Tom's blog

Abacus: ZD's wonderful invention


For my 70th birthday, a friend brought over a 2006 Opus One. I decided to pair it with my lone bottle of ZD's Abacus, a wine that was given to me years ago by a mutual friend of ours. They were two outstanding wines -- the Opus was showing better but i always thought it was overrated. But the ZD was unique, albeit still evolving.

Abacus was an invention of ZD's winemakers who were enjoying aged cabernet sauvignon one day and wondered what would happened if they added the young fruit of a current vintage. This solera style of winemaking that blends vintages is common to Champagne but rarely found outside of that region. The one exception I'm familiar with is Marietta's Old Vine that is mostly zinfandel bottled without regard to vintage.

The first release of Abacus was in 1999 and included cabernet sauvignon from the 1992 to 1998 vintages. They used about 15 percent of this inventory to make 200 cases -- I got one of the bottles of a three-bottle case that cost $1,500. The rest of the wine was saved for subsequent vintages. Each year they add some of the current vintage and on it goes. The wine is now in its 19th incarnation.

The wine is not cheap. Today you can find Abacus for about $700 a bottle. 

It was a beautifully textured wine with a remarkable echo of an aged wine and the exuberance of youthful fruit. I decanted it for an hour and it still seemed tight in the nose but broad on the palate with classic Napa Valley flavors. The fine tannins indicated that it was not fully mature.

What a wine.

Dave Phinney is now blending grapes across regions, so the conventions that once pervaded the wine industry are being destroyed.