Phoenix From The Ashes: The Legend Of Our 2008 Recluse Zinfandel
In June of 2000, not long after we bottled our 1998 Napa Valley Zinfandel – our third vintage, and the only wine we were making at that time – a fire broke out at the warehouse where we stored our case goods. We were among dozens of producers who lost precious inventory in that event, and for us the impact was particularly devastating not only because we had no other wine to release in its place, but because our fledgling brand had just begun gaining momentum.
Our post-fire inspection revealed that amidst the pallets of charred boxes, crushed bottles, and spilled wine, a number of interior cases of our 1998 zin remained physically intact. However, since there was no way to determine the condition of the wine inside every bottle without opening each one up, there was no point in attempting to salvage them. The entire vintage was written off as a loss, the insurance company agreed to have the intact bottles destroyed, eventually we received a settlement, and we went on to release our 1999 Napa zin ahead of schedule to bridge the revenue gap – thus triggering an accelerated release schedule for every subsequent vintage of our flagship wine.
Then a funny thing started happening. We began hearing from people claiming they'd had our 1998 zin. No you didn't, we would tell them. You're mistaken. But the urban legend persisted – despite the lack of concrete evidence on our end.
That all changed this summer when yet another report came our way, this time from one of our wine club members. "Had a bottle of your '98 zin..." he wrote in an email. "No you didn't," we wrote back. "Yes I did," he wrote back, with this photo attached:
Nobody move! Immediately we conducted an email investigation, and several months later, in early September, a miraculous bounty of six bottles of our 1998 Napa Valley Zinfandel – "gray market" survivors, complete with water damaged labels from the fire – was delivered to us at the winery.
The timing of this meaningful homecoming could not have been more serendipitous, for just three weeks later we would release to our Library members our 2008 Recluse Zinfandel, a wine we created as an homage to our lost 1998 vintage.
Ten vintages descended from our '98 zin, this wine represents the inaugural release from a quiet side project we have been developing over the last several years: a "reserve" line of zinfandels that receive extended cellaring under the watchful eye of resident zinmaster Dave Brown. Comprised of a special blend from small lots that were hand selected by the winegrower and held back from our 2008 Napa Valley zin, this sleeping giant introduces a new dimension to the Brown zin lineup. Taking its name from our 2007 Brown Recluse reserve cab sauv – itself a sleeper hit in our tasting room, where it is sold exclusively – offerings from our Recluse line may or may not appear from vintage to vintage, depending upon what Mother Nature affords us. But one thing we can promise: When these wines do show up, they will be extraordinary.
[11/07/11 – Update: We produced just 390 cases of this wine, and based on the response it has received from our Library members and in our tasting room, we don't anticipate it lasting through its originally slated Spring 2012 release date. It is now available online.]