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.

Clementina Biale

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 Biale 2010 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 Biale  2009 Rocky Ridge Zinfandel from Rockpile AVA ($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.

4038 Big Ranch Rd
    Napa, CA 94581
    (707) 257-7555
    Date of visit: March 7, 2012 


  1. A very well-written post. I read and liked the post and have also bookmarked you. All the best for future endeavors
    IT Company India

    1. Thank you very much. I have been unable to reply until today. Are many California wines available in India? Cheers, TJ


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