Tag Archives: Total Wine & More

The Calling – Wine Spectator Grand Tour

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The CallingThis last week I had the pleasure of working the Wine Spectator Grand Tour during its Miami Florida stop. One of three nationwide events including the cities of Las Vegas and Chicago.

From Wine Spectator

An evening of exceptional wines from the world’s best wine-growing regions in three exciting locations. All wines are rated 90 points or higher by Wine Spectator’s editors. Meet the winemakers, enjoy a delicious selection of food and take home a souvenir Riedel wine glass. 

WS_Event

This years Wine Spectator Grand Tour was held at the world-famous and historically significant Fontainbleau Hotel located on Miami Beach. The lobby and its bar alone are worthy of a visit, not to mention the beautiful grounds, pools, spa, restaurants and of course its beautiful beach.

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With over 200 wines to sample and explore (wine-list), many with wine-makers and/or winery owners present, this event was a wine-lovers paradise. My assignment for the evening was to represent the California winery The Calling and serve their highly rated, Wine Spectator 91 point, 2015 Russian River Dutton Ranch Chardonnay.

The story of The Calling

It was serendipity that brought Emmy Award winning sports commentator Jim Nantz and wine industry entrepreneur Peter Deutsch together at a restaurant in Greenwich, Connecticut where they were each having dinner with friends. Peter had recently read Jim’s book about his father, Always By My Side, and it resonated with him, reminding him of his own relationship with his father. Peter introduced himself that evening.

Jim was at the restaurant having dinner with a friend who had contacts in the wine industry and was working on an idea that had been in development for years. Jim had long held a passion for wine and was exploring how to take the next step in becoming involved in the wine business when Peter stopped by the table. As fate would have it, that chance meeting would spawn a friendship and partnership, the Deutsch Nantz Alliance (DNA).

Theirs has been a hands-on collaboration. Jim and Peter traveled together to California and worked closely with renowned winemakers Dan Goldfield, Wayne Donaldson, and James MacPhail on every step of the wine-making process, from vineyard to bottle. They also poured themselves into the packaging process, working to capture the essence of the brand in the label design. For Jim and Peter, The Calling is about pursuing a passion, inspiring others, and making a great wine.

JamesMacPhailHaving the opportunity to work with affable wine-maker James MacPhail throughout the night and being able to ask questions about the process, vintage, etc was like icing on the cake for this wine geek.  His shared knowledge along with the quality of The Calling Chardonnay made our evening very successful and fun for all. Throughout the night we were surrounded by nothing but praise from the attendees. With many asking where to buy and return visits to our table to let us know The Calling was a favorite of the night.

Aged 11 months sur-lie in french oak, using approximately 35% new oak, with frequent batonage and malolactic fermentation done in the barrel. I found this beautifully rich and balanced Russian River Valley Dutton Ranch Chardonnay to be perfectly made to satisfy the gamut of Chardonnay drinkers. Tropical fruit notes, crisp acidity and its round richness on the palate were attributes and accolades we heard from guests throughout this special tasting event. And I have to admit I agree. With accolades from Wine Spectator; a 91 point score and a spot on their TOP 100 wine list for 2017, this wine deserves all the attention it gets.

To getting The Calling!   ¡SALUD!

The Calling Chardonnay is presently available on-line and at your local Total Wine and More store through their Winery Direct program. Price range: $32-$36.00.

St Patrick’s Day Pairings

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As March 17th 2015 approaches I am excited once again about the pairing challenge for cabbage, corned beef and the usual Saint Patrick’s day fare with wine. As you can see below Cóte du Rhône and Rose’ paired beautifully at our First Annual St. Patrick’s Day wine tasting a few years back.  There is something to be said about good note taking because the years since are a blur. What did we drink?

This year, although beer will of course also be served, I already have wine on my mind. I’m also thinking of a dinner twist; serving corned beef stuffed cabbage. Hopefully this will become a reality and not just a pending future idea like my corned beef empanadas. But you never know, if the luck of the Irish be with me and leftovers are plentiful I foresee both in my near future. Ah, I can dream…

Whole Foods Market NMIAWith the main dish checked off my list I can now concentrate on the important stuff, wine! As it slowly comes together my wine list, go figure, will start with cider. I have a delicious French, organic hard apple cider  that I think will be a welcome addition to the mix, specially in Miami’s already 85+ degree weather.  Next up a Rose’ Vihno Verde by Orlana from our Whole Foods Portugal Point of Origin  program running now. This light and fruity wine with notes of strawberries and raspberries will be the perfect transition from the drier cider.  Finally instead of a Grenache driven Cóte du Rhóne I am going to go with a 100% old vine Garnacha from the Calatayud region within Aragón, Spain. Evodia comes to mind. The low tannins yet spicy and fruity mix will add excitement to the celebration.

St. Patrick’s Day meal and drinks are planned.  What’s missing?  I should probably start inviting guests! Part of me wishes it were being held today with all the talk of wonderful foods and beverages. But at least we have something to look forward to. I better get shopping!  ¡SALUD!

Corned Beef wine or better yet what to serve with…./ Grenache, Rose, Beaujolais

Food pairing can always be exciting, traumatizing or best a learning experience. I chalked this one up to an exciting learning experience. Thank the powers that be for the internet and well-informed wine rep’s or salespeople.

My research prior to our recent 2012 St. Patrick’s Day supper led me to three varietals for our corned beef, cabbage and potatoes au gratin casserole: Grenache, Rose, Beaujolais.  Our choices were:

Domaine Fontanyl Rose de Provence, Les Halos de Jupiter (Cambie) Côtes-du-Rhône 2009 [Grenache], Debeaune Morgon Belles Grives, 2009 [Beaujolais].

All three wines were easily attained through local retailers and were either a “featured wine” or an “employee recommendation”.  More importantly all  were less than $15.00 each.  Unplanned was the fact that all 3 turned out to be French wines.

Our original plan was to pick one varietal and go with it. But once in the store and intrigued by how each would taste with our main entrée it was decided we would pick one of each and have our very own First Annual St. Patrick’s Day wine tasting! I’m not sure our recently visited family members in Ireland would approve but they seemed to be pretty understanding when it came to drinking any type of beverage.

Luckily for me and our party of 7 none of the wines was a bust. We had 2 standouts and one probably described as not robust enough to meld with all the different meal flavors involved.  Not being a big  “Rose” fan I was pleasantly surprised to see how well this dry Rose in particular paired with our meal. This easily could have been the winner of the evening with 6 out of 7 of the group favoring it but then came the mostly Grenache blend. This turned out to be the true hit of the night; robust, peppery with very nice fruit aromas on the nose such as strawberry. It was close but the 2009 Les Halos de Jupiter gets our Shamrock Trophy for 2012.

I am looking forward to the next challenge, SALUD!

Wine notes:

LES HALOS DE JUPITER 2009;

90 points Wine Spectator: “[$23 list] Sleek but concentrated, with delicious dark cherry confiture, Linzer torte and blackberry notes backed by a graphite- and black tea-filled finish. Sneakily long. Drink now through 2012. 2,000 cases made. (6/15/11)”

88-90 points Robert Parker: “An outrageous wine sourced from Visan, Cairanne and Rasteau is the 2009 Cotes du Rhone. Dominated by Grenache, it comes across like a mini-Chateauneuf du Pape. Its dark ruby/purple color is followed by boisterous kirsch, sandy, loamy soil, tobacco leaf, pepper and spice notes. Generously endowed, round, silky textured and explosively fruity, it is an enormously satisfying wine to drink over the next 3-4 years. (Oct 2010)”.

Domaine Fontanyl Rose de Provence   

Crisp, Berry, Strawberry, Cherry, Light-bodied

France- Lively and fragrant, this beautiful Rose from Provence shows alluring aromas of ripe berries and dark flowers. The flavors of ripe strawberry and wild cherry are presented in a sophisticated manner that preserves the character of the fruit, but in a dry, straightforward style.

Debeaune Morgon Belles Grives, 2009   

90 Wine Advocate:

Wine Advocate – Beaujolais, France – “On the nose aromas of strawberry and cherry preserve, Infectiously juicy and bright, it finishes invigoratingly and mouth watering with tart berry and salt, yet an undertone of meatiness also persists that is apt to become more prominent as the wine evolves.”

St. Patrick’s Day Wine

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Grenache Rosé wine.

With St. Patrick’s Day approaching I find myself feeling more PINK than GREEN. My manhood intact, sparkling and non-sparkling Rosés are calling to me big time.  March 17th falls this year on a Sunday, and I love my #SundaySupper,  so we have begun to plan our annual get together for friends and family. What could we do to stir things up: Corned Beef Empanadas?

As I review our options I recalled last years post; Corned Beef wine or better yet what to serve with…. and our very First Annual St. Patrick’s Day wine tasting! A lot of things have changed since then, my new career for one, but interestingly the Rosé wine came close to taking last years 2012 prize.  One year later Pink is on my mind once again…..

Below is last years Corned Beef wine pairing including the winner which won by just one vote.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day &  Sláinte!

Corned Beef wine or better yet what to serve with…./ Grenache, Rose, Beaujolais

Food pairing can always be exciting, traumatizing or best a learning experience. I chalked this one up to an exciting learning experience. Thank the powers that be for the internet and well-informed wine rep’s or salespeople.

My research prior to our recent 2012 St. Patrick’s Day supper led me to three varietals for our corned beef, cabbage and potatoes au gratin casserole: Grenache, Rose, Beaujolais.  Our choices were:

Domaine Fontanyl Rose de Provence, Les Halos de Jupiter (Cambie) Côtes-du-Rhône 2009 [Grenache], Debeaune Morgon Belles Grives, 2009 [Beaujolais].

All three wines were easily attained locally, either as a “featured wine” or an “employee recommendation”.  More importantly all  were less than $15.00 each.  Unplanned was the fact that all 3 turned out to be French wines.

Our original plan was to pick one varietal and go with it. But once in the store and intrigued by how each would taste with our main entrée it was decided we would pick one of each and have our very own First Annual St. Patrick’s Day wine tasting! I’m not sure our recently visited family members in Ireland would approve but they seemed to be pretty understanding when it came to drinking any type of beverage.

Luckily for me and our party of 7 none of the wines was a bust. We had 2 standouts and one probably described as not robust enough to meld with all the different meal flavors involved.  Not being a big  “Rose” fan I was pleasantly surprised to see how well this dry Rose in particular paired with our meal. This easily could have been the winner of the evening with 6 out of 7 of the group favoring it but then came the mostly Grenache blend. This turned out to be the true hit of the night; robust, peppery with very nice fruit aromas on the nose such as strawberry. It was close but the 2009 Les Halos de Jupiter gets our Shamrock Trophy for 2012.

I am looking forward to the next challenge, SALUD!

Wine notes:

LES HALOS DE JUPITER 2009;

90 points Wine Spectator: “[$23 list] Sleek but concentrated, with delicious dark cherry confiture, Linzer torte and blackberry notes backed by a graphite- and black tea-filled finish. Sneakily long. Drink now through 2012. 2,000 cases made. (6/15/11)”

88-90 points Robert Parker: “An outrageous wine sourced from Visan, Cairanne and Rasteau is the 2009 Cotes du Rhone. Dominated by Grenache, it comes across like a mini-Chateauneuf du Pape. Its dark ruby/purple color is followed by boisterous kirsch, sandy, loamy soil, tobacco leaf, pepper and spice notes. Generously endowed, round, silky textured and explosively fruity, it is an enormously satisfying wine to drink over the next 3-4 years. (Oct 2010)”.

Domaine Fontanyl Rose de Provence   

Crisp, Berry, Strawberry, Cherry, Light-bodied

France- Lively and fragrant, this beautiful Rose from Provence shows alluring aromas of ripe berries and dark flowers. The flavors of ripe strawberry and wild cherry are presented in a sophisticated manner that preserves the character of the fruit, but in a dry, straightforward style.

Debeaune Morgon Belles Grives, 2009   

90 Wine Advocate:

Wine Advocate – Beaujolais, France – “On the nose aromas of strawberry and cherry preserve, Infectiously juicy and bright, it finishes invigoratingly and mouth watering with tart berry and salt, yet an undertone of meatiness also persists that is apt to become more prominent as the wine evolves.”

Domaine Chante Cigale: 2004 Chateauneuf-Du-Pape

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labelAlfio Moriconi Selection Domaine Chante Cigale:  2004 Chateauneuf-Du-Pape

Following through on one of my two official new year resolutions for 2013, I am doing my best not to hoard good wines for future imbibing but enjoying them in the present.

After enjoying and writing about California’s Chappallet Cabernet Sauvignon in my last post we cross the ocean to France and their Chateauneuf-Du-Pape appellation.  I must admit that this wine has probably been sitting in our cellar for over a year and although aging befits this type of wine it most definitely falls into my STOP HOARDING category. A lovely gift from dear wine loving friends and neighbors, it was an easy decision when considering my ENJOY NOW choices.

Interesting notes about this wine that I discovered:

-The Domaine Chante Cigale has been in family ownership since the 19th century.

-“Chante” means singing, and “cigale” is cicada.

-The domaine owns 40 hectares of planting area for red grapes and  5 hectares for green [or white] grapes.

-Chateauneuf-Du-Pape means New Castle of the Pope, dating back to the 14th century and referring to Pope Clement V.

-This appellation allows an unusual long list of grape varietals, thirteen with as many as 18 listed in the AOC documentation.

-Up until the 1920’s wines from Chateauneuf-Du-Pape were blended with others from the general area of Avignon.  Between 1929 and 1936 Chateauneuf-Du-Pape became one of France’s first official appellations for wine.

An Alfio Moriconi Selection?

Some of you may have noted this designation on the label and or description. At first I couldn’t find much information or reference to Mr. Moriconi at Chante Cigale but as it turns out Alfio Moriconi  is the Vice President of European Wine Sales & Imports at Total Wine.  His selections are at times noted on the label itself not only because of the large quantities of wine they buy from producers but also to  draw attention to the implied quality of his choices.  To some degree I see it as a way of private labeling their products and making them available as such only through Total Wine. Pretty good marketing idea when you have that kind of buying power if you ask me.

My notes:

This blend of 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre, 10% Cinsault was a rich dark burgundy color with some brown when decanted.  I was concerned at first because the upper part of the cork practically crumbled at opening due to its dryness, but luckily the lower half stayed together and was a beautiful moist sight to see as it was pulled from the bottle.  On the nose I noted this Chateauneuf-Du-Pape was; delicate dark fruit forward and listed examples of fig and guava which may have to do with my tropical background. Spicy and fruity combined. On the palate I detected a tawny dark fruit taste, a bold wine with leather, pepper and herbs coming through and little wood.

At 40 minutes I noted this wine had become much smoother with fruit becoming somewhat more delicate and distinguishable. At the 60 minute mark the fruit had come forward even more so with spiciness appreciated on the lingering finish.  My last observation on this wine came at the 90 minute mark when I noted: OPEN! And yes in capitals with an exclamation mark 🙂  I can see this medium bodied wine easily being decanted for an hour before being served to better appreciate its various flavors and smooth tannins.

We thoroughly enjoyed this wine and now I find myself thinking of a reason to invite our neighbors over again. Not that we need one really since we love sharing new wine discoveries every chance we get. CHEERS to wine loving friends everywhere and ¡SALUD!

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CHAPPELLET 2009 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon – SignatureSeries

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CHAPPELLET  2009 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon –

Signature Series

Chappellet-2009-Signature-Cabernet

Last year, well actually the end of 2011, we ended the year with a bang. Not having the opportunity to do the same for 2012 due to my holiday retail schedule,  I decided to instead begin the new year in such fashion.

What a wonderful way to start 2013.  Beginning the new year this way also fits right in with one of my New Years resolutions; I will not hoard nice wines!  They are, for the most part, to be enjoyed in the present and not at some future special occasion that never seems to arrive.

Two days into 2013 I seem to be succeeding because this wonderful wine was a recent Christmas present from my oldest friend. Well, he is old but I actually mean I’ve known him a long time 🙂 A wine lover himself we started talking about taking wine classes a very long time ago.

This 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of: 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Malbec, 9% Merlot and 4% PetitVerdot. Wine Advocate rated it at 93 Points and had the following to say about it; The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Signature is another striking wine. The 2009 doesn’t have the bombastic fruit of the 2010, instead, it stands out for the silkiness of its tannin and pure length. The 2009 Signature is classy and refined from the very first taste. All the elements are beautifully in place in this mid-weight Cabernet. Anticipated maturity: 2017-2029.

Their anticipated maturity of 2017-2029 does not of course fit in with my New Years resolution but I am here to tell that this wine is delicious today. Having enjoyed it as much as we did I may have to invest in a bottle for later consumption under the guise of research to avoid my so-called New Years resolution 🙂 That said, at $50.00 a pop some [including myself] may think twice about popping this baby open on a weeknight. With 7,500 cases produced it is truly
worthy of being enjoyed on any night and yes it is worth its value should you be in the market for a wine in this price range.

“Oh my….” yes I actually wrote down Oh my… on my tasting sheet. Below are my notes:

Beautiful rich dark garnet in color as I poured into my wine glass. In the decanter it was more of dark purple-black shade. On the nose; dark fruit including black currant/casis, prune, plum and cherry. Also oak and some cedar which may actually have been tobacco or cigar box. Beyond my very favorable oh my… reaction I found this Chappellet Cabernet Sauvignon to be smooth and flavorful. With fruit and wood very well-balanced. Tannins not heavy on the tongue but yet all-encompassing.

At 20 minutes I detected not much change in the nose but the wine becoming more fruit forward on the palate. As it continued to open, very nicely I might add, an earthy quality started to develop. One I defined as peppery at 45 minutes.

Wine Spectator rated this wine at 90 points and as mentioned before Wine Advocate came in at 93 points. I would have to agree with their reviews not only of this wine but of the exceptional 2009 Napa vintage. I am now intrigued to try their 2010 to compare. Christmas 2013 is just around the corner…. I’ll have to put it on my list!  ¡SALUD!


Wine Spectator Editor’s Note:
Dense and a touch rustic,
with chewy tannins, crushed rock, dried berry, sage and savory
flavors. Maintains its firm, tight focus and appears built for the
long haul. Best from 2013 through 2027. Winemaker
tasting notes:
This wine offers all of the color, concentration and complexity of a classic Cabernet Sauvignon from Pritchard Hill. The nose displays, rich, vivid layers of dark berry, cherry, and sweet oak, underscored by background notes of bay leaf, sage, chocolate and anise. The mouthfeel is powerful, yet rounded, with a silky presence that allows the wine to gracefully support its size, and its voluptuous ripe cherry, berry and plum flavors. Spicy oak notes of cinnamon, vanilla and roasted coffee add nuance and depth, while youthful tannins give a fine grip to the palate providing the structure for long-term aging.

Information from Chappellet: The wine
The Signature Cabernet Sauvignon has been our flagship wine for
more than three decades. It is a benchmark for the long-lived
hillside wines of the Napa Valley; full of structure and ageing
potential, yet seductively forward in its concentrated varietal
character. The dry, rocky soils of Pritchard Hill produce small,
intensely flavorful grapes. Crop thinning allows for full, even
ripening and further elevates flavor complexity.
Winery information It’s been 45 years since Donn and Molly Chappellet fell in love with the rolling hills overlooking Napa’s Lake Hennessey. In 1967 they set up shop on Pritchard Hill inspired to craft age-worthy, and noteworthy, wines. Taking to heart the advice of André Tchelistcheff, they became among the first to exclusively plant on high-elevation slopes. Seems that André’s training and instinct has served the wine world well as the rugged terroir of this location lends an intensity and depth to the finished wines. The generous legacy started by Donn and Molly now includes the second generation of Chappellets – all six children have a hand in continuing what their parents started. Their preservation efforts – from
composting, to solar energy to water conservation and organic
farming – are “embracing the romance of Pritchard Hill” and
ensuring it, and the exemplary wines they produce, will be around
for many generations to come.

Kirkland Signature 2010 Bordeaux Superieur – Costco Wine

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COSTCO Bordeaux Superieur 

Yes it is true; COSTCO wine! No they actually do not make the wine themselves but  have developed relationships with winemakers around the globe. Examples include; France, Italy, Argentina and our own California region. With vast research group information in-hand defining what their customer base enjoys in specific varietals or blends COSTCO negotiates and teams with winemakers to produce a “private label” product for their warehouse type stores.  They are not alone. Sams Club Trader Joe’s and Total Wine & More admittedly also take part in similar practices as does my very own Winn-Dixie grocery store chain.  If done well it is a great way to control pricing and distribution along with providing your product an exclusivity factor because these wines would only be available at your stores.

I hate to admit that I regularly spend one of my two days off checking out the competition nearby; Fresh Market, Whole Foods, Costco and Total Wines & More. Not only am I looking for price comparisons but also products I do not sell and new discoveries to imbibe and share with friends. This is how I discovered the Kirkland Signature 2010 Bordeaux Superieur Gran Vin de Bordeaux. At $6.99, my first foray into Costco wines. I am happy to report that except for COSTCO who’s pricing structure boggles the mind sometimes, Winn-Dixie wines are very competitively priced and usually sale priced lower than the other establishments mentioned.

Label notes:

70% Merlot 30% Cabernet Sauvignon

Chateau Gardera is a fine producer of Bordeaux Superieur wine, an outstanding source for this Kirkland Signature wine.  Bordeaux Superieur an appellation that covers the same area as Bordeaux AOC is known for smaller yields. The property is situated on slopes to the south of St Emilion overlooking the Garonne River. A carefully selected blend was aged 12 months in Allier french oak barrels creating a luscious well balanced and easy drinking wine that exudes finesse   The high quality fruit has aromas of ripe cherries  black currant berries and subtle toasted notes which flow to a generous palate and silky tannin’s. Drink now through 2016.

My notes:

Garnet in color, the following aromas on the nose were detected upon decanting; red ripe fruit, tobacco, oak and a richness to it as it opened. Smooth medium tannins were noted along with the fact that it was drinkable straight out of the bottle as it was opened. Decanting not required but still suggested.  A lingering sour grape finish was noted at first but as time passed and the wine breathed this became better defined as a dry finish.  The nose started to fade at about 30 minutes yet its sweetness became stronger on the palate along with the detection of cocoa.

At the price of $6.99 this is a very drinkable wine. Worthy of a price point twice as high. That said, it was not very exciting. A good any day wine? Sure. An affordable wine? YES. A wine you’d jot down on your shopping list and buy every time you got the chance? No, not for me. But considering the fact that Wine Spectator recently rated the 2009 vintage of this wine at 87 points there may be many out there that would disagree.

Doing further research on the Kirkland Signature Series I was impressed to find quite the variety of wines available.  I am intrigued by their Meritage and even more so a Costco Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Looks like I know what I will be doing on one of my upcoming days off…. ¡SALUD!

My Zin-ful Weekend – Old Vine Zinfandel that is..

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My weekend of Zin….

I must confess. It wasn’t planned and I had no control over it. Well, almost no control,  I guess I could have said no but since it was mostly my idea and I was hosting; I must enter my plea as; guilty.

My weekend was Zin-ful, full of Zin everywhere I turned. Zin Zin Zin. It was innocent enough when it started Friday after work over pizza. Ending Sunday night surrounded by friends over artesian cheeses [thank you Winn Dixie Cheese Steward!] and my lamb chili in what now has become known as BYO-Zin night.

As most of these unplanned social get togethers go the fourth or so wine is always a little difficult to recall but I did my best at keeping notes on as many of the wines as possible.

Starting the weekend off was the Project Paso 2009 Paso Robles Old Vine Zinfandel a new discovery for me and one I enjoyed so much I have shared it with friends and customers ever since. This wine is produced by Don Sebastiani and Sons who are known for producing accessibly priced quality wines:

The search for the class grapes led our grandfather to Sam Balakian in Paso Robles 30 years ago. Since then, we have been quietly blending Paso Robles juice to add depth, spice and complexity to our California appellation wines. What started out as a small project has now come to fruition. To pay homage to all the work our families have done over the past three decades, we felt it only proper to keep the name “Project Paso.”

Winemaker NotesThere is a vast complexity of flavors and aromas in this wine, driven by the unique Paso Robles soils and the blend of three Zinfandel vineyards. The nose opens up with dried fruit and concentrated blueberry aromas, with white pepper, warm Indian spices, and a touch of gaminess rounding out the background. This wine is similarly complex on the palate, with chocolate-covered cherry flavors balanced by old vine spice and a hint of sweet cigar. Earthy, medium-bodied, with a touch of minerality, this varietally correct Zinfandel gets its depth from Paso’s red soils.

My notes for Project Paso 2009 Paso Robles Old Vine Zinfandel:

Lingering full legs on the glass, dark fruit forward even jammy on the nose with prune, raisin and black cherry. Medium body with medium to light tannins. Very berry on the palate with a dark drier finish softening nicely as it opens.  Comments from guests; Classic Zin, vanilla taste, sugared plum scent, tasted dried fruits and a bit of chocolate, very earthy, lovely red color,  not too strong, not too weak..just right.

I usually see the Project Paso priced in the $14.99 range but recently as low as $11.99. Even lower on-line where it is attainable in the $10.00 range. At the lower price points [$10-$12] this is a BUY selection for me.

ST. Amant Mohr Fry Ranch 2009 Old Vine Zinfandel Lodi Appellation.

Next up: A discovery at one of our Total Wine & More classes last year that I was somehow able to cellar this long.  We were blown away by this powerful and intense Zinfandel at that time and I can see why.  In comparison to the other Zinfandels we sampled it is the NEW WORLD style of wine winner; very flavorful as all the others were but bolder. This one made the others seem as light as a Pinot Noir. Priced at $19.99 here is information provided by Total Wine & More:

Lodi, CA- In the heart of the Lodi Appellation. A classic Old Vine Zin – big, ripe, and chewy with rich raspberry and spicy blackberry flavors finishing with soft supple tannins. From the Mohr-Fry Ranch vineyard with 66+ year old vines. Certified green sustainable winegrowing vineyard.

My notes for the ST. Amant Mohr Fry Ranch 2009 Old Vine Zinfandel:

Dark and rich in color. Raisin, plum and prune on the nose with some wood [oak, cedar?].  Also, tobacco, violet/licorice and sweet fruit smell noted. In addition; blackberry and cocoa were detected on the palate.

This wine would be a worthy repeat offender for when I am again feeling Zin-ful and a good example of how different same varietal wines can be. This is a strong, bold, powerful, chewy wine.  In a good way of course 🙂

Predator 2011 Old Vine Zinfandel Lodi Appellation

I was first introduced to this consistently good wine, also from Lodi, a couple of years ago by close friends.  In fact, friends in attendance at the BYO-Zinfandel social mentioned earlier.  Same friends who had me buy them three cases recently when I came across Predator at our local Fresh Market store.  As per the manager; I made his day! as I loaded my shopping cart with 36+ bottles.

Produced by Rutherford Wine Company the 2011 vintage was recently awarded the Silver Medals in the New York World Wine & Spirits Competition and I love the fact that they use lady bugs as a natural method of removing insects harmful to the vines.

Winemaker notes:

Predator Zinfandel is sourced from 50+year old vines that produce rich and intensely flavored fruit. The resulting wine is big and bold with hallmark “old vine” velvety texture, spice and vibrant varietal flavors.  The lady bug is a natural predator that feeds on insects harmful to plants.  “Natural predation” is just one of the many sustainable vineyard practices that eliminates the need for synthetic pesticides.

My notes:

Medium garnet in color, Pinot Noir like in body. No legs to speak of at first, surprising because of the +14% alcohol level, but developing somehow soon afterwards.  Sugar cured ham on the nose! I am not crazy or alone. Others report it to be bacon. Also noted was a spicy orange peel that may also have to do with the ham, leather, cocoa, casis, and a moist aroma I would describe as wet earth or possibly mushrooms. Light tannins with an acidic finish that was balanced out nicely by food and time as wine was decanted.

Quite the night was had by all and quite the Zin-filled weekend for me. Officially five Old Vine Zinfandels were recorded [I still have the bottles!] and I have written about three here. The other two were;

Adventurous Macchia 2009 Amador County Zinfandel Linsteadt Vineyard available at Total Wine and the 2009 Bogle Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel

Although quite varied all were representative of the Zinfandel varietal and are very worthy of a repeat performance at the next POP UP BYO-Zin party but with better note taking practices required!!  That said I am already wondering what the next BYO varietal theme should be…..

¡SALUD!

From Wine-Searcher:

Zinfandel (or ‘Zin’as it is affectionately known in its American homelands) is a dark-skinned red wine grape variety widely cultivated in California. It arrived in the Americas from Europe in the early years of the 19th century, and was an immediate success in its Napa and Sonoma strongholds. It wasn’t until DNA research was carried out in California in the 1990s that the variety was confirmed (as had long been suspected) to be Italy’s Primitivo under a different name, or Crljenak Kastelanski, originally from Croatia’s Adriatic coast.