The Tale of Morét-Brealynn Zinfandel

A Tale of Tragedy and Triumph (Where is Gerard Depardieu?)

The tale of the Morét Brealynn Zinfandel begins on a non-descript neighborhood street in Windsor, CA called Jensen Lane. Jensen Lane is populated with house after house, until you arrive at the eastern end of the street where homes come to an end and a beautiful old-vine vineyard appears out of nowhere.

I used this vineyard for the last few vintages of Novy Russian River Valley Zinfandel, but once that label went away, the vineyard left my mind. Fast forward a few years, when I met Morét and, you guessed it, she was renting one of those non-descript homes on Jensen Lane. Sometimes, she’d walk her dog, Stout, down past that vineyard.

I moved in with Morét into that house on Jensen Lane, and we’d occasionally walk Stout past that old vineyard. I’d tell her that I thought it a ton of promise, but that nobody was doing anything special with the grapes. Simultaneously, we were discussing our need to have a wine other than Pinot Noir. When we host winemaker dinners, we are often asked for something other than Pinot to end the festivities. One day Morét put two and two together, and suggested she make some of that old-vine Zinfandel. We reached out to the company that manages the vineyard and there were grapes available. So, we walked the vines, and Morét selected her own, 1.05 acre section. We’d pay extra for the fruit – buying it by the acre – to make certain the quality was as high as possible. It seemed perfect. We planned to walk Stout there, checking on our grapes on an almost daily basis.

Shortly after signing that grape contact, we received a letter in the mail. It was from our landlord. He was going to sell the house, and we needed to move out. Quickly. Thanks to Morét’s hard work we found a fantastic new home, but it was on the other side of town. Moving was, as always, a pain – but it all worked out. However, the one thing that was lost was our daily walks through the vines. Still, it wasn’t that far and Morét went there weekly to check it out.

She worked those vines hard. She watched the weather and made certain that the vines were watered (she had purposefully picked a section with irrigation – unusual for old vines but something she felt was important give our drought conditions), she removed second crop, thinned overly vigorous shoots, and removed fruit where necessary. The vines were looking great, and the fruit was starting to taste fantastic.

And then came Labor Day weekend. It got hot, extremely hot…for multiple days. It was over 110 degrees for several of them. And, despite Morét’s additional irrigation, the fruit suffered. Once the heat broke, Morét went back to her vines. I dropped her off there. She was going to work removing any fruit that was damaged. An hour’s worth of work turned into two, and then four. After six hours, she called me. She was done, she said. I asked how it went. She said, “it looks like a morgue out here.” When I arrived, I saw what she meant. She had dropped at least one-third of the fruit on the ground.

The fruit that remained was super. She had it picked and made the wine. The quantity was small. You don’t make much money when you only get five barrels out of an acre. But the wine turned out superb. Somehow, from such a vintage, Morét made a Zin that is full of fruit, and remarkably elegant. It is truly a beautiful wine – and one that I think will improve with time in the bottle.

She did it! A happy ending! It isn’t a Gerard Depardieu movie after all. Or is it?

In January of 2023, we went out to the vineyard to see how it was doing with the welcome winter rains. It was gone. All the vines had been uprooted. Morét called the vineyard manager. He said he meant to give her a call but just hadn’t had time yet. The only section that truly ripened in 2022 had been Morét’s section. The rest of the fruit had withered away from the Labor Day heat. He recognized that the success of her wine was because of the work she had done there. The owners simply weren’t willing to put in that amount of money and labor for an uncertain outcome.

And that’s the story of Morét’s first, and perhaps last, Zinfandel. Time will tell if there’s another. But for the moment, the 2022 Morét-Brealynn Zinfandel will stand as a testament to wild swings that life in the vineyards takes us and also to the rewards – small sometimes – of hard work.

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