Monday, February 16, 2009

Drinking with SHIRAZ on Saturday - Zinfandel or ZPC

Its been called California’s grape. So much so that a bill was put to the California state legislature to name Zinfandel as California's "historic wine”. But the Governator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) vetoed the attempt. It was the correct thing to do as Zinfandel is not a native American grape. Genetically it is related to the Italian Primitivo and the Croatian Crljenak Kaštelanski ("Kaštela Red"). In fact Dr Carole Meredith, who performed the genetic analysis, refers to the variety as "ZPC" - Zinfandel/Primitivo/Crljenak Kaštelanski.

Zinfandel or ZPC is a truly versatile grape. It can be used to make a blush wine (White Zinfandel) or robust, fruity reds of depth and concentration and high alcohol, or light bodied reds, or fortified dessert wines and even a dessert wine called Zinfandel essence which comes from late harvest grapes not fermented to dryness so that the alcohol is low and the sugar levels high. The production of White Zinfandel in the 1970 saved many of the old vine vineyards which are now used to produce a resurgent dry red style. Even with this new found interest Zinfandel still plays prince to the king, Cabernet Sauvignon, in California. And this is a good thing for us common folk who like to drink fine wine because it means that these special wines, from old vines and often made in small quantities from individual vineyards, are very often ridiculously inexpensive. Often blended with other varieties by design and sometime by default because of vineyards containing mixtures of varieties, the regional diversity of Zinfandel still shines through. In many respects California Zinfandel is a purist’s grape because it is in its own home and is unspoiled by the desires of winemakers to mold it into a representation of something from another country. The Zinfandel tasting at Vintage Wines was held at the very end of January and all six wines were tasted blind.

First Wine
Deep, dark cherry red with red/pink edge. Attractive, aromatic wine with aromas of black/blueberry and brambles mixed with oak. On the palate its full bodied with a soft and supple entry and attractive flavor carry. Well balanced with juicy acidity and fine tannins.
Score: 2, 2, 4.1, 10.1-18.2/20, 91/100
Drink: Now to 2016
Wine: 2006 Sebastiani Dry Creek Valley, California, USA; 86% Zinfandel, 11% Petite Sirah, 3% Barbera
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 14.6%
Price: $17.99USD

Second Wine
Deep, dark cherry red with pink/red edge. The nose is framed by a geranium top note over black pepper and cherry. Its different, but appealing. Full bodied with tannins that are just a bit too firm at present and the mid-palate cries out for more depth. It could all come together with time..
Score: 2, 2, 4.0, 9.8=17.8/20, 89/100
Drink: 2010-2017+
Wine: 2005 St. Francis, Pagani Ranch, Old Vines, Sonoma Valley, California, USA; a field blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Mourvedre, Carignane and Alicante Bouschet.
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 14.8%
Price: $33.99USD

Third Wine
Dark cherry red with red/pink edge. Dark sweet tea over cedar with ripe cherry bobbing up to the surface. It all seems a little too ripe but this is the trend in Zinfandel. Full bodied with soft, supple entry and an excellent carry of flavors across the palate. The tannins firm up on the finish. This is a serious mouthful of wine.
Score: 2, 2, 4.0, 10.1=18.1/20, 91/100
Drink: 2010 to 2020
Wine: 2006 Rosenblum, Paso Robles, California, USA; 88% Zinfandel, 12% Petite Sirah
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 14.9%
Price: $13.99USD

Fourth Wine
Cherry red with red pink edge. Attractive aromatics that are overshadowed by alcohol, spicy ripeness and ethyl acetate (EA). In the mouth it’s a little softer and leaner than the others with very fine tannins. This is a true drink now style that lacks the solid structural foundation for long term cellaring.
Score: 2, 2, 3.8, 9.7=17.5/20, 87/100
Drink: Now to 2012
Wine: 2005 Karly “Warrior Fires”, Amador Country, California, USA; a blend of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah.
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 15.1%
Price: $19.99USD

Fifth Wine
Dark cherry red with red/pink edge. Resinous oak dominant over mulberry and cherry. There may be some eucalyptus in there but I think that might be the oak showing its exuberance. Fuller bodied than the previous wine with great flavor carry finishing with firm tannins. This is a wine that needs time but the potential is there. And yes all that oak (and eucalyptus) will integrate and become more attractive. (If any of these wines are from Ravenswood its this one – I’ll say it’s the Dickerson because of that resinous oak note.)
Score: 2, 2, 4.0, 10.2=18.2, 91/100
Drink: 2011-2018
Wine: 2006 Ravenswood, Dickerson Vineyard, Napa Valley, California, USA; “Pretty pure stand of Zinfandel”.
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 15.8%
Price: $25.99USD

Sixth Wine
Dark cherry red with a red/pink edge. Very expressive, very ripe aromatics with black and mulberry, spices and oak. Full bodied with firm, ripe tannins and beautiful flavor carry that is a prelude to a lengthy finish. I like the structure on this wine.
Score: 2, 2, 4.1, 10.2=18.3/20, 92/100
Drink: Now -2018
Wine: 2006 Opolo “Mountain Zinfandel”, Paso Robles, California, USA; 100% Zinfandel.
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 16.5%
Price: $16.99USD

From under the Wine Bar
On occasion José, who pours the wines on Saturday, will pull out a bottle or two from under the bar. These wines are usually the remains from a tasting group that meets each Friday night. They gather to taste the new wines on the Wine Bar, and they also bring wines for a themed tasting. On this occasion it was Zinfandel. So José poured me a taste from two unfinished bottles.

Mystery Wine One
Deep, deep deans color. Truly black at its core with bricking at its edge. Lots of roasted and smoked meats. Very OXO cubish with a little caramel note for sweetness. Full bodied but oh so soft as it covers the palate with great line and the finish has all the roasted meat flavors you could want. What is it? Beats me. But it looks way over 10 years old.
Score:2, 2, 4.3, 10.3=18.3/20 93/100
Drink: Now and probably over the next five (2014) because it looks like it might hold quite well.
Wine: 2001 Ravenswood Belloni Russian River Valley Zinfandel, California, USA; Old mixed vineyard, has Zinfandel, Carignane, Alicante Bouschet, and Petite Sirah.
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 15.2%
Price: NA

Mystery Wine Two
Deep, dense, black at its core with a mahogany edge. Rich ripe and very aromatic; Christmas cake over blue and mulberry. Boy, is this ripe! Full bodied but soft and supple on entry with an additional note of iced tea. The tannins are gone but the flavors carry well and the finish is great. I don’t see this going much longer. I saw this wine when José poured it and I wasn’t all that surprised.
Score: 2, 2, 4.0, 10.2=18.2/20, 91/100
Drink: I wouldn’t wait, drink it now.
Wine: 2001 Carlisle “Carlisle Vineyard”, Russian River Valley Zinfandel, California, USA; 85% Zinfandel, 15% Mixed Black Varieties.
Closure: Cork
Alcohol: 16.3%
Price: NA

There are two things of note about these wines. First is the color which hinted at wines much older than they turned out to be, and second was the difference in flavor profile. The current dogma is that if grapes are picked ripe then the flavors will all be the same. Well that is just not true here. Oh, and one other thing. Our little group always brings way too much food to these tastings and so we passed around a chocolate dessert called “Melting Chocolate” to the others in the tasting room. The consensus was that this rich dessert made the Zins sit up and sing. And both José and I agreed that was especially true for the Carlisle Zin or should that be ZPC!

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