Sun 27 Sep 2009
Antoine Favero, winemaker for Mazzocco, specializes in risk-taking, by which I mean that he fashions wines, primarily zinfandels, that are very high in alcohol, usually towering at 16 percent and higher, while trying for some kind of sane balance and a revelation of single-vineyard characteristics. In the wines he produced though 2005, I was on board for this agenda; many of Mazzocco’s Dry Creek Valley vineyard-designated and reserve wines were thrilling in their combination of broad dimension and fine detail. The Mazzocco Maple Reserve Zinfandel 2005 was on my list of “50 Great Wines of 2008.”
I’m not quite as convinced by the renditions of Mazzocco’s zinfandels from 2006. Evidently nothing has changed in the winemaking process: the barrel regimen is still 18 months in French oak, the alcohol levels still hover from the mid 15 to upper 16 percent, and each zinfandel usually contains a dollop of petite sirah, that is, perhaps three or four percent. Despite that consistency, however, and despite some admirable qualities, I find that the Mazzocco zinfandels from 2006 do not embody, as the ’05s did, the principle of power balanced by elegance that has always been Favero’s rather paradoxical goal, by which I mean that creating a balanced, poised table wine at, say, 16.9% alcohol can be a Herculean task. The alternative is making a wine whose primary attributes reside solely in the “bigness” of its elements, that is, bigness for its own sake: big alcohol, big tannin, big (over-ripe) fruit. I’m afraid that a few of these wines fall into that camp.
>Mazzocco Warms Springs Ranch Zinfandel 2006. 16% alcohol. 450 cases. About $32.
Spice cake, dried currants and plums, cigar smoke, tobacco leaf; big, rich, jammy; port-like; wet dog, bacon fat, roasted and fleshy; very dry, austere finish. Serious and alluring. Excellent.
>Mazzocco Stone Zinfandel 2006. 15.9% alcohol. 600 cases. About $29.
Raspberries and blueberries covered with bittersweet chocolate; smolders with exotic spice and potpourri; pencil shavings and granite; inky, broad, strenuous tannins. 2010-’12. Excellent.
>Mazzocco Pony Zinfandel 2006. 16.1% alcohol. 500 cases. About $32.
Wheatmeal, fruitcake; pure, intense, concentrated; big, juicy, luscious; very dry, big, assertive, austere finish; pretty hot, fairly raisiny. Over the edge. Very Good, if it’s your style.
>Mazzocco West Dry Creek Zinfandel 2006. 16.3% alcohol. 150 cases. About $32.
Pure blackberry pie and blueberry tar, um, tart; very intense and concentrated; daunting tannins and minerality; very dry and austere, a real smoky afterburn of lead pencil, potpourri, bitter chocolate. 2010-’13. Excellent.
>Mazzocco Lytton Zinfandel 2006. 15.7% alcohol. 900 cases. About $29.
Very pure, very intense and minerally; rich and jammy, plangent acidity; granite, iodine, sea salt; luscious but amazingly clean; ripe and vibrant black fruit flavors. Like a beautiful wooden ship with a metallic keel. Through 2012 or ’13. Excellent.
>Mazzocco Maple Zinfandel 2006. 15.8% alcohol. 300 cases. About $40.
Bright, bold, brash blueberry and boysenberry, bitter chocolate and mocha; huge, dry, tannic, forbidding austerity on finish. Very Good.
>Mazzocco Reserve Warm Springs Ranch Zinfandel 2006. 16% alcohol. 200 cases. About $50.
Very ripe boysenberry, blueberry, blackberry; very spicy, rich and warm; balsamic complexity, ancho chili; a massive wine, combo of tannins and alcohol overwhelming; very dry, titanic finish. Very Good to Very Good+.
>Mazzocco Reserve Maple Zinfandel 2006. 15.8% alcohol. 170 cases. About $60.
Cigar smoke and tobacco, spice cake & plum pudding; intensely aromatic; penetrating tannins and minerals. 2011 to 2013 or ’14. Very Good+
>Mazzocco Reserve Smith Orchard Zinfandel 2006. 16.2% alcohol. 500 cases. About $50.
Rich, warm & spicy, but staggering immensity of tannin and minerals married to sweetish alcohol; finish is both cloying and Olympian. Difficult to judge. Perhaps for masochists. Very Good+ with a Big Question Mark.
>Mazzocco Reserve West Dry Creek Zinfandel 2006. 16.7% alcohol. 250 cases. About $50.
You have to push through the alcohol here, as if you were wading through it as toward a shore; there you find an intensity and density of black and blue fruit so wild and ripe, jammy and port-like that it’s almost bizarre; tannins are mossy, briery and bountiful, the alcohol feels flammable. Maybe Very Good to Very Good+ but not to my taste or palate.
>Mazzocco Reserve Pony Zinfandel 2006. 16.1% alcohol. 170 cases. About $50.
Smoke and ash; jammy, plummy steroidally-ripe boysenberry and black cherry; powerful fruit cake component; throbbing, brooding tannins. Forget any concerns about the mythical balance of power and elegance; this is all leather boots and tire-burned asphalt, and if that’s what you want in a table wine, well, freakin’ good for you.
>Matrix Zinfandel 2006. 16.1% alcohol. 225 cases. About $45.
Matrix is a sister winery to Mazzocco, where Favero also makes the wines.
Big, heady whiff of alcohol; very jammy, very dry. The alcohol makes it difficult to judge except on that point.
My favorite of the Mazzocco wines that I tried recently is the Mazzocco Petit Verdot 2005, Monterey County. Coming in at a relatively mild and certainly more rational 14.5% alcohol, this is earthy and minerally, fleshy and meaty; flavors of black currants, black cherries and plums, flecked with mocha, are permeated by briers and brambles, dusty, cedary tannins and polished granite. The texture is dense and chewy, resonant with lively acidity. Best from 2010 through 2014 or ’15. 150 cases. Excellent. About $35.