Dancing Lady Alexander Valley Old Vine Zinfandel 2005
The 2005 Dancing Lady Old Vine Zinfandel is sourced from the Della Costa Family
Vineyard in Sonoma's Alexander Valley. I took a drive through the Alexander Valley not
long ago; this is a 22-mile long hot climate zone featuring large expanses of vineyard on
relatively flat terrain; a series of hills behind Healdsburg shelters the valley from significant
Pacific Ocean cooling. My impression: vineyards every which way you look, punctuated by
the Jimtown Store, a place to stop for sandwiches (I had curried chicken salad with mango
chutney), wine purchases, and maybe a t-shirt. Cabernet Sauvignon is king in this valley, but
Zin production is respectable and successful, given the climate.
This $30 Zin weighs in at 15.1% abv (up there but not excessive for this type of wine). The wine is a profoundly dark ruby; I could see light reflecting through it when I held it up to a lamp, but I couldn't read any text or see my fingers. The nose is pronounced to the extent that I only had to glance in the general direction of the glass to begin collecting data. My first aromatic impression from about twelve inches away was brambly black plum, blackberry, and blueberry, all very ripe. A move closer allowed me to enjoy chocolate, baking spice, black licorice. Nose in after a full swirl and I got a rich mélange, punctuated by some alcoholic heat: a spicy fruit compote, but not the kind out of a jar, rather a batch still cooking on the stove so it envelops the house.
The wine is dry but not bone dry, fruity without being overly acidic, stimulating in the mouth without much of a tannic element. I tasted more wood on the palate than I sensed on the nose: cedar, ice cream stick, more of the baking spice and this time vanilla. There is a palate element of smoky mountain herb. The dark fruit from the nose is all there and sustains through to a finish that gave me concentrated candied fruit covered with chocolate. And, oh yes, orange peel, a note I often associate with Zin.
Ultimately, forced to choose a winner among these well-balanced elements, the Dancing Lady
serves up superb, rich, mouth-filling fruit, the kind you buy and immediately enjoy when it's
barely out of the field. The spice is a close second. All these elements knit together in a
splendid base of well-employed oak.
Verdict: A Confection
Zinfandel did not originate in the United States, but in every meaningful way it is certainly our proprietary grape.
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman