We would not be doing this were it not for Aldo Biale, the Black Chicken man. Bob’s father Aldo (1929-2009) was gifted with the good common sense–and sense of pride to maintain these head-trained, non-irrigated old vines that were planted in 1937 from which we source our most coveted Zinfandel. Aldo resisted all the advice and suggestions to replant with trendy grapes such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. “My dad grew Zinfandel and I’m sticking with Zinfandel,” Aldo was known to say.
As Biale family legend has it, it was Aldo’s mother Nonna, Cristina, who way back when, negotiated the good old-fashioned land swap that secured the vineyard in exchange for her prune orchard. She was a force to be reckoned with. These are the oldest vines in Oak Knoll and are close by to where Captain Osborne first planted Zinfandel in Napa Valley in 1860. Throughout the season, cane by cane, shoot by shoot, leaf by leaf, and bunch by bunch, each vine is tended by hand to ensure grapes of integrity, evenness of color, full ripeness and pure Zinfandel flavors. As was the practice in the old days, a sprinkling of other varieties are found throughout the vineyard: Petite Sirah, Abouriou, Carignane, Grand noir, Tempranillo, Refosco, Alicante and even Golden Chasselas. A few years back, Bob Biale and Tres Goetting walked the vineyard and documented vine by vine the varietal makeup of the vineyard. You can find the Aldo’s map here.