#33 – 2011 Joseph Swan ‘Mancini Ranch’ Zinfandel – Russian River, California

Estimated retail: $30

Certain books just have to be read if you want to truly understand literature, or civilization for that matter. It’s the same thing with wine. If you truly want to understand the wines of the Sonoma Valley, you need to experience the wines of Joseph Swan Vineyard. Started in 1967, Joseph Swan helped pioneer the age of Pinot Noir, in addition to making outstanding Chardonnay, Syrah, and Zinfandel. He was joined in this enterprise a decade later by son-in-law Rod Berglund. A gifted, thoughtful young winemaker, Rod would prove to be the perfect person to carry on Joe’s legacy.

My first interaction with Rod and Lynn (Joe’s daughter) was at the Russian River Pinot Forum in 2003. Young, earnest, and very wet behind the ears, they generously hosted me as if I was a well established professional. We had a particularly memorable dinner at the Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant. This beautiful, tiny restaurant was filled that night with legendary winemakers and wine professionals. Rod broke out Pinots from the late ’80s and early ’90s—old Semillon and a 1976 Zinfandel. When the Zin hit the table I couldn’t help but exclaim, “Cool my birth year!” It felt like the whole restaurant went silent and was staring at me. (It’s never a great idea to remind a room of icons that you are still a young kid.) My exuberance aside, it was a thrilling experience I’ve never forgotten.

The 2011 Mancini Ranch shows all of what I love about Swan Vineyards and Rod’s winemaking. A cool, challenging vintage, it was disastrous for many producers, but Rod’s skill and understanding of how to showcase terroir made a fantastic wine. Texturally superb, it has a beautiful grip to the fruit tannins and bright acid, mixed with lively berry, pomegranate, cool herb, and fragrant spice. As good as this wine is now, it should only improve over the next decade. ∞

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