21112 River Road
Geyserville, Calif. 95441
Hours: 10-4:30 p.m Daily
Tasting Fees: $15 (For the 1897 Tasting)
Wines Offered: 2015 Alexander Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 2014 Cappella, 2012 Zinfandel and 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
Reservations: Required for winery tour
($50/90-minute tour/6 wines)
Did You Know? Giuseppe Mazzoni and Abramo Trusendi, produced jug wine during Prohibition inside the iconic weathered barn with white lettering advertising, “Dr. Pierce’s Medical Discovery,” located in Asti. Later, Giuseppe acquired the property. His sons, Fred and Jim, carried on the tradition, producing wine there through the ’70s, selling each jug for $2.50. There is still one jug of wine remaining, which is on display in the tasting room.
Located in the heart of Alexander Valley in Geyserville, Zialena Winery is nestled in a field surrounded by vineyards and sweeping views of the Mayacamas. The winery opened its new tasting room in February and offers a study in contrasts. The tasting room features modern cabinetry, wood floors and smells of new construction, but Zialena is a fourth generation winery, rich in history and tradition. “We’re new, but old,” says Lisa Mazzoni, general manager. “And we’re not short on history.”
The Mazzoni family got into the winemaking business by chance when Giuseppe Mazzoni, a marble miner, immigrated from Massa Carrara, Italy, with his 14-year-old brother-in-law, Abramo Trusendi. When they arrived in San Francisco, they walked the railroad tracks to Asti, where they went to work at the Italian Swiss Colony vineyard cooperative. In 1899, the two acquired the acreage, overlooking Alexander Valley from the West. By 1910, they built a winery and began winemaking.
In 1931, Jim Mazzoni, Giuseppe’s youngest son, purchased the 120-acre ranch on River Road and built a home on the property with his new bride, Dagmar. “Dagmar was Danish, and at the time it was scandalous to marry a non-Italian,” says Lisa, flashing a smile. Despite the scandal, Jim and Dagmar were married for more than 60 years and the family line continued. The winery closed during the ’70s, but Giuseppe’s grandson, Mike, expanded the grape growing business, which he still operates under Mazzoni Vineyards. Mike’s two children, Lisa and Mark, are the proprietors of the winery.
Today, the brother-sister team, carry on the family tradition of winemaking under their label Zialena (pronounced Zee-ah-Leena), which means Aunt Lena. “Zialena was Guisseppe’s daughter and our beloved great aunt,” says Lisa. “She took care of everyone.”
Zialena Winery specializes in estate grown Zinfandel and Cabernet, but also offers a wide selection of hand-crafted wines including Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Mark is the winemaker and his approach is to keep his wines authentic in the family tradition. “The goal is estate-only winemaking,” he says. “It allows me to be a non-interventionist. Fermentation is a natural process, and our grapes only touch three natural elements—concrete, oak and the cork.”
We begin with the 2015 Alexander Valley Sauvignon, which is crisp and refreshing, capturing grassy notes and ripe white peach. “This is a textured wine,” says Mike. “There’s a fad in acid-driven wines—meant to be bracing and bright—but we’re not following the fad.” Aged in oak, this has a creamy lushness. When it comes to winemaking, says Mark, texture and mouth-feel are key. “I make decisions based on texture, so wine is an experience.”
Next we try the 2014 Cappella, which means “of the chapel.” Giuseppe was a member of the church in Asti, and produced the sacramental wine. The Cappella is neat and smooth, made in the Mazzoni tradition of field blend wines. “This is a true field blend, meaning every vine in the vineyard is a different varietal,” he says. “It’s Old World-style,” adds Lisa, “before wine chemistry.”
At Zialena, the wine of the moment is the 2012 Zinfandel, made from a varietal Giuseppe planted in the early 1900s. At the end of the century, a vineyard manager stumbled across it and was interested in its origins. Mike got a cutting from the original ranch (Dr. Pierce’s property) and took it to the University of California, Davis, to have it examined, but it couldn’t be identified. “The vine had been evolving and cloning for 90 years,” says Mike. This varietal is now registered through UC Davis as a heritage pre-Prohibition Zinfandel, but its origins remains a mystery. “Giuseppe never said where it came from,” says Lisa. “It’s now known as the ‘Mazzoni clone.’”
In any case, this is a wine you don’t want to miss. The 2012 Zinfandel offers an elegant and luscious berry flavor with notes of blueberry and blackberry with a hint of spice. “Mark makes his Zins to age,” says Lisa. “He keeps them in the barrel 14 to 18 months, which is longer than most wineries, waiting for them to show their full potential.”
Last, we try the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. “This is from Grandpa’s block, and we believe it’s the best Cabernet grape on the property,” she says. A rich vintage, the Cabernet is aged in French oak for 22 months and offers a smooth finish. This Cabernet is rich, earthy and velvety smooth.
The Mazzoni family has been in the business of winemaking for nearly 120 years. As children, Lisa and Mark walked the vineyard with their father and grandfather. Their dream was to build a modern facility and continue to make wine in the Mazzoni tradition, producing 100 percent estate-grown wines. “We have a house style and stay with it,” says Mark. “A glass of wine should be about the grapes, and we want you to enjoy the first glass to the last.”
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