Showing posts with label field blend. Show all posts
Showing posts with label field blend. Show all posts

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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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Bonny Doon Contra: A Modern Day Field Blend

Bonny Doon Vineyards of Santa Cruz, California is the workplace of Randall Grahm, The Rhone Ranger.  He's been in front of the pack for so long, people recognize him by the back of his head.  Folks thought Grahm was crazy when he decided Rhone grape varieties were the right thing to do in California.  Now they have to think of other reasons.

His Contra red blend is so named because of its contrarian stance in the face of modern winemaking.  The grapes come primarily from Contra Costa County, and the label calls them, "mostly old-fangled grape varieties from mostly older vineyards."  That's the way Grahm rolls, as he uses his skills to produce wines that reflect the terroir from which they come.  The Carignane grapes used in Contra are said to come from 100-plus year-old vines, mixed with other varieties.

Grahm sees it as a straightforward wine that both looks to the past and the future.  In the past, winemaker intervention was minimal because they didn’t have the technology to intervene.  Tomorrow, Grahm envisions, winemakers will choose a return to those simpler times.

Contra is a blend of 68% Carignane grapes and 38% Syrah.  The Carignane comes from several vineyards.  The Syrah is mainly from Alamo Creek Vineyard in San Luis Obispo, with some from Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Maria.  It’s the latter which gets credit from Grahm for the “exceptionally vibrant, peppery/minty, smoked meat note” in the wine.

There’s a caveat, though.  Contra is indicated as an Old Vine Field Blend on the label, which I am excited about.  “Field blend” is the term for the way grapes were grown once upon a time.  Vineyards were planted with different varieties scattered about, with only a "more of this, less of that" attitude from row to row.  These mixed grapes were grown, harvested and vinified together.  Modern winemaking keeps everything separate until the blending, which occurs in the cellar.  The old way had the wine blended, so to speak, out in the field.

Since the different grapes in Contra are from different vineyards, “field blend" is not a completely accurate term.  Considering Grahm's literate nature and his efforts at being transparent in labeling, the wording seemed odd to me.  So I did what people do when they want to check with Grahm.  I tweeted him.  Here are his responses:

“Grapes from multiple vyds in Oakley, Antioch, but each vyd. itself is more or less a field blend. #oldskool”

“The vyds are a mix of carignane, zin and mourvedre. Some blocks are mostly one thing or another.”

“Normally, we will try to keep them separate as their ripening is usually slightly different (within days apart).”

“For Contra, we don't have to be quite as precise in segregating them, and we can also co-ferment.”

So there it is.  A field blend, at least on the Carignane side.

Grahm now publishes the ingredients of his wines right on the label.  Contra's transparency blurb shows grapes, tartaric acid and sulfur dioxide, with indigenous yeast, yeast nutrients and oak chips used in the winemaking process.  As in Bonny Doon's other wines, Contra is sealed with a Stelvin closure, otherwise known as a screwcap.  The alcohol content is 13.7% abv.

Sitting in the glass, Contra is very dark in color.  It's inky in the middle, purple around the edge. A nose of blackberry has a big whiff of alcohol on it until it blows off.  Give it ample decanting time and you'll be fine.  Once the wine airs out, the nose is all dark fruit and tar.  The palate shows more of the same.  Blackberry and black cherry flavors lead the way for a brambly taste that falls in behind the fruit.  The tannins are great, with enough muscle to handle any kind of food, yet not so forceful that drinkability suffers.

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ravenswood Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel 2006

I'm one guy who loves grocery shopping with my wife.  Denise calls out the specific need of the moment, I quickly proceed to the proper aisle and pick it up, returning to her and the basket in what I'm sure is a blinding flash of light.  There, I find her still weighing the advantages of the various bread products, spices or pasta.  When we get to the produce department - where she judges me underskilled - she cuts me loose and tells me she'll find me in the wine department when she's done.  Oh, joy!  Time to shop for something really interesting.

Denise always goes grocery shopping fully armed with a fistful of manufacturer coupons.  Once, she gave me one of those precious slips of paper.  It was for two dollars off a Ravenswood product. 

After apologizing profusely to the old lady I nearly knocked down as I spun on my heels and left the produce area, I went to see which of the Ravenswood wines would come home with us.

One of the things I really like about Ravenswood - and there is a lot to like - is that they make so many different wines, it seems there is always something new on the shelf from them.  My choice was the Lodi Old Vine Zin, 2006, which listed at $14.  I got it on sale and with the coupon the price came down to $8.

The wine is very dark both in color and taste.  That's to be expected with a healthy part of the makeup consisting of Petite Sirah.  There's a little bit of Carignane thrown in, too, which makes me wonder if this is a field blend.  I've seen some references to the grapes of lesser percentage being "blended in."  That would indicate a "no" to the field blend question, but that would be somewhat unusual for old California vines.

The nose bears raspberries and plums, and the richness of the bouquet indicates the year and a half this wine spent in French oak.  Dark fruit takes center stage on the palate, with a certain spicy note waiting in the wings.  The palate is jammy with blackberries and plums, big, dark plums the way they taste when you get a little of the skin with the fruit.

 At 14.5% abv, the wine does have a bit of kick to it, and the tannins are quite healthy, too.  It settles down nicely after a bit of time, though.  In a rare state of being out nearly every night of a recent workweek, this bottle was opened on a Monday and finished on a Saturday.  A full five days stoppered really allowed it to calm down to a point of being soft and intense.  The mouthfeel is quite full-bodied, there's nice acidity and a good show of tannins.  I detected a bit of anise and some cocoa notes in the finish.

Ravenswood Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel 2006

Varietal:  78% Zinfandel, 21% Petite Sirah, 1% Carignane

Appellation:  California > Lodi

Vintage:  2006

Alcohol Level:  14.5%

Price:  $14 (after sale price and coupon, $8)

Acquisition disclaimer:  Bought it myself