Mixed Blacks


Mixed blacks, an old term that used to be the backbone of wines like Gallo’s Hearty Burgundy. It was a catch all phrase for varieties that did not command a premium like those that could be bottled under their own name. It also referred to a very old way of planting as farmers would plant many different varieties in their vineyards so they wouldn’t have all their grapes in one basket - if one variety had a bad year perhaps the others would do better. The ‘mixed blacks’ were the bottom of the totem pole and got bottom dollar for the farmer. Today that’s turned on its head as these old mixed planting vineyards have become a national treasure of old vines and interesting varieties.

Girard Winery has taken full advantage of one of these vineyards producing their 2006 Girard Mixed Blacks from a century old vineyard with a mixed planting of syrah, zinfandel, petite sirah, grenache, mourvedre, carignane and a few other varieties whose identity remain a mystery. All the varieties are co-fermented (always an interesting idea) and aged in a blend of French (85%) and American oak for eighteen months. What a wine this is! Loaded with explosive black fruit and layered with earthy touches of porcini and smoked meats, it fills the mouth without being heavy. Girard has avoided the ponderous, one dimensional character of so many “old vine” wines from these varieties. A crisp acid bite keeps this wine alive and it will remind Rhone lovers of a good Cornas or Crozes Hermitage, of course with an added dose of ripe California fruit. 

Too few of these great old vineyards survived the rush to plant more fashionable varieties. It’s great to see a winery give such an old treasure its due.

Posted via email from craigcamp’s posterous