The Uber-Green Sobon Estate Winery
Sobon Estate is one of the most reliable Zin producers in the state, and they don’t charge an arm and a leg for their good work. The mothership is Shenandoah Vineyards which Leon and Shirley Sobon founded in 1977. In 1989 the Sobon’s purchased the d’Agostini winery, and this time self-titled it Sobon Estate. The d’Agostini property came with 113 acres of vines, many of them very old. The best lots come from three sites: Cougar Hill, Rocky Top and Lubenko vineyard blocks. The Sobon’s converted to organic farming in 2002. And unlike others who claim to bring their wines up to “only a minimal” 35 ppm of SO2, can learn something from Sobon Estate winemaker Paul Sobon who only allows 15 to 20 ppm of free sulfur at bottling. Paul learned his craft at the Chablis leading producer William Fevre, and the legendary Australian Balgownie in the Yarra Valley – in addition to his time at UC Davis earning his enology degree.
“…the finish is really fascinating and pulls this wine a long way back in my estimation. “
Tasting Notes: 2012 Sobon Estate Zinfandel “Old Vines” Amador County
Day One: The wine’s muted nose of cooked-fruit, anise and a disjointed element that came off as slightly metallic didn’t show off the good-stuff that came later. I guess I should say right off : this is not a great wine. But that isn’t to say it is not worthy. Other than the nose, the wines greatest flaw is that it has an enormous hole right in the middle. While the wine has fruit, it really doesn’t have that core concentration of fruit it needs to cover the gap between the wines front end and the backend with its potent 14.5% alcohol. I know that’s a lot of negatives, but the finish is really fascinating and pulls this wine a long way back in my estimation. It suddenly surprises, with chalky minerality, briar-like stemminess that is wonderfully peppery. Add to that, it has slightly drying and spicy tannins give it a serious pause, making the back-end of this wine the star here. It’s lingering strawberry, black cherry fruit rounds out the finish. Great wine or not, at 10.99, this is a terrific value packed with unexpected nuance. Wines with this much ying and yang of rough and sublime are only mis-served by scoring them, so I will not.
Day Two: The mid-palate has filled out substantially, and I have found this wine responds well to a cool cellar temperature which makes the fruit pop. The downside is this buries the spicy finish which had shown so brilliantly yesterday. But at least now, with a bit of a chill, the alcohol doesn’t feel so warm and the palate is more complete with no hole in the middle.
Definitely, check our the Cougar Hill and Rock Top bottlings from this winery which are a big step up in quality from this basic bottling, yet can still be found under $15. The Rocky Top tends to be a bit dryer in fruit, while the Cougar Hill tends to be a bit more sweetly fruited, depending on the vintage. These are always two of the most solid, (and frugal) buys you are going to find in Zinfandel.