One feature of writing about wine that I especially enjoy is trying products from wineries that I’ve never encountered. Such a one is Manzoni Vineyards, a small family-owned and operated estate in Monterey County’s Santa Lucia Highlands. The winery traces its origin to Joseph Manzoni, who left Switzerland for the New World in 1921 and established a dairy business in the Salinas Valley, an area south of San Francisco that supplies a huge amount of the vegetables that Americans consume. (The town of Salinas is the seat of Monterey County.) Manzoni eventually shifted to cash crop farming, a tradition his descendants continue even as the third generation, Mark and Michael Manzoni, maintain their vineyards and make their elegant, understated wines. The winery was founded in 1990, with imported clones planted in 1999.

These wines were samples for review.
The Manzoni Home Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010, Santa Lucia Highlands, is an individual but not eccentric rendition of the grape, one that embodies pinot noir’s innate balance between elegance and power. The color is dark ruby with a tinge of magenta at the rim; seductive aromas of melon ball, rhubarb and black cherry with a hint of cranberry are woven with cola and sandalwood, earth and leather, rose petal and camellia. You could stop right there and just smell this wine, except that you would miss a lovely satiny texture that robes slightly spiced and macerated black and red fruit flavors beautifully poised and integrated with a subtle, supple oak influence and enough tannins to give the wine a firm but unobtrusive framework and foundation. 14.2 percent alcohol. Production was 441 cases. Drink now through 2014. Excellent. About $26.
What a pleasure to try a syrah that doesn’t think it has to grab your tongue, plow your palate and run over you with a Harley to make its effects known. What I first want to point out in respect to the Manzoni Home Vineyard Syrah 2009, Santa Lucia Highlands, is that its tannins are beautiful; I don’t think I have said that about a wine in almost 28 years of writing about the subject. These tannins feel as if they had been sanded with very fine sandpaper and buffed with chamois; they fill the mouth, formidably yet softly, almost cloud-like yet with a particular intensity of purpose and integration. These tannins are married to piercing minerality in the infinitesimally-grained granite and graphite range, all of this subject to the authority of lively acidity and deep mossy earthiness. Red and black currants, blackberries and blueberries form the core of the wine’s fruit aspects, permeated by notes of lavender and licorice, smoky potpourri and bittersweet chocolate and, in the finish, a slight bite of wet fur and ash. Absolutely classic. I would rather drink this wine than a thousand over-ripe, over-oaked, high-alcohol blockbuster syrahs. 14.2 percent alcohol. 494 cases. Drink now through 2014 or ’15. Excellent. About $26.