Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Zinfandel Tasting

A set of wines provided by some friends at a recent tasting:

The bottles in the picture, from left to right:

2005 Oak Ridge Winery OZV (Old Zin Vines) Zinfandel: Perhaps the best of the bunch. These days, the Zinfandel grape is often made in to wines that are extremely high in alcohol (upwards of 16%)...this has to do with the fact that the Zinfandel grape is notorious for unevenly ripening, so vintners will often leave the grapes on the vine until the last grapes ripen. The overripe grapes fall off the bunch, and those left on have ripened to the point of having a great deal of sugar in their juice. In fermentation, sugar is metabolized by yeast, and the two byproducts are carbon dioxide, and magical alcohol. With excessive sugar comes excessive alcohol.

Anyway, I digress...this wine is not overwhelmed with high alcohol, which is actually quite pleasant. Trust me, if you're drinking it to get bombed, the 13.95% isn't gonna set you back much. But, with less alcohol, a wine's fruit, acidity and other flavors are not overwhelmed by the "hotness" associated with high alcohol. For this reason, this wine has a good balance of jammy fruits, chocolate, and spice. Not bad...

2006 Peachy Canyon "Incredible Red": A 100% Zinfandel from the Central Coast of California (an area about midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles...this is where the movie Sideways took place). Once again, a zinfandel with surprising low 13.9% alcohol. However, I recall not enough acidity, leaving the wine a little "flabby" (meaning too fruity and sweet, because there's not enough acidity to balance the wine and give it some comparing sugar water to lemonade). Not "incredible", but decent for an everyday wine.

2005 Clay Station "Old Vines" Zinfandel: I'll tell you, I really just didn't like this wine. Just too "fruity". The Clay Station website describes this wine as "bold and fruit-driven, with ultra-ripe blueberry, blackberry and cherry flavors," so they're confirming my description. Now don't get me wrong; I'll drink the hell out of some Hawaiian Punch, but it's not what I'm looking for in a wine. However, that's just may love it.

2005 Cline "Ancient Vines" Zinfandel: If you're looking for a winery that (in my opinion) consistently produced very good "value" wines, I highly recommend Cline Cellars. Located in the Carneros region of Napa Valley (just north of San Francisco), they've rarely disappointed me, whether the wines cost $7 or $17. I haven't seen a wine over $20 made by them. Anyway, this wine tastes like chocolate. Good fruit, just barely enough acidity, but the chocolate flavor is no doubt a byproduct of aging in oak barrels, which gives wine a distinct vanilla flavor and aroma. If you EVER notice this in a wine, it's a good way to know the wine was aged in oak barrels. However, sometimes vintners can overdo it with the oak...usually, it's a tricky way to hide the flavor of crappy grapes.

But, in the case of this wine, it's not too much. Just enough to create a pleasant, chocolate flavor. Think chocolate-covered cherries, and you're there. I like this wine, and I hope you will too.

2006 Robert Mondavi "Private Selection" Zinfandel: Okay. Robert Mondavi was a legend in the wine world. He literally put Napa Valley on the map. California wine would not be what it is today without his vision.

However, I seriously doubt this was his "private selection". Mondavi winery makes wines for every price range (which is great...not everyone is drinking $100+ Mondavi Reserve Cabernet). With that said, this is on the lower end of that spectrum, and it tastes like it. Just tastes cheap and fake. Probably fine for an everyday drink, but at- I'm guessing- $8-10, you could find some real values, particularly from South America, Portugal, and South Africa. But, try it out and tell me I'm wrong.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your assessment of Mondavi's Private Selection. I have been unimpressed with both the white and the red offerings. I am convinced the Private Selection is a complete marketing ploy by RM to lure in the uneducated. I haven't tried the Cline Ancient Vine yet...but will! Thanks for the valued feedback SW!