Saxon Brown is dedicated to gentle, hands-on winemaking and is one of the few wine producers in California to keep the tradition of field blending alive. Owner/winemaker Jeff Gaffner draws from his family’s century-old Casa Santinamaria Vineyard in Sonoma for his old vine, field blended Zinfandel and Semillon. His Pinot Noir, sourced from Parmalee Hill and Durell‘Hayfield’ vineyards, shows the gorgeous potential of the grape. Meticulous vineyard work followed by gentle vinification and extended barrel and bottle aging are the hallmarks of Saxon Brown wines, which are made to be both elegant and ageworthy.
Planted in the heart of Sonoma Valley during the late 1800’s, Casa Santinamaria is one of California’s few remaining ‘field blended” vineyards. Unlike the single varietal vineyards of today, field blended vineyards – a traditional European practice brought to California by Italian immigrants – are interplanted with a several complementary varietals intended for the final blend. Our Casa Santinamaria Vineyard is planted to a classic field blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignane, Alicante Bouschet and Mataro; all of which play a role in the complexity and structure of the final wine. Due to the age of the vines and the fact that are dry farmed, the yields are well below average for Zinfandel, the clusters are very small and the fruit is very concentrated. In 2003 we were able to harvest only 0.4 tons/acre.
Winemaking: As with the vineyard, our winemaking style is deeply rooted in traditions of Italian field blending. The intent of the field blend is to make the Zinfandel more complex and ageworthy by blending with select varietals for structure, most notably Petite Sirah for backbone.
In 2003 our Casa Santinamaria Zinfandel was harvested at 25.8 brix into small bins during the cool of the early morning. The grapes were de-stemmed into an open-top fermenter (95% whole berry), “cold-soaked” for 36 hours, and inoculated with a low rate of yeast to allow the “wild yeast” to have an effect before the cultured yeast takes over. After fermentation the wine was racked to new and one year old French barrels and aged in barrel for 23 months and in bottle for an additional 12. Our extended aging protocol – long by most Zinfandel standards – is in keeping with the traditional barrel aging given fine Bordeaux and Cabernet wines. Our Casa Santinamaria Zinfandel is meant to show fine fruit and nuance in its youth and reward patience with more deeply complex flavors and structure over time. To experience the unusual aging potential of our Casa Santinamaria Zinfandel, cellar for 10 or more years.
Tasting Notes: Our 2003 Casa Santinamaria Zinfandel has an intense raspberry and dried cranberry signature that seems to run from year to year, along with black cherry/berry, dark chocolate and sweet elegant oak tones. On the mouth this wine has great structure and a mélange of dried raspberry, mocha and chocolate dust reminiscent of a decadent raspberry chocolate torte. This is a very rich and long wine. Production: 254 cases