Wirz Zinfandel 2018
As with his Riesling, Ryan sources this Zinfandel from the Wirz Vineyard in the foothills of the Gabilan Mountains (in fact, Riesling actually accounts for about 9% of this field blend). The vines were planted in 1902 — just as the first T-rex skeleton was being dug up in Montana. Today they only produce about a ton of fruit per acre (about a quarter of the output of younger vines), which concentrates the fruit, while adding clarity and consistency. The entire field blend goes into a single open-top redwood barrel to ferment (picture a jacuzzi that would suit Paul Bunyun), after which the wine spends 18 months in neutral oak.
Based in a barebones warehouse in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Ryan is one of a handful of young producers contributing to the region’s rebirth as a vibrant natural wine destination. And thanks to his work with Wirz Vineyard, Ryan has also become one of California wine’s leading eco-pioneers, specializing in soulful expressions of Riesling and Zinfandel. With its assortment of ancient, head-trained vines perched in the foothills of the Gabilan Mountains, Wirz Vineyard is a living piece of California history. But from an environmental standpoint, Wirz has been a symbol of sustainable farming for over 50 years, dry-farmed (sans irrigation) since the 1960s. In a state that’s battled drought and water shortages for decades, this approach is an example of radical conservation, showing that thoughtful stewardship of heritage vineyards will have a vital role to play in ensuring a greener wine future.