Napa’s Standard for Zinfandel
In the town of Napa in the 1940s, Aldo Biale was only a young teenager when his father died leaving him as an only child to work with his mother to farm walnuts, prunes, grapes, and other fruits and vegetables, and to tend to a large population of white leghorn chickens. Every day, friends and neighbors called in orders for these goods to Aldo’s home over the party line phone.
In need of additional income, Aldo soon learned from an uncle how to make wine from his grapes, which he then sold to his neighbors on the down-low. If you wanted some of Aldo’s Zin, you needed the password: Black Chicken. After all, a nosy neighbor listening in on the party line could turn Aldo in for his clandestine business venture; and some probably did as government inspectors came more than once looking for bootleg wine.
For those in the know, an order over the party line phone went something like this: “Hey Aldo, I need a dozen eggs, a bag of prunes, and a Black Chicken.” On Friday, the eggs and prunes were delivered by Aldo in his 1940 Studebaker along with a gallon jug of Zin.
In 1999, when Robert Biale Vineyards started making a fully legal Zinfandel from the vineyards behind Aldo’s boyhood home, we adopted the old code name for a distinct bottling. Today, we also source grapes from the winery property in the Oak Knoll District for the Black Chicken. “The Chicken” is the ultimate expression of Zinfandel from the cooler southern Napa Valley and is perhaps the most famous icon of Napa Valley Zinfandel.
Winemaker’s Tasting Notes: Showing the influence of the breezy and fog-laced Oak Knoll District, the 2021 vintage offers rich, plush fruit, delicate acidity and a structure defined by well- ripened tannins. Layered notes of black cherry, raspberry, sandalwood, bergamot, cloves, blueberry, and balsam on the nose. Delicate, yet rich with plum compote, violets, and baking spice on the palate. An ideal vintage of the Black Chicken that, with proper cellaring, will continue to improve for the next 5-7 years.