Tag Archives: Zinfandel

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.

The Luck of the Blends – The Dreaming Tree Crush by Steve Reeder & Dave Matthews

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The Luck of the Blends – Red Wine Blends

The luck of the Blends has been with us as of late. It wasn’t planned as good things usually aren’t and no rhyme or reason was applied when choosing, other than the combinations or producers intrigued me. None came recommended but  my recommendations of these wines have since surprisingly sold quite a few bottles at our store.  I now more than ever realize the power of knowing what you are talking about and the fact that I must continue to taste more wine 🙂

These delicious Wine Blends do not have much if anything in common. They are all reds, they are all wine and they are all blends.  For the most part the known varietals are all different as are the winemakers and the countries of origin which include; Argentina, Australia, California and Chile. I originally planned on doing a combined post on all four recent success stories but have since decided to dedicate more time to each. They deserve the attention.  The first up is from California.

The Dreaming Tree Crush


the-dreaming-tree-crush-red-north-coast-usa-10345285I
have to start by saying that this wine is SMOOTH! It goes down way too easily [in a good way of course] with little tannins to speak of. After taking in the aromas for a few minutes the delicateness of this blend truly surprised me. I would say this is the perfect red for those who think red wine cannot be enjoyed in the summer. Even a South Florida summer.

From the winemakers:

When Steve Reeder and Dave Matthews first met, they realized they had a few things in common, like a passion for making wine at least as strong as their passion for drinking it. For The Dreaming Tree wines, they set out to create an approachable Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Red Blend, finding inspiration in the down-to-earth characters and unforgettable flavors that give California’s wine country its rare charm. At The Dreaming Tree, we think the best vintage is pretty much right now and the best pairing is your favorite people. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with collecting wine, but isn’t it more fun to drink instead?

In my research I found that their wines are sometimes racked to clarify the wine and to help develop the smooth tannin structure. This would explain my smoothness comments above. After approximately 19 months of aging in oak, the individual varietals [see below] were blended to create The Dreaming Tree Crush Red Wine Blend. 

This is one wine I would not aerate or decant. It is perfect straight out of the bottle. On the nose I detected a herbaceousness I noted as crushed leaves and also dry tobacco along with cinnamon and a dark fruit forward aroma that was Zinfandel like.  On the palate I noted the already referenced smoothness, low tanin level along with; violet, cinnamon, dark fruit and a grassiness I would describe as being close to freshly cut grass.

In my opinion and as the Dave Matthews pedigree implies: This Wine ROCKS!  Which I decided to Tweet recently. Soon afterwards The Dreaming Tree contacted me to thank me directly and then shared my feelings with all of their followers. It is always good to see an organization so involved with their product line, specially when the product is worth spreading the word about.  I also appreciate their way of doing business when it comes to sustainability with the use of; lightweight bottles manufactured with clean-burning natural gas, 100% recycled paper labels, black ink printing—no bleaching, reduced toxins and heavy metals and natural corks from sustainable farms.

The Dreaming Tree Crush Red Wine Blend truly provided an enjoyable night of wine drinking. So much so that I would easily buy this wine again and recommend it to customers.  The price range for this wine is in the $15-$18.00 range but I have seen it being sold for as low as $12.00. If I had a local source pricing this wine that affordably I would be buying it by the case! ¡SALUD!

Additional information:

2009 Vintage

Moderate temperatures throughout the spring and summer made 2009 a very good growing season. The lack of extreme temperatures resulted in higher acidity and aromatic concentration in the white grapes and higher color and tannin development in the reds.

Varieties:

67% Merlot,

33% Zinfandel

Vintage: 2009

Appellation/AVA: North Coast

Aging: 19 months in oak

Total Acidity: 6.1g/L

pH: 3.53

RS: 7.0g/L

Alcohol: 13.5%

Return of the Wine Diary-Chilensis, J Opi, Baron D’Arignac, Il Papavero

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This week I am returning to the Wine Diary of 2011. With all the new wines and related experiences as of late I find it difficult to go back and re-review last years selections. Yes, all 138 wines, go figure. For those of you who have not read my earlier Diary posts or need a recap, here you go:

https://whineandcheersforwine.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/is-my-wine-glass-half-empty-or-half-full-the-return-of-the-wine-diary/

Having gotten the bad ones out-of-the-way and not being a fan of negative energy I am ready to stress the positive with the category of SURPRISES. As the title implies, we did not know much or expect much from these wines but they quickly got our attention. Other categories will follow in future postings.

Surprises [4]:

The first on our list [in no particular order] is a Cinsault varietal from Languedoc Roussillon, France: 2009 Baron D’ Arignac Vin de Pays D’Oc.  I must admit that this choice was completely made on price.  It had me at $6.99 on sale as I walked through the isles of our local Whole Food Market. We found it to be very good fresh out of the bottle with no decanting needed. I actually noted GREAT SURPRISE! in my notes probably thinking it would be swill because of the price. Interestingly I have learned the following about this varietal; it is regularly used in Chateauneuf-du-Pape and in 1925 it was crossed with Pinot Noir by Stellenbosch University Professor A.I. Perold in trying to create a unique South African varietal, which became PinotageCharacteristics of the grape: low tannins, dark, spicy, slightly perfumey.

Next we’re off to Chile with what I originally noted as a “Chilean Surprise”.  The 2009 Chilensis Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, found at Total Wine and More for $9.99. Again I was most likely drawn to this choice by the fact that it was a RESERVA priced at $9.99. I am starting to see a $$ trend in the SURPRISE group having to do with price to taste ratio….My research shows that this corporate winemaker sources wines from different regions in Chile and markets them to the US. Chilensis wines are certified organic and sustainable. I noted; strong dark fruit on the nose and palate along with black pepper and spices.

On to Italy thanks to the Wall Street Journal Wine Club: Il Papavero Primitivo 2009. This Primitivo [which is the same as our Zinfandel] is one of winemaker Scipione Giuliani’s passions. The grapes come from 50-year-old vines in Puglia in southern Italy. This is one of my favorite selections provided to me through the WSJ Wine Club.  Priced at $13.99, this wine could easily be on my personal house wine list. For this rich, heavy red I detected; dark fruits such as raisins and plums, some oak and even what I would describe as cocoa.

Last but not least and thanks again to the WSJ Wine Club we arrive in Argentina for the 2009 J Opi Malbec; whose wine maker Rodolfo Sadler aka Opi won the Argentinean Red Trophy at the 2009 Decanter World Wine Awards.  At $13.99 this wine is a very good value. Again, the taste to price ratio. Priced at $7.99 as a special when I got it; it is an incredible value and I should have purchased a case! This wine was full bodied, fruity [dark], with a bit of spice and a great rich color. It was a perfect match for our spaghetti and meatball dinner. Albeit not so much with our dessert of Goobers 🙂  I would describe it as very drinkable.

Until the next chapter of my Wine Diary returns; SALUD!

My wine varietal discoveries of 2011

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Early stages of veraison of Pinot noir in late...

Image via Wikipedia

Wine Varietal discoveries of 2011

2011 was a very good year for discoveries, considering mostly all but the very well-known varietals were new to this wine novice.  As I review my wine diary of 2011 including 130+ wines, a handful of “discoveries” come to mind.  A handful that we found ourselves going back to again and again [okay and again], confirming we really did like them the first time around and checking their consistency.

Luckily the world was our oyster as we discovered wines from Oregon [Pinot Noir/ Pinot Gris],  Chile [Carmenere], Uruguay [Tanat], Argentina [Bonarda], France [White Bordeaux], Spain  [Garnacha] and even Italy [Primitivo].

BONARDA- Argentina; peppery, earthy aroma. Great out of the bottle but we always decant. Rich dark fruit taste; plum, raisins, casis. Suggestion; Maipe Reserve approx. $12-15.00.  They also have a non Reserve, I say splurge the $2-3.00 it is well worth it. Also; Durrigutti 2008 Bonarda at $13.00 is worthy. Mr. Durrigutti has the midas touch these days in Argentina. Co-owner of Lamadrid winery a personal favorite of our household.

CARMENERE- Chile; earthy, leather aroma. Sweet dark fruit taste with plum, blackberry, and cherry. Mellows after 20 minutes of decanting. Suggestion; Porta Reserva 2009 approx. $12.00. Also Santa Rita Reserve Santa Rita Reserva 2008 approx. $8-14.00 [usually good sales out there].

TANAT- Uruguay; fruity, smokey and buttery on the nose. A rustic and robust deep garnet colored wine that must be decanted, heavy tannins.  Dry yet sweet finish. Suggestion; Pisano Cisplatino 2009 blend approx. $9.99!

White BORDEAUX- France; White? Really? I am maybe the only one in the world who thought all Bordeaux was red. Go figure. This is now considered a staple at our house. Suggestion; Chateau Montet 2009, 2010 approx. $8-9.00.  BTW stay away from their red!

GARNACHA- Spain; purple almost black in color. Peppery on the nose, jammy taste with plum, ripe raisin in there too. The tannins seem to grow at the finish for a nice finale.  This is the first time I have ever been able to detect strawberry[!] while tasting a wine. It just jumped out at me. Although this varietal is blended in many if not most Rhone wines it is quite distinctive on its own too. Suggestion; Evodia  Altovinum Old Vine Garnacha 2009 approx. $12.00.

PRIMITIVO- Italy; related to America’s Zinfandel. Dark, rich and peppery tasting, fruit forward and woody. We also detected a clove taste. It is smooth on the tongue. Suggestion; Il Primitivo Puglia 2009 approx. $12-15.00. Pillastro Primitivo Negro Amaro Selezione de Oro approx. $20.00.

PINOT GRIS/NOIR- Oregon;  nose and flavors of apple, pear, honey, grapefruit, pineapple. Very crisp. Suggestion; Kudos Pinot Gris 2009 approx. $8-10.00. NOIR is where I have discovered price does make a difference. The lower end variety have a light viscosity as most Pinot Noir’s do but the higher end ones in the $40.00 range coming from Oregon’s small production vineyards are actually rich and Port like. Making me want to drink the entire bottle.  Purple/ruby in color, smooth flavorful lingering dark fruit throughout and finish. Suggestions; Lachini 2007 from Chehalem Mountains  and Coehlio 2006 from Willamette Valley. Both in the $35-45.00 range.