If you’re exploring Sonoma County and hunting down the best of Zinfandel be sure to head out toward the breezy northeast corner of the Russian River Valley AVA near Healdsburg which Limerick Lane grower/proprietor Jake Bilbro describes as the “banana belt” of the prestigious cool-climate region. To Zinfandel people this rural neighborhood is a little slice of Zinfandel heaven.
A little sunnier and not quite so affected by the marine layer, this Zin-zone is a little more elevated and hilly than the Russian River in general. Ancient vines from the turn of the 20th Century thrive on the soils here and Bilbro allocates small amounts of the estate Zinfandel grapes to fellow Zin-makers who treasure grapes from this district and old vines such as these. The Bilbros, who are from one of Sonoma’s oldest and most respected farming families, also work to perpetuate Zinfandel with plantings of new, old clone vines from the estate vineyards. Here, a winemaker with a deft touch and impressive resumé, Chris Pittinger, is at the top of his game.
The tasting room adjacent to the vineyard is quaint and modest by comparison due to the winery’s smaller scale and limited production. Here you can taste through a selection of Limerick Lane wines in a quiet, intimate, relaxed, and agricultural setting. Take what you can get, but ask in particular about the availability of the Limerick Lane Estate, Banfield, Katz Vineyard or Marquis – all excellent examples of Russian River Zinfandel.