Showing posts with label Zinfandel wine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Zinfandel wine. Show all posts

Friday, November 3, 2023

An Old Friend, An Old Vine Zin

This site recently published an article about the 2021 Old Vine Zinfandel from Bogle Family Vineyards. Here we have the previous year's vintage of the same wine.

The Bogle family has farmed the California delta region for six generations, 50 years now in the effort of growing wine grapes. Like a lot of farming families in the area, they started out selling their fruit to others, then got wise and started turning their grapes into wine themselves. 

European settlers brought Zinfandel vines to California more than a century ago, and Bogle says they use old vine grapes in this wine to honor those pioneers. The vines in question here are more like 40 to 50 years old, however. Aging took place a little more than half a year in oak. 

Bogle's 2020 Old Vine Zinfandel is made from grapes that were grown in Lodi and Amador counties, in vineyards of longtime growing partners. The wine was aged for only seven months in American oak barrels. Alcohol sits at 14.5% abv and I paid less than $10 for the bottle.

This wine is very dark, inky, in fact. The nose offers blackberry, black cherry and plum notes along with aromas of clove, nutmeg, anise and tobacco. The palate is loaded with dark fruit and oak spice, with firm tannins and a bright acidity. Cook with it, pair it with steak or just sip it and ruminate over it. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

It's Paso, It's Organic, And It's On Sale

Organic is such a big thing these days in wine that it even turns up in bargain brands. Paso Zinfandel, from Vine To Table Vineyards of Santa Maria, uses organic grapes in their 2021 Paso Robles Zin. There is nothing much on the label except the typical words touting Paso Robles" “long hot days and cool nights," the perfect climate for Zinfandel.

Alcohol stands at 14.1% abv and it was on sale for $13 at my local Whole Foods Market. I bought it primarily for cooking, but it turns out that it tastes pretty good on its own.

The wine is a medium-dark garnet. The nose gives off aromas of cherry, plum and a fistful of oak notes - clove, cigars, cinnamon, anise. The palate is dark and savory, with the plum and blueberry flavors joined by earth, white pepper and tomatoes. It is a complex wine, and it shows the chalky minerality for which Paso Robles is known. It also lent quite a lot to the roast I cooked with it. 

Monday, February 6, 2023

Revisiting A Paso Robles Zinfandel

It has been about a decade since I took a fascinating tour of Ancient Peaks Winery and their estate vineyards near Paso Robles.  Santa Margarita Ranch is the southernmost - and coolest - wine region in the Paso Robles AVA.  The land was once an ancient sea bed, and time has left it high and dry, dotted with old oyster shells which impart their minerality to the grapes grown there.  Science may pooh-pooh that notion, but I cling to the idea that what is in the ground is in the grapes.

This wine is composed of 86% Zinfandel and 14% Syrah, all grown in Margarita Vineyard. Two late-summer heatwaves in 2020 interrupted an otherwise temperate vintage, speeding up the ripening of the grapes and lending a beautiful, jammy sensibility to the wine. Aging took place over 18 months in French and American oak barrels. Alcohol hits 14.1% abv and the bottle retails for $20. I got mine for a couple bucks less at Whole Foods Market. 

This beautiful, medium dark wine displays a nose which is bursting with ripe fruit - cherry, raspberry, cranberry - adorned by tobacco, clove, nutmeg and black pepper. The palate is lush with the fruit - but has a savory side, too. The acidity is fresh and lively, while the tannins are muscular. It is, as always, a great pair with any kind of meat - especially straight from the grill. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

A Fine Zinfandel From Dry Creek Valley

Cline Family Cellars is a family-owned wine producer in California's Sonoma County. They are located on a beautiful ranch and are celebrating the company's 40th anniversary. 

Cline Eight Spur Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 2020

Fred Cline writes that the 2020 Cline Eight Spur Zinfandel was named for the farming method described as "spur pruned to eight canes." The 100-year-old vines from which these grapes were harvested grow at the north end of Dry Creek Valley, the hottest part and the part most suited for Zinfandel.  This wine has an alcohol level of 14.5% abv and it sells in a range from $25 to $33.

The nose is brilliant - ripe red cherries, raspberries, herbs and spices that remind one of baking. The palate is bold and rich with those red fruits and tempered perfectly by the oak treatment. Acidity is fresh and the tannins are serviceable enough for a roast tenderloin without getting too much in the way of the sip. It is a fine example of wine made from California's heritage grape.

Monday, January 25, 2021

A Great Zinfandel For Half Its Original Price

California wine négociant Cameron Hughes owns no vineyards and has no official winery.  He sniffs out good wine which has already been produced by established makers, then buys it on the down low with an agreement not to reveal the source.  He then sells the wine online through his wine club - he calls it a wineocracy - bringing top-shelf wines to lower-shelf wallets.  Hughes says he keeps prices low by removing the middleman, the distributor and retailer through which store-bought wines must pass.

Hughes' Lot 744 is a 2018 Zinfandel from Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley, a small AVA tucked in between the Russian River and Lake Sonoma.  Hughes says that despite being a wine travel destination, Dry Creek Valley is still "a tiny, rural area filled with family-owned vineyards, one deli, and no traffic lights."  I do understand that neighboring Geyserville has a signal, but it may be flashing most of the time.  Hughes raves about Dry Creek Valley Zins, which he feels are benefited by the region’s unique dynamic.

This Zinfandel, Hughes says, is a "stylistically perfect gem" from a family winery that has been crafting top rated Zinfandel for decades.  He feels that Lot 744 is easily one of the best Zins he has ever gotten his hands on.  Alcohol checks in at a lofty 16% abv and it sells for $17 - half the original price.

This Sonoma County Zinfandel has a medium dark ruby tint to it, and it smells of brambly raspberry and blackberry with an undercurrent of leather, cigars and spice.  The nose doesn't really foretell of an amazing palate experience, but that's what it delivers.  The fruit is carried along on a savory wave of earth, minerals and tobacco.  Oh my, this is a good Zinfandel - and I would say that even if I were not a big fan of the grape.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Ancient Peaks: It's In The Dirt, I Just Know It Is

It has been almost a decade since I took a fascinating tour of Ancient Peaks Winery and their estate vineyards near Paso Robles.  Santa Margarita Ranch is the southernmost wine region in the Paso Robles AVA.  The land was once an ancient sea bed, and time has left it high and dry, dotted with old oyster shells which impart their minerality to the grapes grown there.  Science may pooh-pooh that notion, but I cling to the idea that what's in the ground is in the grapes.

The 2018 Ancient Peaks Zinfandel sports grapes which were grown in the coolest region in the Paso Robles AVA, in five different blocks of the estate.  Aging took place over 17 months in French and American oak barrels.  Alcohol hits 15% abv and I picked up my bottle for $20 at a Whole Food Market in Los Angeles.

This medium-dark wine is loaded with blackberry and red plum aromas, but not so much that the savory side slips away.  Intense minerality is at work, a reminder of the oyster shell dirt that is Santa Margarita Ranch.  Black pepper also checks in, along with hints of lavender, cedar and cigar box.  The palate is marked by dark fruit and minerals, with a nice acidity and tannins with a firm grip.  The finish is chalky and moderate.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Winning Lodi Zinfandel At Half The Price

California wine négociant Cameron Hughes owns no vineyards and has no official winery.  He sniffs out good wine which has already been produced by established makers, then buys it on the down low with an agreement not to reveal the source.  He then sells the wine online through his wine club - he calls it a wineocracy - bringing top-shelf wines to lower-shelf wallets.  Hughes says he keeps prices low by removing the middleman, the distributor and retailer through which store-bought wines must pass.  Hughes has a nose for good wine, which makes his label a reliable source for such juice.

Lot 730 Zinfandel Lodi 2018

This Zinfandel was sourced "from an esteemed producer home to numerous parcels of Lodi's famous old vines," says Hughes.  The vintner promises it is everything you would expect from a Lodi Zin - fruity, spicy, nuanced - and more, because it sells for about half of its original price.  Alcohol rises to 15.5% abv and the sticker reads about $13.

This Lodi Zinfandel carries a medium tint in the glass and smells of red fruit and black pepper.  The palate is fruity with a savory note to go along with it.  A zippy acidity is fresh, while the tannins are quite firm.  My pork chop paired very well with it.

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Monday, July 20, 2020

Zinfandel, From Lodi

Whenever I get to take a trip - virtually - to Lodi, I jump at the chance.  John Fogerty may have been "stuck in Lodi," but he should have visited a winery or two.  That would have brightened his view of the locale.

Oak Farm Vineyards is my stop on this virtual vacation.  I took part in a July conversation with Oak Farm's co-owner and Director of Winemaking, Dan Panella.  The get-together was held on Zoom, where everything else also seems to be held in these pandemic times.

Panella talked about his family's three-generation farming claim at Oak Farm, which in Lodi is practically newcomer status.  He spoke of his fondness for the Italian and Spanish grape varieties found on his estate and reminisced about his younger days driving a tractor through the cherry and walnut orchards.  He turned the business into the wine arena in 2004.

Oak Farm itself was founded in 1860, with the Panella coming along in the 1930s.  Today, Panella and head winemaker Sierra Zieter manage a diverse portfolio of wines.

Oak Farm Vineyards Tievoli Red Blend 2018

The Oak Farms Red Blend called Tievoli (I Love It spelled backwards) is made from two-thirds Zinfandel grapes, 8% Primitivo, 18% Barbera and 8% Petite Sirah - all grown in Lodi.  The old vine Zin was grown in the Hohenrieder vineyard, while the rest came from Oak Farm's estate vineyards. 

Panella says, "Zinfandel is the backbone of this blend.  It brings the fruitiness to this wine, while the Primitivo adds earthiness, bringing the spices and earth floor notes.  The Barbera adds the acidity backbone and helps brighten the wine and smooth it out.  Petite Sirah strengthens the color and helps with the structure."

The wine was aged eight months in French and American oak before being bottled.  Alcohol strikes 14.5% and the retail sticker is only $22.

This red blend shows a ripe cherry nose abetted by black pepper and a touch of leather.  The palate has an earthy quality, almost savory, but the Zinfandel fruit stands firm.  So do the tannins, and the wine's acidity is bright and fresh.

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Monday, September 2, 2019

Lodi Zinfandel From Old Vines

Murphys, California is home to one of the nation's biggest wineries.  Ironstone Vineyards is located east of Lodi in Calaveras County, in the Sierra Foothills.  It may be an out-of-the-way stop, but there's a better than average chance you've had some of their brands, or at least seen them on the supermarket shelf.

The Kautz Family are fourth-generation growers, not unusual in that part of the state, and the family-run winery's corporate officers are known simply as John, Gail, Kurt and Jack.

The 2016 Ironstone Lodi Reserve Old Vine Zinfandel is 90% Zin and 10% Petite Sirah, with an alcohol level of 15% and a retail sticker of only $28.  Grapes from five different "old vine" vineyards in the Mokelumne River AVA were used to make the wine.  The gnarled and twisted vines range in age from 60 to 80 years old.  It was aged for 12 months in small French oak barrels.

This is a fun Zinfandel, if not one that bowls me over.  The nose is complex enough, with dark fruit, spice, smoke and black pepper.  The palate shows plenty of blackberry and plum with oak spice and licorice.  A long finish leaves the mouth a bit tart.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Elevating Zinfandel 2019

There's nothing like a good Zinfandel, except maybe a great Zinfandel.  There were plenty of the latter on display at Elevating Zinfandel, a tasting event put on recently in Beverly Hills by Los Angeles wine educator Ian Blackburn.

Beekeeper Cellars is the creation of our host, Mr. Blackburn.  I remember telling him two years ago that his Zin could knock an unsuspecting Cab off of any steakhouse wine list.  And it's just getting better.  Clay Mauritson is on the winemaking team at Beekeeper, in addition to making his own esteemed bottlings.

Beekeeper Zinfandel Montecillo Vineyard, Sonoma Valley 2015 - Awesome, mellow, ripe yet savory.  14% abv.  $65
Beekeeper Zinfandel Secret Stones, Rockpile, Sonoma County 2016 - Similarly elegant as Montecillo, a bit more savory.  $75

When I think of the Zinfandels I really like to drink, Turley Wine Cellars comes to mind quickly.  They draw grapes from a variety of California vineyards, a listing of which reads like a "Who's Who" of grapevines.
Turley Juvenile, California 2017 - 24 vineyards over 12 counties. A floral nose, sweet and smooth.
Turley Kirschenmann Vineyard, Lodi 2017 and Turley Buck Cobb Vineyard 2017 are both extremely elegant.
Turley Dusi Vineyard, Paso Robles 2017 - That trademark Paso limestone shows up here.

Elyse Winery
Elyse Morisoli 2013 - No heat, savory.  $40
Elyse Korte 2013 - 80 year-old vines, savory.  $40

Kreck Old Vine Zinfandel Teldeschi Vineyard Dry Creek Valley 2016 - Sweet, light and mellow, raspberry finesse.  $42
Kreck Old Vine Zinfandel Del Barba Vineyard Contra Costa County 2016 - 130 year-old vines from Oakley. Both 15% abv.

Portalupi Winery
Portalupi Old Vine Zinfandel Dolinsek Ranch, Russian River Valley 2016 - 112 year-old vines, chambord aromatics, rich and bold.  $52
Portalupi Old Vine Zinfandel Dolinsek Ranch Reserve 2016 - The top 2 rows of the hill, 16% alcohol on both.  neither shows heat.  $90

Seghesio Family Vineyards
Seghesio Home Ranch Vineyard, Alexander Valley 2015 - Bold, with 7% Petite Sirah.  $60
Seghesio Cortina, Dry Creek Valley 2015 - 1972 plantings, east bench, lovely savory bottom, white pepper.  $33
Seghesio Old Vine Sonoma County 2015 -  Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley and Russian River Valley fruit.  Notes of chocolate.  $40

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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Zinfandel For The Barbecue

Artezin winemaker Randle Johnson is billed by the Hess Family as a "champion of heirloom varietals," which makes him a likely guy to work with some ancient California vines.  His 2017 Artezin Old Vine Zinfandel was made from grapes pulled out of vineyards in Mendocino County, off of vines which were planted by Italian and Swiss immigrants - whose families still tend the crops today. 

The winery says the old growers would plant Zinfandel around the perimeter of the vineyard, to hide from sight the other grapes they were growing.  They apparently considered their field blends to be proprietary information.

The wine consists of 85% Zinfandel grapes and 15% Petite Sirah.  The folks at parent company Hess Family Wine Estates says this Zinfandel is as good at a summer barbecue as it is at Thanksgiving - just throw it in a cooler for a half hour or so before grilling.  The wine was aged in neutral French oak barrels, hits 14.8% abv on the alcohol scale and sells for $16.

The 2017 Artezin Old Vine Zinfandel Mendocino is medium-dark and sports a playful nose of strawberry and boysenberry with a cinnamon twist.  On the palate, raspberry and cherry play off of one another in front of a spicy backdrop.  The tannins are smooth.  The wine drinks young and breezy.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Award-Winning Lodi Zinfandel

Lodi's reputation as a worthy California wine region is getting better and better.  Harney Lane Winery and Vineyards has a decade of winemaking behind them and recently snagged the prize as one of USA Today's Ten Best Winery Tours.  Their flagship wine, Lizzy James Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel, captured two Double Gold awards, in addition to other laurels for all of their current vintages. 

The Mettlers and Lerners are a farmers-first family.  They've been growing grapes for more than a century.  A decade ago they started producing small-lot, estate wines from the grapes grown on their Lodi property. 

Harney Lane Old Vine Zinfandel Lizzy James Vineyard 2015

The 2015 vintage saw light rain, a warm spring and a lighter-than-usual crop, on the way to what the winery touts as a bolder vintage Zin.  This bottling spent 20 months in French oak, hits a lofty 15.7% abv alcohol number and retails for $36.

This single-vineyard Zinfandel is very dark in the glass, and its complex nose offers aromas of brambly black fruit, black pepper, anise, allspice, caramel and sweet tobacco.  Yeah, it really puts on a show.  The palate is a wonderful mix of ripe fruit and savory notes, with the latter taking the lead.  Tannins are firm, not toothy, and the finish is long and satisfying.

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Monday, April 8, 2019

Amador County Zinfandel

Bella Grace Vineyards is located in the Sierra Foothills region of Amador County.  Run by Michael and Charlie Havill, their vineyard sits on 20 acres in those granitic rolling hills.  The winery says Michael is "one of the few elite female winemakers in California," while husband Charlie is credited with being the mastermind behind the vines.  The winery was named for their two grandmothers.

The Havills grow Primitivo, Zinfandel, Grenache, Vermentino, Grenache Blanc, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Mourvedre, sustainably without pesticides, as well as three types of olives.  Nearly seven acres of the estate are devoted to four different clones of Zinfandel grapes.  This one is not an estate wine, but the 100% Zinfandel grapes all hail from Amador County.  It rings the alcohol bell at 14.2% abv.  It's a Double Gold winner in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

The 2016 Bella Grace Zinfandel is dark garnet in color and smells of blackberry, plum, slight cranberry and a healthy dose of bramble, with a layer of sweetness as counterpoint.  On the palate, deeper dark fruit and raspberry comes across in a rustic fashion with a zing of oak.  The wine drinks smoothly, with fine tannins and a medium mouthfeel.  Earthy, dark fruit lingers on the finish.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel

Old vines are appreciated the most in Zinfandel vineyards.  California's heritage grape has been growing nonstop in Lodi for more than a century, and the older the vines are, the more character the wine has. It's what makes Zinfandel a popular favorite in the Golden State.  Besides, how you gonna keep 'em drinking Merlot once they've had a taste of old vine Zin?

A recent virtual tasting of old vine Zinfandel wines from the Lodi region featured three people who are delightfully nerdy (watch) and incredibly passionate about their Zinfandel.  The online session was held on National Zinfandel Day and led by Stuart Spencer, of St. Amant Winery and the Lodi Winegrape Association.  He was joined by Kyle Lerner of Harney Lane Winery and Kevin Phillips of Michael-David Vineyards.  They focus on Zinfandel with a love not just of the grapes and the wine, but of the character and history of the vineyards and those who planted them so long ago.

The vines for the Fields Family Old Vine Zin are from the 1920s and '40s eras, and are overseen by the Leon Perlegos family in the Stampede Vineyard, Clements Hills AVA.  Winemaker Ryan Sherman says, "We don't shoot for any specific percent level, it is what it is from year-to-year.  Welcome to the prettier side of Zin." 

The wine was aged in neutral oak barrels, unfined and unfiltered, and went through native fermentation under the Lodi protocol.  Only 100 cases were made at 14.3% abv and it sells for $28, a great price for a wine of this quality. 

The 2014 Fields Family Old Vine Zinfandel is a medium-dark wine with a nose that knocks me over.  There’s black fruit, there's tar, there’s savory smoke and licorice.  Quite complex.  The medium mouthfeel carries a lovely acidity and firm tannins.  Flavors of ripe cherry and raspberry jump out in a fruit-forward expression that welcomes more savory notes of leather and cigars later in the sip.  It might be a little light for pairing with the heaviest beef, but I'd love it with a strip steak and fries.

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Monday, February 12, 2018

Expect Great Zin At Rancho Mirage Wine, Food Fest

There's a great wine event coming this weekend for residents of California's desert communities and all of Southern California.  The Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival is this Saturday, February 17th 2018.  The organizers have kindly invited me to be an ambassador of what looks to be a fantastic event.  More than 200 handcrafted wines will be poured and you'll sample cuisine from 15 of the area's top chefs.  The event is put on by David Fraschetti, a full time resident of Rancho Mirage and the creator of the VinDiego Wine and Food Festival held in San Diego each April.

You can find the event and follow the #RMWineFest2018 on Twitter: @rmwineandfoodfestFor a discount, use the Now And Zin Wine promo code: NZWine.

Tickets to the Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival start at $70 and are available on the fest's website.  The all-inclusive General Admission and VIP ticket includes a crystal souvenir wine glass and unlimited tastings of the wines, a variety of gourmet appetizers, cheeses, artisan breads and olive oils.  Early Entry VIP tickets allow attendees to arrive one hour earlier than General Admission.  You must be 21 to attend.

Barlow Vineyards is one of the wineries that will be attending, and I can't wait to sample the rest of their line.  Their Zinfandel is a knockout.  Located in Napa Valley’s Calistoga area, Barlow Vineyards was purchased by Warren Barlow Smith in 1994 and it's a family affair still today.  They were farmers initially, selling the fruit of their labor.  They began selling the vinified fruit of their vines at the urging of a previous winemaker.

They made fewer than a hundred cases of this wine and it retails for $35.

The Barlow Calistoga Unfiltered Zinfandel 2012 is a real crowd pleaser, very dark and aromatic.  A blackberry and licorice nose gets a savory whiff of smoke and a shot of vanilla on the side.  It's had some time in the bottle and it’s getting very smooth and silky as it ages.  On the palate, good, dark fruit stands a little on the tart raspberry side.  The oak influence shows in a touch of spice and vanilla, but it doesn't overwhelm.  The acidity is nice, and the tannins are good.  This can pair with a pork chop, but it's a great sipper, too.

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Monday, November 27, 2017

Big Box Zinfandel

Southern California local heroes The Hickmen do a song called, "Costco Socks," which decries the big-box life that took over/ruined the Inland Empire and countless other communities across America.  I personally don't have a vehicle large enough to accommodate a Costco shopping trip, nor the home space in which to store all that stuff.  There is, however, a good reason to go to Costco if you're a wine lover.  They put some pretty damn good wine on their shelves.

One of them is the St. Francis "Old Vines" Zinfandel, Sonoma County 2014.  I had this tasty wine at the Chart House restaurant in Redondo Beach, a gift from our table mates.  They know I have more than a passing interest in wine and were almost apologetic when they told me they got it at Costco.  I reassured them that Costco does a very good job of seeking out great wines to lowball on the price tag.  I resisted the urge to admonish them for buying from a big box store instead of a local wine dealer, gift horse in the mouth, and all that.  Maybe I’ll buy them a download of "Costco Socks."

Joe Martin started growing grapes in Sonoma County in 1971, and founded the St. Francis winery eight years later.  Based in Santa Rosa, St. Francis grows certified sustainable grapes.  This wine is labeled as "Sonoma County," although St. Francis produces several single-vineyard Zinfandels as well.  The winery says winemakers Katie Madigan and Chris Louton who make the fruit-driven St. Francis bottlings also have access to "some of the most coveted old vines" in Sonoma.

The grapes that went into the bottle were 83% Zinfandel, 11% Petite Sirah, 5% mixed blacks and 1% Primotivo. Mixed blacks is the term used in old field-blend vineyards which feature different varieties growing together.  Aging was done over 16 months in French oak barrels and the alcohol hits a lofty 15.2% abv.  Retail price is $22, probably cheaper at Costco.

The 2014 St. Francis "Old Vines" Zinfandel has a beautiful nose, showing lush raspberry, black cherry and spice all over the place.  The dark palate provides a boatload of black raspberry and blackberry, with a slightly savory spot sneaking its way through the fruit display.  It drinks remarkably easy, considering the alcohol number, but has enough tannins for the swordfish and spaetzle with brown butter and bacon maple.  (I know, right?)  However, I could have gone with the filet and been just fine.

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Friday, July 29, 2016

Wine Country Oregon: Troon Zinfandel

You may have noticed, like I did, that Craig Camp has moved. The longtime partner in Napa Valley’s Cornerstone Wines is pursuing his "vision of winemaking" in the Applegate Valley of southern Oregon at Troon Vineyard. He wholeheartedly touts Troon’s "natural wines from this unique terroir."

Camp reports that the Troon property was planted in 1972 by Dick Troon, so the roots go deep. He also says that winemaker Steve Hall was a recent hire - two years ago - and that the team is looking ahead with vision. Camp knows a thing or two about terroir, and he wastes no time in lauding Troon’s "high-altitude, granitic soils" of their "benchland vineyards high above the Applegate River."

Camp compares this Oregon Zinfandel to a Côtes du Rhône for its value and simple pleasures. He says, "One of the great failures of the American wine industry is that most wines under $20 are boring industrial wines." He feels European wines offer better value for the price.

He calls Troon's Red Label Zinfandel, Applegate Valley 2014 "Zesty and full of brambly zinfandel fruit," and says it "is quite distinct from most California versions. Burgers, pizza and sausages are just waiting for this zinfandel." And at $18, it stays under the $20 barrier. Winemaker Hall says there is a tiny dollop of Carignane in the mix and, once co-fermented, they aged in French oak for nine months. Just over 500 cases were made.

Vineyard image from Troon
As a big fan of Zinfandel, typically a California grape, I was excited to try the Oregon version. It strikes me as a little tamer, a little less rowdy, but just as fruity and spicy as the Golden State variety. It’s a dark ruby wine purpling at the rim and smelling of black cherry and raspberry, with a memory of holiday pies cooking. A touch of nutmeg and cinnamon is always a welcome aroma. The wine sits well in the mouth, full and rich and not too tannic. Fruit forward but not simplistic, it shows an almost Cab-like elegance but carries a playful palate at its heart. The spices really come out in the flavor profile with a mineral-laced earth note that I imagine to be the expression of the cooler climate, as well as the dirt. There's a lot of "black" in here, but it's lightened by a touch of "red."

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Friday, June 10, 2016

Mendocino County Zinfandel: Edmeades Shamrock Vineyard

Mendocino County has a rich history dating back through the Pomos Indians, Spanish explorers, timber cutters and gold rushers.  It was in the latter part of the 19th century that Italian immigrants began to come to California in droves, and many settled in the rolling hills of Mendocino County. For Italians looking to make themselves feel at home in a new land, grapevines were a big item, of course.

Farther inland from the Anderson Valley Pinots and Chardonnays are the Zinfandel vineyards of Mendocino. Edmeades was founded by a Pasadena cardiologist in 1963, making him a real modern-day pioneer of Mendocino wines.

Vineyards like Gianoli, Perli, and Piffero still mark the region’s immigrant influence. A few of Edmeades’ single-vineyard Zinfandels were supplied to me for the purpose of this series.  Using grapes grown in Mendocino County’s rugged coastal mountains, Edmeades is known for limited bottlings of Zinfandels that are expressive and distinct. Winemaker Ben Salazar likes the grapes to do the talking, so he uses a light touch in the cellar.

Edmeades Shamrock Zinfandel 2013

The elevation on the Shamrock vineyard -  2,900 feet - makes the young site one of the highest in Mendocino County. Planted in 2001, the vineyard is part of a 17,000-acre ranch of forest and grassland that also sports 300 head of cattle. Mike Prescott oversees the grapes as well as the cows.

The wine consists of 97% Zinfandel, with the remainder being Syrah. 15 months in oak, mostly neutral French and American. It has an alcohol content of 15.5% abv and the 250 cases produced sell at retail for $31.

If you want a Zinfandel that delivers its elegance in a closed fist, here it is. It’s like a great looking guy wearing a tuxedo a half size too small. It’s ready for action, just not the action it was expecting.  The nose is incredibly perfumed, shielding layer after layer of spice. There is a savory aspect here that tempers the fruit, a youthful exuberance that spits in the general direction of Perli and Gianoli vineyards. It’s a brash and brawny wine, with toothy tannins, enough to rope and hogtie a rowdy steer. It’s probably a bit much for the lentil soup, but fire up the grill and throw some rosemary in there with the beef.