The Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel 2018 is sourced from vineyards in the Lodi AVA of Northern California. Gnarly Head is one of Delicato Family Vineyard’s portfolio of wines.
Click on the link above to see their family of wine. Delicato has been around since 1924, they are the sixth-largest winery in the United State. They control 6,000 acres of grapevines in Lodi, Napa, Sonoma, and Monterey.
The term Gnarly Head refers to a style of pruning the vines. The branches are trained to come out of the stalk three or four feet off the ground. The branches are pruned back to keep them in shape. After several years, these are Old Vines, the vines become gnarled and twisted.
Old vines are not a legal term each winery can come up with their definition, but Delicato says some of the vines are over 80 years old. Which brings us to the next question, “what’s the big deal about old vines?
Grapevines need to suffer to produce great wine grapes. By suffer I mean they do not need to get too much water or be planted in too fertile soil. Most vineyards are planted on rock-strewn sides of hills on land not suitable for crops.
So, the struggle for nutrients and moisture is an integral part of the development of the grapes. Old vines naturally struggle, they do not need to be situated on perfect (well perfect for grapevines, kind of bad for most commercial crops) ground to get the full benefits. The struggle is already built-in.
Grapevines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay are pulled out and replanted in commercial vineyards when they no longer are in their prime. These grapes are in demand and the vineyards are constantly being renewed. A new vine may take four or five years to produce wine worthy grapes.
Zinfandel has been planted in Lodi for over 100 years and for most of its history there was never the demand for Zinfandel wine to cause the vineyard owners to renew their vines. Vines as they get older, maybe around 25 to 30 years, start to slow down their yield, but few vineyards needed to go through the time and expense to replant.
That is a very good thing for the Lodi vineyard owners because these old vines are now in demand and sought after. What may have been good vineyards but not standout vineyards are now exceptional vineyards. Good things come to those who wait.
The Gnarly Head label was started in 2004 and includes a full line of drink-it-now wines, both Red and White. The Gnarly Head Old Vines Zinfandel 2018 was aged in/on French and American oak. I am always confused when the tasting notes say racked on oak rather than racked in oak barrels.
Racked is a wine term about moving the wine from one barrel or tank to another using gravity rather than some sort of pump. So exactly the sort of oak aging isn’t specified, but in a wine that I purchased for $8.99 fancy French oak barrels isn’t of too much importance. The alcohol content is 14.5%.
Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel 2018 Tasting Notes
The color is a dark but still see-thru black cherry red. The nose is rich and weighty, a nice surprise in a sub-$10 wine, there is depth to the aromas. There is ripe blackberry, a hint of herbs, black licorice, smoke from the BBQ, black pepper, black cherry, and spice.
This is a medium-bodied wine, in the past value-price Zins could be on the bombastic side, but the Gnarly Head Zinfandel is well mannered. It tastes of a mix of ripe blackberry, black pepper, and exotic spice, followed by licorice, and plum.
The mid-palate adds tart cherry, faint milk chocolate, and cranberry. The tannins are soft and sweet, this is sipping wine. The acidity is nicely balanced, The Gnarly Head would pair well with a BYOB BBQ joint or the usual pizza, burgers, and tacos, in other words, this the comfort food version of wine.
- The Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel 2018 is a solid, tasty well-priced Zinfandel.
- This is one of those tried and true wines, you can always count on it to deliver a good value.