In 1979, Joyce Black and Jerre Sears purchased a one-of-a-kind property at the top of Howell Mountain. In 1997, Joyce and Jerre began producing very small quantities of estate-bottled Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel for their new Black Sears label, a few hundred cases per vintage. For twelve years, winemaker Ted Lemon called the Black Sears winery home, producing both the Black Sears wines and his own Littorai Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. But in 2007 Ted fulfilled a lifelong dream and built his own winery in Sebastopol.
Soon thereafter, Joyce and Jerre learned that their friends and neighbors down Summit Lake Drive at Outpost needed some additional capacity. Winemaker Thomas Brown was taking on more projects, and Outpost’s facility was running out of room for them all. Moreover, Thomas needed open-top tanks so he could make Pinot and Chardonnay for his own Rivers Marie label. Thomas and cellar-master Andrew Jones now inhabit the Black Sears winery, where they craft wines for their own label, Rivers Marie, Schrader and others.
The 37 year old vines for the 2009 Zinfandel are on an east-facing plot at the absolute top of Howell Mountain. 15.6% ABV. The wine is cherry red in color. Lighter in color than I would have expected for a four year old Zinfandel. Red fruits and white pepper on the nose. Cherries, peppercorns, figs and bramble fruits on the palate. Rich and sweet but not jammy. Modest tannins. The wines from this vineyard have a track record of aging extremely well but I would be inclined to drink this over the next 2-4 years.
My rating: 93 points.
The fact that this bottle was shared with my brother and his wife on a warm Spring night in Phoenix made it all the more better!
The Black Sears Zinfandel is priced around $50 and is only available via the mailing list. The 2011 version will be released in the Spring of 2014.
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