Sat 18 Oct 2008
Antoine Favero, winemaker for Mazzocco, the zinfandel specialist in Sonoma County, doesn’t do things by halves. These four reserve wines from 2005, all from designated vineyards, plus a proprietary label, feature alcohol levels of more than 16 percent, and they come on like fruit-basket gangbusters. Their primary characteristic, though, is staggering purity and intensity.
Mazzocco was founded in 1984 by prominent eye surgeon Thomas Mazzocco, who developed the first folding implant, the “Mazzocco taco lens.” The winery was purchased in 2005 by Diane and Ken Wilson, who in 1993 has started the Wilson Winery, where Diane Wilson makes the wines.
The Mazzocco Smith Orchard Reserve Zinfandel 2005, Dry Creek Valley, comes in at 16.1 percent alcohol. The bouquet seethes with aromas of blueberry, boysenberry and red and black currant wreathed with smoke, potpourri, lavender, bittersweet chocolate, slate and lead pencil; I mean it just freakin’ shivers yer timbers. The wine is very ripe and spicy but quite dry, huge and solid in structure yet vibrant and resonant, confident and poised. It’s a serious wine, drawing on 18 months of aging in French oak and the power of packed-in tannin, yet in its rollicking blackberry and blueberry flavors flecked with rhubarb, its flagrant spiciness and wild berry aspects, it’s downright delicious. Production was 200 cases. Drink now through 2011 or ’12 with the heartiest of foods. Excellent. About $40.
Going up one-tenth of a degree in alcohol to 16.2 percent, the Mazzocco Pony Reserve Zinfandel 2005, Dry Creek Valley, bursts with notes of blackberry and boysenberry tart, lavender and licorice with a touch of sandalwood. Everything is big about this wine, its mass and volume, its quality of burgeoning spice, its substantial presence in the mouth. A core of minerals etched with earth, smoke and ash dominates the mid-palate of this very dry, fairly austere zinfandel which, for whatever reason involving its ultimate balance, feels more alcoholic then the others reviewed here. Production was 70 cases. Drink now through 2011 or ’12. Very Good+ About $50.
The Mazzocco West Dry Creek Reserve Zinfandel 2005, Dry Creek Valley, displays remarkable equilibrium despite its rocket-propelled 16.5 percent alcohol. Oh, it’s a huge wine, all right, brawny and broad-shouldered, but also absolutely seductive with scents and flavors of ripe, spiced and macerated black cherries, blackberries and plums that feel sun-baked and summery. These qualities are deepened with notes of mocha, pepper and blueberry (but not boysenberry) and an earthy-mineral element that grows more rigorous as the moments pass. The dry, austere finish brings in briers and brambles, smoke and ash, and a final fillip of dried spice. The wine contains six percent petite sirah. 75 cases were made. Drink now through 2011 to ’13. Excellent. About $40.
Super-ripe, super-juicy, super-big, the Mazzocco Maple Reserve Zinfandel 2005, Dry Creek Valley, comes on with 16.8 percent alcohol, yet feels smooth, integrated and balanced, though I suppose we ought to say “balanced in its own way”; this is not a model of elegance and finesse, but that’s not what we’re looking for here. If you ask, “So, F.K., what are we looking for?” I would answer: We’re looking for dynamism, intensity and concentration and a generous and essential expression of a grape variety — there is 3 percent petite sirah — that implies something about the idea of the wine as well. Fruit is supremely black, roasted and fleshy (there’s a hint of espresso), permeated by dried spice and potpourri with touches of violets and lavender; the texture would be plush and velvety except that masses of polished oak and tannins, layers of minerals and a keen acid edge keep it honest and slightly at arm’s-length. The power and size of this wine are undeniable, yet also unassailable is its pleasure quotient and sheer drinkability. Product was 75 cases. Drink now through 2011 or ’12. Excellent. About $60
On the other hand, “elegance” is a by-word for the Mazzocco Matrix Zinfandel 2005, Dry Creek Valley, a 100 percent varietal wine that edges up to 16.1 percent alcohol. In its solid structure and its balance and harmony, the Matrix Zinfandel 2005 does no denigration to the term “Bordeaux-like.” Black currants and black plums with a flush of blueberry (but not blueberry tart) are slightly roasted and stewed — I mean, this is Dry Creek Valley zinfandel — yet that fleshy (and delicious) character is subdued to aspects of wheatmeal and walnut shell, briers and brambles in a structure and finish that feel close to dignified. 200 cases. Drink now through 2011 or ’12. Excellent. About $45.