Best Wineries
Robert Biale Vineyards in Napa.

Robert Biale Vineyards in Napa

By Published On: May 15th, 2024

Honoring the Legacy of Old-Vine Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and More

Founded by third-generation grape grower Robert (Bob) Biale, Biale Vineyards has long been a proponent of old-vine Zinfandel and Petite Sirah, working with some of the oldest vineyard plantings in the Napa Valley and neighboring Sonoma County. 

Taking these plantings to new heights through fine winemaking aged in French oak, Biale is one of California’s standout producers of old-vine wines – what the producer considers living time capsules – and a torch bearer for history and heritage.

Team harvesting grapes at Robert Biale Vineyards.
Harvest time. Photo Courtesy: Robert Biale Vineyards.

“I feel a sense of gratitude and good fortune,” Biale says. “My grandparents landed in Napa Valley with the dream to own a parcel of land and to plant a vineyard during a time when Napa was removing vineyards for more profitable fruit crops. There are not too many opportunities in life that allow one to tangibly connect with past generations in a family.”

Robert (Bob) Biale in vineyard.
Robert (Bob) Biale. Photo Courtesy: Shelly Waldman.

Tastings

The Valley Vista Experience ($50) is where to begin, with appointments available from 10 am to 3 pm daily. A relaxed tasting held on the winery’s back patio, in full view of the vineyards, it consists of a guided and personalized overview of several wines.

Guests tasting wine on the patio at Robert Biale Vineyards.
Guests tasting wine on the patio. Photo Courtesy: Robert Biale Vineyards.

The Estate Experience ($75) is a seasonal guided experience that delves deep into farming practices and barrel samples before a communal seated tasting on the back patio. Available Friday through Monday at 10 am, August through October.

Robert Biale Vineyards winery exterior.
North side of winery. Photo Courtesy: Andrew Lincoln Photography.

Rural Setting

Quiet Robert Biale Vineyards sits in the heart of the Oak Knoll District surrounded by vineyards and a lush lawn, secluded from noise and heat of the sun. The expansive outdoor patio is where most tastings are held, a relaxed setting from which to enjoy its wide array of wines.

Several guests wine tasting on the patio of Robert Biale Vineyards with a a view of the hills.
Wine tasting on the patio. Photo Courtesy: Lynda Carol Photography.

Current Offerings

Winemaker David Natali works closely with founder Bob Biale, who oversees vineyard operations, to source the vineyards and make the wines, which have evolved slowly over the course of the winery’s history. 

Robert Biale Vineyards Zinfandel and Petite Sirah Wine bottles.
Zinfandel and Petite Sirah Wine. Photo Courtesy: Robert Biale Vineyards.

“We like to say that we ‘continue polishing the stone’ here,” Biale explains. “Without making large house-style shifts in the wines, we look for incremental opportunities to showcase the pureness of our wines. A very slow migration over 30-plus years to freshness and slightly lower levels of alcohol while maintaining richness is the pleasure balance we seek.”

Beyond its signature wine, Black Chicken Zinfandel, Biale specializes in Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Italian-inspired varieties, like Clementina Greco Bianco, named for Biale’s mother. A Rosato is also produced, made from Sangiovese grapes that are gently pressed and stainless-steel aged for maximum freshness and aromatic intensity.

But truly, Biale is among the finest California producers of Zinfandel, especially from old-vine sites, and should be explored for these wines first and foremost. Aldo’s Vineyard Zinfandel is named for Aldo Biale, who took over grape farming from his immigrant father Pietro in the 1930s. It was Aldo who helped save the family ranch in Napa.

Robert Biale Vineyards during mustard season.
Aldo’s Vineyard. Photo Courtesy: Robert Biale Vineyards.

Other Zins not to miss include Founding Farmers, sourced from two of the oldest vineyards in St. Helena, Old Kraft and Varozza; Beatty Ranch Zinfandel, from a 1,400-feet-elevation site on Howell Mountain; Grande Vineyard Zinfandel from Napa Valley vines planted in 1920; Falleri Vineyard and Palisades Vineyard from Calistoga; Valsecchi Vineyard from Carneros; R.W. Moore Vineyard from Coombsville; and the famous Stagecoach Vineyard on Atlas Peak.

Vineyard and hills at Robert Biale Vineyards in napa.
Palisades Vineyard. Photo Courtesy: Andrew Lincoln Photography.

In Sonoma County, Biale makes single-vineyard Zinfandels from Monte Rosso Vineyard, one of the area’s oldest and most significant vineyards, high atop Moon Mountain at 1,500-feet-elevation; Pagani Ranch, another old-vine site in Sonoma Valley; Bedrock Vineyard also in Sonoma Valley, which can trace its history back to the Civil War; and lovely Limerick Lane Vineyard in Russian River Valley.  

It also recently added the Dickerson Vineyard from Napa Valley to its portfolio, a single-vineyard designated Zinfandel first made famous by Ravenswood.

Newer releases include the Like Father Like Son Red Wine, an homage to both Pietro and Aldo Biale that blends Alicante Bouschet with Grenache, Syrah and Petite Sirah. Speaking of Petite Sirah don’t miss Royal Punishers, a Napa Valley powerhouse known for its dark color and intensity, while Gaudi Carli Vineyard Barbera comes from a tiny patch in Calistoga and is quite possibly the only old-vine Barbera in the region.

History

The Biale family first came to the Napa Valley in the 1920s, Pietro and Cristina Biale immigrating from Genoa, Italy to farm Zinfandel on Mount Veeder during Prohibition. Pietro was able to buy his own farm property and plant vines in 1937 just outside the town of Napa, but sadly passed away from a rock quarry explosion just five years later.

Robert Biale Vineyards historical photo of family.
Cristina and Aldo. (17yrs old) Photo Courtesy: Robert Biale Vineyards.

His widow carried on with the help of their 13-year-old son, Aldo, who continued to farm the Zinfandel vines on their property, which are today some of the oldest in the area, while also making and selling jugs of homemade wine to neighbors to keep the family going, in addition to walnuts, prunes and white leghorn chickens. The chickens played a supporting role when it came to selling wine.

Pietro and Aldo. Robert Biale Vineyards historical photo of family.
Pietro and Aldo. Photo Courtesy: Robert Biale Vineyards.
Chickens at Robert Biale Vineyards.
Vineyard chickens. Photo Courtesy: Kenny Kim Photography.

To keep his wine operation a secret, Aldo called his jugs of wine Gallina Nera, or Black Chicken. That way, when someone would call to inquire about buying the wine, they could just say “Black Chicken,” and no one would know they were buying wine. The Black Chicken Zinfandel remains one of Biale’s most popular bottlings.

Robert Biale Vineyards Black Chicken Zinfandel on a picnic blanket.
Black Chicken Zinfandel. Photo Courtesy: Andrew Lincoln Photography.

Aldo’s son, Bob, became the third-generation to farm these grapevines, establishing Robert Biale Vineyards in 1991 with partners Dave Pramuk, Al Perry and his father. Before founding his namesake winery, Biale spent 10 years working for Beringer. At Biale he oversees vineyard operations and grower relations, in addition to being the owner and president.

David Natali worked his way up from working in the cellar to becoming the associate winemaker in 2018, assuming the head winemaking role for Biale in 2022.

Biale’s hope is for Robert Biale Vineyards to continue into the future as a family brand.

“With any multigenerational business, there’s no guarantee there will be a next generation,” he admits. “However, I can happily say we have a succession plan in place and are grooming an excited fourth generation as we speak.”

Aldo’s final harvest at Robert Biale Vineyards.
Aldo’s final harvest 2009. Photo Courtesy: Robert Biale Vineyards.

Sustainability and Preserving Old Vines

Biale has long been an advocate for preserving heritage Zinfandel and Petite Sirah vines and is a leader in other sustainable practices. 

“While the pressure to preserve heritage varieties in California is high, Napa’s economics put that pressure near the top of regions,” Biale says. “The very successful varietal conversion in the 1970s and 80s sparked a dramatic increase in grape and land prices, yet the historical, cultural and viticultural value of heritage varieties is evident in the quality of wines they produce. The current worldwide swell of interest in heritage varieties from older vineyards continues to grow.”

Solar power and electric vehicle (EV) charging are both signals of their commitment to sustainability and innovation. The solar array on property powers the winery, while a Tesla powerwall stores enough power for the EV stations, the original winery house and two vineyard pumps; extra power goes back to the grid.

Solar panels at Robert Biale Vineyards.
Solar panels. Photo Courtesy: Robert Biale Vineyards.
Electric vehicle (EV) charging at Robert Biale Vineyards.
Electric vehicle (EV) charging. Photo Courtesy: Robert Biale Vineyards.

Robert Biale Vineyards is truly a gem among the many wineries in California. Not only does it offer world-class Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Italian-varietal wines, but it also honors and preserves many of California’s oldest vines. 

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