Napa Valley winery reviews, recommendations, and photos from our weekly visits to wineries. Periodic reviews of interesting wines from around the world. Occasional musings about classical music as related to wine. Now Partners with Google Field Trip.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Robert Biale Vineyards
Great Zinfandels and a very friendly down to earth winery! Robert Biale Vineyards was founded in 1991, but the family has been
making Zinfandel for about 70 years. There is a sign in front of the winery that says, “Watch for Black
Chicken.” They also make a Zin called
Black Chicken. There is a story behind
this. When Robert Baile was a teenager,
they made Zinfandel and would sometimes swap some for products their neighbors
grew or made. Because they had a party
line (a telephone line that is shared by a number of other neighbors) and were
not licensed to sell wine, they used
“black chicken” as a code word for ordering wine. Although the winery currently has no chickens,
they do have plans for adding some.
While tasting we were honored with a visit from Clementina
Biale (who is the matriarch of the family. She confirmed the story about the party line
and the black chicken and told us other stories as well. A bright, engaging and fascinating woman, Ms.
Baile would provide a very interesting subject for a biography. We hope we will
see her again during our next visit.
Watch for Black Chicken
This winery is famous for its Zinfandel, but they have been
sourcing grapes to make a Sauvignon Blanc.
Our tasting, therefore, began with the Robert Biale2010 Pollo Bianco Sauvignon Blanc
from Yountville AVA which sells for
$22. The wine was pleasant enough but
will soon be discontinued. Our next
tasting was the Robert Biale2009 Rocky RidgeZinfandel from RockpileAVA
($50). This is from younger vines and is
grown at a higher elevation than most of the Biale Zins and was a lighter wine
than the Monte Rosso Zin that was also $50. It was a good Zin
but we preferred the luscious Robet Biale 009 Monte Rosso Zinfandel. After tasting
it at the winery, we both bought some to take home. This had a black cherry aroma with a bold
ripe fruit presentation plus minerality, spice, good acidity, highly
integrated tannins and a decent finish.
This is neither a thin Zin nor an excessively alcoholic one. It is fairly big with ripe fruit but not at
all one-dimensional, having complexity and great balance. We also liked the Robert Biale 2008 Petite Sirah from Oak
Knoll ($42) and the Robert Biale 2006 Stagecoach Vineyard Syrah ($62). The Petite Sirah had a light nose with pleasant tannins
while the Syrah had a pronounced aroma of cherries with good tannin and ripe
fruit without being overly fruit forward.
The winery is famous for their Black
Chicken Zinfandel that sells for $42 and we heard good things about the Aldo
Zinfandel ($75) and the Like Father Like Son Blend (2008), but these were not
available to us for tasting.
Tasting room is around the corner on the left
Robert Biale makes some outstanding red wines and some of the
best Zinfandels ever. If you love red
wine or Zins in particular, you will certainly want to visit. The tasting fee is $20 but each tasting fee
may be applied to a purchase. If you are unable to visit the winery but
would like to taste a marvelous Zinfandel, we both strongly recommend you
consider purchasing the Robert Biale 2009 Monte Rosso at $50. I’ll update this review as we try more Robert
Biale wines, something we are definitely planning to do.