There’s nothing “typical” about this Zinfandel, but there’s a lot of deliciousness to it. A brighter, even refreshing style, it hearkens (fittingly) to the arrival of spring with fresh, crunchy fruits, florals, Zinny spiciness, and a subtle salty minerality. Drink up!
From the Smockshop Band of wine minstrels: This was picked very late, but still with moderate sugars, after the grapes had dropped their leaves. Unusually for us, this was completely destemmed. It was fermented on the skins for two weeks in an open top bin with gentle treading once every few days. It was pressed in a small wooden basket press directly to barrel and bottled after 10 months. In spite of the destemming, this still retains very lifted and perfumed herbal, spice and botanical aromas that are wonderfully atypical for Zin. It’s very open and accessible, one of the most crushable and immediately pleasurable wines that we’ve released so far.
I had a wonderfully eye-opening wine experience in early October. I was invited by the Columbia Gorge Winegrowers Association for an intensive vineyard, wine, and geology lesson in the Gorge, from the western to eastern boundaries of the Columbia Gorge AVA.
I love the Gorge, but that feeling had previously encompassed its scenic beauty, not its wine community. I’m so happy to have had my eyes opened to one of the most dynamic winegrowing areas of the Pacific Northwest. For example: in the higher elevations of the far west Gorge, grapes struggle to ripen before the fall rains. This is the area for cool-climate grapes, from Pinot noir and Chardonnay to Riesling and Gamay; the vineyards are surrounded by the iconic Douglas firs. For every mile you move eastward, annual precipitation decreases by an inch such that by the time you reach the eastern Gorge, it’s Zinfandel, Cabernet, Tempranillo, and other warm climate varieties. The vegetation, too, is decidedly different, moving from oak savannah to desert scrub and sagebrush.
One of the vineyards we walked is called Scorched Earth sitting just off the banks of the Columbia River, across the river from the town of Mosier. Much drier and warmer than the western end of the Gorge, Scorched Earth is planted to a fascinatingly diverse mix of grape varieties, too many to name.
This wild mix is courtesy of wine wizard Nate Ready, proprietor of Hiyu Wine Farm (100% estate-grown) and Smockshop Band (fruit from grower partners, like Scorched Earth vineyard). Maker of unique, even far-out wines, we decided to ease you in to Nate’s wines with his Spring Ephemeral Zin.
"Smockshop Band is an exploration of the Columbia Gorge. The Gorge contains a diverse range of landscapes within a small area. It was this multitude of potential places to make wine that drew us to the Gorge. We've been working on developing relationships with growers and landowners who share our vision of farming. We now lease and farm twenty acres of land outside of Hiyu and purchase fruit from an additional few more. All of the vineyards are farmed naturally and allow us access to the full spectrum of possible flavors from high altitude, cool climate sites on the western end of the Gorge to the more Mediterranean, dessert influenced sites to the east." - the winery