Robert Biale Vineyards 2022 Vintage

The Preservation of Responsibility

I worked in the vineyard for ten years before I enjoyed a glass of Biale wine. I could just reach the fruit clusters when I first started working in Aldo’s Vineyard. This created a unique relationship with the work and the land. I wasn’t out there in the fields working because I wanted to taste the wine, I was working because that’s what the family and the land required. And there’s a different relationship with Biale–the community, our customers­–and our product that I have that was born out of this more tactile and more hands-on experience. When people talk to me about Napa, they talk about visiting all of the big, fancy wineries and the Michelin star restaurants and how many winemakers they know. While that’s all well and good, I think about Clementina’s back porch, the Aldo’s block, the old beat-to-death Kubota tractor, Raul and I racing to see who could finish a row of leafing the fastest, getting pulled over by the cops for driving the ATV down Jefferson Street. I think about the little moments on the land that most people underappreciate.

So while our mission is surely to preserve the legacy of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah, my mission is to preserve our ability to enjoy these little moments on this land.

2022 will be remembered as the height of the California drought. As farmers, we’re at the mercy of Mother Nature and are in a constant battle between preparing for and adapting to her evolving conditions. Similar to the 2021 vintage, “2022 provided a smaller yield with exceptional quality”, says David Natali, our head winemaker who stepped up for his first solo vintage that year. Because of the drought, we saw smaller berries, healthy fruit overall, with a good skin-to-juice ratio. Just like every vine, every vintage is unique, each with distinct challenges and opportunities. It’s our job to preserve these moments.

What changed from 2021 to 2022 was the timing and the duration of the Labor Day heatwave. We hit 118 degrees at the winery and experienced triple digits for a full week. This caused a lot of problems for the agricultural community in Napa, but we planned accordingly. When you’ve been making wine in the same valley for so long, you learn to rely on your experience, your team, and your gut. Thankfully, because of the experience, skill, and sheer will of everyone on the team, we completed 80% of the harvest by the time the heat wave ended.

While we’re very proud of the coordination between the vineyard and the cellar, we need to acknowledge the uniqueness of Zinfandel, specifically Zinfandel in the Oak Knoll District of the Napa Valley. Zinfandel is naturally ready to be harvested a little earlier in the season than Cabernet, which is great for most vintages. That means we can more easily and effectively combat heat waves, heavy rain, and other natural challenges. Year after year, we are reminded of the resiliency and adaptability of Zinfandel, and we’re grateful to have the responsibility to preserve it for generations to come.

At the end of the day, that’s what Biale is all about—preserving the responsibility to care for this land.