Robert Biale Vineyards is a small winery based in Napa, California. While they are best known for their Zinfandel, they also produce Petite Sirahs, Petite and Syrah blends, and a number of reds using different varietals and blends.
The 2009 Black Chicken was 100% Zinfandel from the Oak Knoll District of Napa. The wine was aged in Burgundian oak (20% new, 80% old) for 14 months. The wine’s ABV was 15.8% (strap on your helmet!). There were 3050 cases of this vintage produced.
The name Black Chicken dates to the 1940s when Aldo Biale helped run the family’s farm in Napa. In addition to tending to the farm, Aldo used to make wine for himself, and a few of the farm’s customers. The phone line to the farm was a party line, a line shared by multiple customers. If your neighbor picked up the phone while you were speaking on it, they could hear your entire conversation. In order to keep his winemaking less public, Aldo created a code word for a bottle of his wine. It was “black chicken”. Aldo’s customers would call and order “a dozen eggs and one black chicken”.
I first tasted Black Chicken several years ago, when my neighbor opened a bottle (yes, I have wonderful neighbors. Thank you, neighbors!). I knew, immediately, it was one of the best wines I had ever tasted (it was one of those take that first sip and your eyes open wide, literally, moments).
Since that time, I have sampled many wines from Biale. This winery has become one of my favorites. They opt for quality over quantity.
I have written about
my obsession with a number of Biale wines here at the blog. Among the wines you can read about are Royal Punishers (Petite Sirah), Like Father Like Son (Petite Sirah/Syrah/Zin), Stagecoach (Zin), Zappatore (Zin/Syrah/Petite Sirah), and Old Crane Ranch (Zin).
Steve Hall, their winemaker, is a master with the Zinfandel variety.
The 2009 Black Chicken was a prime example of his work.