variety in the Napa Valley. Founder, Bob Biale, learned early on that what brought him (& his father Aldo) joy was vineyard restoration and preservation projects. What began as preserving their family Zinfandel vineyard amidst the rise of Cabernet has turned into preserving the legacy and history of many other older Zinfandel vineyards both in Napa and Sonoma Counties. In fact, Robert Biale Vineyards sources from four of the oldest vineyards in all of California. Those are: Old Kraft in Saint Helena, and Bedrock Vineyard, Pagani Ranch, and Monte Rosso Vineyard® in Sonoma. Each of these vineyards tells its own story through time.

Old Kraft Vineyard Zinfandel from Saint Helena.
Old Kraft Vineyard Zinfandel from Saint Helena, California

Old Kraft Vineyard

The oldest vineyard Robert Biale sources from in Napa Valley is the Old Kraft Vineyard in Saint Helena. This vineyard was planted in the 1860s and then replanted in the 1890s by well-known Saint Helena winemaker, Franz Kraft. When current owners, Bill & Margie Hart, purchased the property in 2001 they knew there was something special about this vineyard. In 2002, Bill Pease, of Madrigal Vineyard Management, and Bob assessed the vineyard. Although it was overgrown with invasive plants in the vine rows and between the vines themselves, the Harts did not back down from the challenge of restoring this historic vineyard. In fact, Bill Hart took it upon himself to remove all the plants that were robbing the vines of nutrients and water. The site needed drainage also, which was accomplished with underground drain tiles. For several seasons, nutrient rich, organic compost and cover crops were added to the soils.  Later, organic foliar sprays helped to revitalize the vine growth itself. Bill and Margie wished to keep the same (heritage) clones of Zinfandel for replants, so budwood was collected and grafted on to St. George rootstock for most of the new vines. After 4 years, the vines reestablished their vitality and sense of place with the production of beautiful, concentrated fruit; and the first bottling of Old Kraft earned its spot in our lineup of single vineyard wines.  The young replants are now nearly 20 years old and are thriving alongside the original, now vibrant, historic vines.

Monte Rosso Vineyard (R) Zinfandel Sonoma County, California
Monte Rosso Vineyard® Zinfandel in Sonoma County, California

Monte Rosso Vineyard®

Monte Rosso Vineyard ®—the crown jewel of California Zinfandel. This vineyard is truly a winemaker’s dream. Named after the rolling hills of iron-rich, red volcanic soil, Monte Rosso (“red mountain”) sits at an average of 1,300’ in elevation with gnarly old vine Zinfandel, most of which is still the original planting from the 1880s. On a clear day, once the fog settles you can even see the Golden Gate Bridge from the vineyard.  Monte Rosso Vineyard® has had several pioneers in the wine industry as stewards. Beginning with San Francisco grocer, Emmanuel Goldstein, and his business partner Benjamin Dreyfus in 1886, followed by Louis M. Martini in 1938, and now current owners E & J Gallo. Since 1995, Robert Biale Vineyards has counted itself to be one of the fortunate few to be making prized Zinfandel from this historic vineyard site. 

Bedrock Vineyard Zinfandel in Sonoma County, California
Bedrock Vineyard Zinfandel in Sonoma County, California

Bedrock Vineyard

Founded in 1854 by two Civil War figures—General William Tecumseh Sherman and General “Fightin’ Joe” Hooker, Bedrock Vineyard is an historic vineyard site that sits in the heart of Sonoma Valley. Following the phylloxera pandemic in 1880, the vineyard had to be replanted and was done so in 1888 by Senator George Hearst. Fast forward 100 plus years and multiple ownerships and now the Bedrock Vineyard is in the dutiful hands of Morgan Twain-Peterson and his father, Joel Peterson, who took the time to carefully restore this magnificent vineyard to its former health and glory. Spanning 152 acres, this vineyard, like many historic vineyards, not only has Zinfandel vines, but also contains Carignane, Alicante, Petite Sirah, Mataro, and various other varieties that the old winemakers loved to plant together in a field blending system called “mixed blacks.”  The block reserved for the Biale Bedrock Vineyard Zinfandel comes from primarily non-irrigated vines dating back to the 1880s. Robert Biale Vineyards has been making Zinfandel from Bedrock since 2012.

The historic Pagani Ranch Old Vine Zinfandel in Sonoma County, California.
Pagani Ranch Zinfandel in Sonoma County, California

Pagani Ranch Vineyard

Mother and son duo, Dino Amantite and his mother Norma Pagani Amantite are the devoted caretakers of this iconic vineyard in Sonoma at Dunbar Road and Highway 12, which has been in their family for over a century. Angela and Felice Pagani came from Italy to Sonoma Valley in the late 1880s and purchased the ranch. It was planted originally in the 1880s, then added to in the 1920s by Felice Pagani, Norma’s grandfather. The original head-trained vines are so unique and statuesque, they give the Monte Rosso® vines a run for their money! Many of the original vines still thrive today and produce beautiful fruit. This vineyard is primarily dry farmed, and you can only imagine the set of roots that sits below the earth! As with many of the historic vineyards, you will find that they are a “field blend” of different varietals including: Zinfandel, Alicante Bouschet, Lenoir, Petite Sirah, Grand Noir, and numerous others.  Robert Biale Vineyards has been producing a Pagani Ranch Zinfandel since 2012.

To learn more about the other historic vineyard sites that Biale helps preserve, visit www.biale.com.