Old vine Zinfandel grapes in northern California are known for producing some zinteresting wines. Their gnarled, forty-plus-year-old roots, dug deep into the land are full of delicious vineyard stories. One can almost hear their Harry Potter-esque ghost voices complain as they spend their final years photosynthesizing light and filling oak-staved barrels with sugary grape juice.
About a year ago, a couple of breweries were looking to make a sour beer and discovered an old vine Zinfandel vintner with freshly emptied barrels, wet and ready to accept the efforts of their northern-southern Californian collaboration.
“I wanted to make something with Mraz Brewing in El Dorado Hills (near Sacramento) that speaks to their terroir,” says Good Beer co-owner Brandon Fender, whispering as to not to wake his newborn baby nearby. “Fun fact,” he continued,” bungs from the barrels will explode out like fireworks while driving over the grapevine.” Turns out, air pressure in a barrel can act like a bag of chips at high elevations. Be sure to vent a barrel if you run into a similar situation, he warns. “I thought I was going to die.”
Old Vine pours a blushy burgundy red, head fizzing away faster than a warm diet coke. On the nose is a lush blend of earthy oak and fruit backed by notes of cranberry salad…the homemade kind with citrus. The flavor continues to grape you in the mouth with a lively carbonation and an approachable acidity. This isn’t your average enamel-stripper! Overall the beer is a nicely balanced wine-beer hybrid which comes alive with a fresh dose of oak to provide a bit of structure.
Old Vine is available in bottles and on tap at the Good Beer Company, 309 W 4th St., Santa Ana; thegoodbeerco.com.
Greg Nagel has been writing about beer since 2011, is an avid homebrewer of wine, cider, and beer, is a certified Cicerone Beer Server, a podcaster with the Four Brewers Show, and runs a yearly beer festival called Firkfest.