We remember being at a dinner celebrating the tasting results of the Mendocino County Wine Competition with most members of the Mendo wine community attending. We were seated next to John Parducci. John was one of the most generous and kind souls of the North Coast wine pioneers; he offered his help to every new winemaker and Navarro will always be grateful for the many times he helped save our skin. John was also opinionated and believed in speaking his mind, typically a few decibels louder than the ongoing conversation. The results of the Zinfandel judging were announced; Navarro's was rated best, winning a Gold Medal. John was at first enthusiastic and asked how we aged the wine; we told John ten months in French oak barrels. John absolutely hated oak flavors in wine and frequently let his opinion be known.
John and Margaret Parducci on Navarro's tasting room deck in 2003. John was the "father" of Mendocino Zinfandel. He hated oak flavors so he had coopers produce many large, beautiful redwood upright casks in which he aged Zinfandel and the other hearty red varietal wines he so loved. John always made wine his way. We miss him.
Jim Klein, Al Tollini and Nomor sizing up the Zinfandel crop. (As a puppy Nomor was very frisky, chewing everything; Al says he was always yelling &ldquol;no more” and the name stuck.) The fruit from Al's vineyard makes delicious, full-bodied wine which seems fitting when the vines have trunks bigger than a man's thigh.
Tonight was no exception and once he tasted the wine, in a voice so that everyone in the auditorium could hear, proclaimed “Darn oak. Ruins the wine.” So OK... “Darn oak” is a bit less emphatic than John's actual words. Rumor has it that John was laid to rest in a stainless steel casket which seems fitting given how much he hated oak. Yep, this vintage of Zin was also aged in French oak for ten months but the majority of barrels were seasoned; in our opinion (not John's) Zinfandel's blackberry fruit dominates and the oak adds spiciness, a little vanilla and a soft texture that is achieved with extended barrel aging. This wine is as bold as John with black licorice, pomegranate and olive overtones. Gold Medal winner.