Howell Mountain Vineyards

2005 Bear and Lion Old Vine Zinfandel

Zinfandel •Beatty Ranch & Black Sears Vineyards

California: Napa Valley: Howell Mountain

Offer Expired:Apr 15, 2009 at 11:59 pm
Avg. Price

What We Say


It may sound odd for us to wish you a Happy Tax Day, but today’s wine gives us reason to celebrate! This exceptional wine is offered to you at a price that helps take some of the bite out of this years tax bill, by delivering a drinking experience that goes way above its price class


We always feature great wines, but today’s wine is a bold and fantastic Zinfandel. Grab some, Operative, before we run out


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Mission Codename: Wild Elegance

Operative: Agent Red

Objective: Investigate the reports that Howell Mountain Vineyards still has a small handful of cases of its 2005 Bear & Lion Old Vine Zinfandel. If reports are acurate, procure ALL remaining cases for our Operatives

Mission Status: Accomplished!

Current Winery: Howell Mountain Vineyards

Wine Subject: 2005 Bear & Lion Old Vine Zinfandel

Winemaker: Dave Phinney

Winery Backgrounder: Its been nearly a year since we featured a wine from our friends at Howell Mountain Vineyards. Wine Spies Operatives love their wines, but winery supplies have been low. When we learned that the Bear & Lion Old Vine Zin was in short supply, we dispatched Agent Red back to raid their library. He procured a small number of cases for today’s sale. Read Agent Red’s tasting impressions and mission report below

Varietal Backgrounder: Zinfandel is related to the Italian Primitivo grape, tracing its origin to the Croatian grape Crljenak Kastelanski_. Zinfandel is one of the most versatile varietals with the ability to make wines, both rich to fruity, dark to light, and dry to sweet. Dry Creek Valley Zinfandels, which are characterized by their big, extracted flavors, are gaining in popularity with our Operatives

Wine Spies Tasting Profile:

Look – Dark ruby with a garnet heart and rich color concentration all the way to its glistening Burgundy-colored edges. Super tightly-packed and chubby legs that take a long time to emerge before they move slowly down the inside of the glass

Smell – Profoundly concentrated with deep aromas of ripe blackberry, dark cherry and overripe raspberry, with spice, earth, unsalted butter and a hint of smoked meat

Feel – Smooth and round at the front-palate, this wine evolves in the mouth, becoming more full-bodied and slightly dry at the mid-palate as soft tannins appear

Taste – Delicious and jammy with plenty of concentrated cherry, blackberry, plum and chocolate with oak, soft mixed spice with black pepper

Finish – A bright and lengthy finish with flavors that start dark but then go bright and sweet, eventually tailing off slightly dry

Conclusion – A killer Zinfandel, with deep aromatics and even deeper flavors. This big but refined Zinfandel comes from the oldest Zinfandel vines on Howell Mountain. At the northern end of the Napa Valley, Howell Mountain fruit is regarded as some of the finest in the valley, producing wines of deep concentration and elegant dexterity. Today’s wine delivers a big-dollar experience at a surprising price. With a QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) this good, please be sure to pick up enough to last you. This wine is ready to drink now, but we can’t wait to see how it also evolves over the next few years. If you are looking for a great Zin that is a great food companion as well, you found it. This wine possesses enough elegance to keep it from overpowering most foods. Does it have enough character and complexity to make it a great solo-drinker? You bet!

Mission Report:

For today’s wine, we returned to our friends at Howell Mountain Vineyards. Wine Spies H.Q. learned that their 2005 Bear and Lion Old Vine Zinfandel was still available – but running low – and so I was dispatched to procure an allotment for today’s offering. The last time I had tasted the wine, I was blown away by the power, flavors and distinctiveness of the wine, relative to its low price. This is a fabulous QPR wine that out classes other wines at higher price points. These factors combine to make this wine the perfect Tax Relief choice!

I had the good fortune to visit with Howell Mountain Vineyards recently. We tasted through their wines and I was blown away by each one that we tasted. Fruit from the Howell Mountain is almost always among the finest available, delivering deeply extracted, concentrated and delicious wines. Today’s wine, from the oldest vine on Howell Mountain, are no exception.

After our tasting, I was given a special sneak peek at the architectural plans for the new winery. I was also taken on a walking tour of the property and the existing facility. Located across from Cakebread Winery and neighboring some of Napa Valley’s most revered wineries, the new Howell Mountain Vineyards winery will be situated among some impressive company. Or, shall I say that the areas wineries are about to be joined by impressive company when Howell Mountain Vineyards winery opens its doors!

Much love to Howell Mountain Vineyards, for allowing us special access to today’s fantastic budget-busting, Operative-pleasing, juicy-delicious Old Vine Zinfandel. We love your wine!

What the Winery Says

About This Wine:

This year Howell Mountain Vineyards, in response to consumer demand, sought out mature Zinfandel vineyards in Napa Valley to blend with its Beatty Ranch and Black Sears Vineyard fruit. Renamed Bear & Lion, after the black bear and mountain lion that appear on the label (and sometimes in the vineyards), this Old Vine bottling combines the best characteristics of mountain fruit and grapes from lowland terraces.

The 2005 vintage began with rain, then unusually hot weather in March kicked off the growing season. More rain in May kept the vines healthy and vigorous, delayed bloom and fruit set, and contributed to a large crop. The summer was mild, and by September, foggy mornings led growers and winemakers to squirm about ripening. But several days of temperatures over 90 ̊ at the end of the month got the harvest off and running.

The wine itself is a brilliant medium ruby. Ripe, meaty and dark, it is the most intense Old Vine in years. Scents of cherry, spiced plum and clarified butter are supported by a deeper core of jammy fruit. On the palate, the wine is rich and concentrated, with chocolate and chestnut flavors and a long, smooth textured finish. It’s wonderful now, but will continue to gain complexity in the bottle.

About The Winery:

Howell Mountain Vineyards was acquired in 2005 by Rutherford Bench LLC, which is owned by the Chow Family. The Howell Mountain Vineyards brand was originally established in 1988 to handcraft limited releases of Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon from the Beatty Ranch and Black Sears vineyards in Napa Valley’s renowned Howell Mountain region. From their elevations of over 1,800 feet, Howell Mountain grapes are known to produce exceptionally bold, full-bodied and rich wines.

Howell Mountain:

Howell Mountain is located northeast of St. Helena, above the Silverado Trail, with the Napa Valley to the west and Pope Valley to the east. With its high elevations, the mountain avoids the influence of fog that blankets the valley floor beneath, creating a climate that is cooler than most of Napa Valley during the day, but warmer at night. Because of this, Howell Mountain grapes have a character distinct from those grown on the Napa Valley floor, and have led to the region being recognized in 1983 as Napa Valley’s first sub-appellation.

The appellation encompasses around 14,000 acres, yet only 600 acres are planted due, in part, to the rugged nature of the region. The soils of this area are mostly well-drained tuff and volcanic rock. Water retention is poor, producing vines with low vigor and deep roots. These conditions are ideal for growing grapes that are small, tightly clustered and powerfully concentrated, for intense fruit flavors in the wines. In addition, the grapes develop thick skins that yield rich tannins. Tannins are important in the production of good red wines as they provide flavor, structure, and texture.

The Vineyards:

At an elevation of over 1800 feet, the Beatty Ranch has the oldest Zinfandel vines on Howell Mountain. Planted on 2m x 2m spacing with head trained vines, the vineyard is carefully cultivated using minimal chemicals and no irrigation and has produced top quality Zinfandel fruit for over 80 vintages. The Beatty Ranch consists of 18 acres of Zinfandel and 14 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Black Sears Vineyard, situated 2400 feet above the Napa Valley, is one of the highest vineyards in Napa County. Its vines were planted with budwood from the Hayne Vineyard in St. Helena, and are also head trained and dry farmed. The Black Sears Vineyard uses only organic cultivation practices, and its low-yielding vines create fruit that is fully mature and ripe. The Black Sears Vineyard has 20 acres of Zinfandel.

Technical Analysis:

Acidity: 0.61

Alcohol: 15.5%

Appellation: Howell Mountain

Special Designation: Black Sears Vineyard , Beatty Ranch Vineyard, Select Napa Valley Vineyards

Year: 2005

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