TN: 1983 Hacienda Del Rio Zinfandel Leno Martinelli Vineyard

Celebrating a special day with good friends and family. This wine is from the first commercial vintage of who are now Williams-Selyem with the iconic label. I had my fingers crossed when I opened this bottle. My track record with aged Zinfandel lately hasn’t been real good. Tom Hill had posted a note on this a couple years ago so I asked him his impressions. He said to drink it soon as it was not getting any better. Fast forward - I was chatting with Denise Mary Selyem the other day about this bottle and she said it was her Dad’s favorite wine. Hopes raised! Was able to snag 2 of these at auction and am so glad I did. Looking back now the tariff I ended up paying was well worth it. I was drinking history as much as a bottle of wine.

Cork slid right out, color was great, nose was still fruity, as was the palate. Really fresh for its age with exceptional balance, softness, polish and elegance. Easily can go another 5-10 based on what it showed. Probably won’t happen in my mitts. Best aged Zinfandel I have ever had by a long shot.

Posted from CellarTracker

WOw - so impressed to see a bottle of this. I’ve never had a ‘Hacienda del Rio’, but wish W-S sould have kept using the name. I had to be content with the only bottle of WS zinfandel they allocated me from 1991 or so, which was very good years ago.

Great note. I will check the history of the name change. So happy your event and wines were all worth your great job on the yard. Enjoy the fruits of your labor, Brian!

They were sued by Hacienda Cellars (now defunct) who didn’t want people to get them confused. I bet now they wish they never said anything!

Brian, nice story and tasting note. I remember hearing about this new winery called Hacienda del Rio (sometime in 1984 or '85), with a supposedly terrific pinot noir. Picked up a couple of bottles, and wow! It was so lovely and elegant, very pure. It was truly superb. Not sure I ever had the zinfandel, but I might have. My experience with aged zinfandel seems to mirror yours; glad you had better – much better! – luck with this one.

I believe the name change came about because Hacienda winery threatened a lawsuit. But maybe Nancy will dig up more details.

edit: I see you already answered the name change issue.

A little back history as mentioned by Brian above and on Facebook:

Sounds great Brian! I wonder if this is the Martinelli Road vineyard?

Jackass Hill

Even better. “You’d have to be a Jackass to farm that 60 degree slope!” Wow!

A previous post from Mr Tom Hill, IIRC, included a tasting note of a Hacienda del Rio Martinelli Jack Ass Hill Zinfandel…

Oops, someone beat me to the punch

That’s awesome man.

Very cool, Brian - that bottle is definitely a piece of history!

They were not sued. They got a cease and desist letter, a precurser to a lawsuit. Their first ever gold medal came from the San Diego National Wine Competition back in the days when Dan Berger and I were running it.

I had an '81 Zin from them not long ago. Still drinking beautifully. Here’s a semi blurry shot of the old label.


Good to see this is holding together. Leno started farming JAH when he was 12 after his father, Giuseppe, died and farmed it continuously for the next 75 + years, before Lee, Sr. took over.


Cheers to you and the find.