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Perfecting the old California classics, Robert Biale Vineyards has become a revered standard of heritage Vineyard Zinfandel and Petite Sirah in Napa Valley. Napa natives, school chums, and winery Founders, Bob Biale and Dave Pramuk, cherish the tradition of historic old vines (some dating to the 1880s!) and prize the small quantity of concentrated and intense fruit that they produce. Diligent farming, expressive terroir, and superb elegance are the winery’s hallmarks. Among the winery’s portfolio of 20 wines that are crafted by winemaker Tres Goetting, Black Chicken Zinfandel is the flagship–and has become a benchmark for the varietal.
It all started in the 1940s when 14-year-old Aldo Biale helped his mother to make ends meet by selling to insider Napans–along with eggs and produce–some of the family’s homemade Zinfandel. Over the old “party line” phone system, the code words “a Black Chicken” signified a jug of bootleg wine…and kept nosy neighbors and the authorities from finding out about Aldo’s underground Zinfandel operation! 50 years later, Aldo’s son, Bob Biale continues the family legacy by making the fully legal “Black Chicken Zinfandel.” The Robert Biale Vineyards winery is just a stone’s throw from the original vineyard and farm located in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley.
“This is a new age for Zinfandel. We know now that Zinfandel is an ancient grape whose origin was along the Adriatic coast and goes back centuries in Central Europe. Old vines and historic sites in California that have been overlooked and under-appreciated are enjoying new respect among wine students and wine lovers. We and our peer group of devout Zinfandel winemakers are taking this old California classic to new heights. We all know that Zinfandel, when treated expertly on proven historic sites, produces red wines that are loaded with character that hold their own among the world’s more famous European varieties. And let’s just say it: Zinfandel provides more smiles per bottle than any other red wine! Period.” – Dave Pramuk
Bob’s dad Aldo (1929-2009) was gifted with the good common sense–and sense of pride to maintain these head-trained, non-irrigated old vines that were planted in 1937 from which we source our most coveted Zinfandel at the Oak Knoll District ranch. Aldo resisted all the advice and suggestions to replant with trendy grapes such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. “My dad grew Zinfandel and I’m sticking with Zinfandel,” Aldo was known to say.
The Oak Knoll District’s ideal soils, seasons, and conditions allows for farming Zinfandel using old world techniques. The first Zinfandel vines in Napa Valley were planted in what is now called the Oak Knoll District, which lies within the much cooler, breezier southern half of Napa Valley – nearby San Pablo Bay (the northern section of San Francisco Bay). The historic, head-trained vines that we specialize in require intensive vine by vine hand work to ensure a balanced crop, and uniformly ripened bunches. Annual soil amendments with cover crops of beans and grasses, and organic compost are used regularly each growing season to promote vine health and grape skin thickness.
Robert Biale Vineyards acts like a historical preservation society for Zinfandel and Petite Sirah vineyards in Sonoma and Napa. The winery sources from vineyards dating back to the 1880s and the original vines are still standing today!