The 40-acre Del Barba Vineyard in Oakley, east of San Francisco Bay, is almost completely surrounded by residential neighborhoods. This urban development has shrunk what was once a thriving wine region in California. However, some of the remaining vineyards in this area are true gems, sought-after by some of the best zinfandel producers in the business. We met the Del Barba family in 2016 when looking to source some old vine fruit from this region. Not only did we find an incredible vineyard, we found a family who had been farming it since the early 1900s.
Today on this parcel fourth-generation farmer Tom Del Barba cultivates a small section of 130-year-old zinfandel. The unique characteristics of the head-trained vines are a product of the region. The sandy soil forces the vines to send roots all the way down to the water table, sometimes 20 feet below the surface. While temperatures in this region regularly break into triple-digits in the summer, cool evenings preserve the precious acidity in the fruit. Despite the heat, the vines get no irrigation; the vines get all the water they need on their own.
These conditions stress the zin, but in all the right ways. Yes, leaves turn yellow by September. Below the canopy, the yield is full of flavor and attitude. This profile carries over into the wine: fruit-forward with intense color, big and bold. Perhaps the best way to describe old-vine zinfandel from Del Barba Vineyard is “resilient.” Considering the encroaching sprawl, that word suits the Del Barba family nicely, too.
Del Barba Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel
VINEYARD Del Barba
APPELLATION Contra Costa County
HARVEST DATE September 5, 2016
BARREL AGING 25% new French oak for 17 months
T.A 5.8 g/L
BOTTLING DATE April 13, 2018
CASES PRODUCED 47 cases
EXPECTED RELEASE DATE May 2018
Flavors of blackberry pie, dried figs, and ripe plum layered with white pepper and toffee. Big, bold zinfandel fruit with layered nuances continue to evolve from beginning to end. A full mouth feel and viscous middle is balanced by the moderate acidity.
93 points - Tom Lee
“Tremendous Zinfandel from an unheralded vineyard. That should change.”