Archive | Zinfandel RSS feed for this section

Harney Lane 2013 Zinfandel

18 Jun


Harney Lane 2013 Zinfandel, Lodi, CA. 15.5% ABV, MSRP $24/bottle.

There’s a backstory here. When in Lodi last summer for #WBC16, I visited this winery. I tasted their rosé, and I thought “this is really good”. But when I tasted their old vine zinfandel, I was truly blown away by the power of the beautifully made Old Vine Zin, Lizzy James.

 

 

Months later, I pull a bottle of their 2013 “house” zinfandel from my cellar, open it gently, allow it to air, and taste it. Oh yes, my Father’s Day treat to myself!  The next day I serve it to my in-laws, not telling them what the grape varietal is. The bottle is gone within the first few minutes of the meal- and my brother-in-law doesn’t believe me at first when I tell him he is drinking zinfandel, so I remind him of my trip to Lodi.

 

 

If the independent Lodi winemakers (like Harney Lane, Bokisch Vineyards, Borra Vineyards, Klinker Brick, McCay Cellars, Fields Family Wines, and Acquiesce, just to name but a few of Lodi’s standouts ) were only making fair quality wines, there would be no point- they might as well sell their fruit to the huge corporate winemakers. But in Lodi, they are making smaller quantities of superb, high quality wines- single varietals, single vineyards, custom blends, -really, whatever they choose- they are simply making the greatest wine they can, to the best of their ability. This is how they can make wines that stand out and have an impact: they have to make tremendous wines with superb value in the bottle that makes a customer go “WHOA”,  to remember that experience. In doing so, they create their own brand fanatics who want to join their wine club and drink more than a case per year.

 

I know you want the tasting notes, so without further ado:

Color is deep magenta with violet edging. The nose offers complex, mature black and blue fruit (and really, it smells of blackberry pie) followed by dark chocolate and green, leafy vegetation. On the palate: mature blueberries dominates the lower palate with a small portion of red fruit, -cassis and young raspberry- with secondary notes of mocha, pepper, and clove. Great acidity on this wine follows the fruit across the top palate, but the tannins hit from the tip of the tongue across the top palate simultaneously, making perfect closure to the sip. For the finish, notes of oak, pebbles, and sand round out the long, lusty finish with echoes of that fruit across the palate. For those who have heard my past complaints about too much alcohol in wine, I never sensed this wine as “hot”. To be completely fair, I didn’t even notice this wine was 15.5%ABV until after the bottle was finished. So I’m keeping my trap shut, as this wine rocks. I paired this beautiful zin with cold sesame noodles when I first opened it, and then served it alongside  a beef, tomato and bean chili for dinner. It will rock a steak house menu, pair easily with Italian cuisine, match up with grilled or cured meats, or handle anything that is Mediterranean in style, as well as being purely delightful on its own.

Matured 15 months in American oak, this Zin actually has 5% of syrah blended in. Given that they made 700 cases (about 28 barrels) you can still find some, but I wouldn’t wait very long to get some for the cellar.

 

 

Jorja and Kyle Lerner of Harney Lane call themselves “control freaks” when it comes to maintaining their vineyards, growing the best clusters, and picking their best fruit at the perfect time; but all you have to do is taste it and you will be convinced. Whatever they are doing, it simply works. This is a world-class wine with style, class, depth and tenacity. You’d happily pay five times the price for a wine of this quality in a steakhouse- in the under $25/bottle range, this is a no-brainer. Better yet, join their wine club, and get this wine for $19.20 per bottle!

As a final note, all Harney Lane wines are certified green under the strict “Lodi Rules” for sustainable wine growing. That might make you feel better, about being a better citizen of the planet when you buy the wine. But when you drink it, you might not care anymore. You’ll just be glad this deliciousness is in your glass. 

à votre santé!

Sbragia Family Vineyards- Wines that Sing in the Glass

22 Aug

Sbragia Family Vineyards is a Sonoma winemaking family I did not know before..

And now it is one I will never forget.

Sbragia Family Vineyards 2012 Gino’s Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, CA.  15.1%ABV. MSRP $44/bottle. Sample provided by Bacchus Capital Management.

Color is garnet with violet edging. The nose shows red and black fruit, eucalyptus, anise and green pepper. In the mouth, plenty of black and red berries meet spice, black pepper, chewy tannin and nice acidity. Big in flavor, hot on the back palate when the alcohol crosses the threshold. Tasty by itself and with food, this matched up beautifully with pizza, chili, and by itself in the afternoon sunshine on the back porch. Refrigerated after opening the bottle, it lasted nicely for over a week while maintaining freshness and proper balance. Some great value found in the street prices of this wine. #HeyNow!

Sbrag ZIN

 

 

Sbragia Family Vineyards 2014 Home Ranch Chardonnay, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, CA.  14.5%ABV. MSRP $30/bottle. Sample provided by Bacchus Capital Management.

Color is deep straw verging on golden sunlight. On the nose, baked apple pie, pineapple, a hint of baked bread  while toasted cashews tantalize the senses with a strong sense of alcohol. On the palate, white stone fruit, kiwi, lemon zest, marzipan, and vanilla, with granite on the long finish that leaves a zesty heat across the top palate. #SoNice!

Sbrag Chard

 

 

 

Sbragia Family Vineyards 2012 Monte Rosso Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Moon Valley District. Sonoma County, CA.  14.8%ABV. MSRP $65/bottle. Sample provided by Bacchus Capital Management.

What a gorgeous & classic California cab: deep ruby in color. Eucalyptus, menthol, earth, wet leaves and green pepper with cedar on the nose.  Massive cassis and blackberry fruit up front. Some mid-palate spice, some heat, forest floor, saddle leather, and a soil-rich minerality on the finish with lasting heat, lovely oak and a lingering body. Lovely to drink now but what perfection might this be in 5-10 years with the alcohol muted and the fruit sliding back? This wine drank beautifully for a week of evenings when stored in the fridge… rationing a half-glass of heaven each night. This drinks so well right now but I can’t wait to see what it is like in 2022. #BOOM!

 

Cab 2

 

Ed Sbragia of Sbragia Family Vineyards provides a classic California edge with a long-term family history and pedigree you can taste in the glass. Get a few bottles, pop them with friends, and listen got everyone tell you how good they are. They are just that crowd pleasing.

 

à votre santé!

 

Boneshaker Zin: Trick and Treat!

8 Oct

Boneshaker Zinfandel 2012; Hahn Family Winery, Lodi California. Retail $19.99; street price approx $16/bottle. 15% ABV. 

The first days of fall. It’s the time of year when I finally start drinking red wines again after finishing out the ‘indian’ summer stock I have left. Early fall requires you to transition back to cooler weather and look for solutions (activities, clothing, and yes, even wine) that can handle both hot and cold, chilly fall breezes while you break a sweat under the hazy afternoon sun.

Syrah and red zinfandels are ideal choices right now, but the one wine that has topped them for me is my trick and your treat: Boneshaker Zinfandel from Lodi, CA.

Deep purple color with violet edging, the nose is a jammy boysenberry. On the tongue: black plum, blackberry, and cassis bursts through the palate leaving residual heat in its wake (15%ABV). Slowly you revel in cacao and spice box on the finish, as the tannins unexpectedly slide into home plate leaving your mouth aching for another sip. 

This is the perfect fall wine to drink from late afternoon watching the sun turn clouds into pinkish orange cotton candy, and to pair up later in the evening with fall chili or those spicy BBQ ribs you’ve been jonesing for.

What could be better for All Hallow’s Eve? Nothing but Boneshaker.

The label, a retro industrial negative design of wrought iron, early bikes and split chain links, provokes the essence of early leather-clad riders on motorcycles, and the barn where you made out in the hayloft as a precocious teenager. Turn the light off, and watch it emit an eerie green glow in the dark. Just enough trouble, and too much fun.

Lodi, you keep me guessing with surprise after great surprise. Well done, and Happy Halloween!

Boneshaker

à votre santé!

Wine Upgrades from Underground Cellar

19 Mar

The modern marketplace is full of places where you can buy wine, and pitfalls that accompany them. When something interesting and trustworthy comes along, I want to share it with you!

I ordered from a wine website recently called Underground Cellar. They are not a wine club, but sell specific wines with a unique angle: any and every bottle you buy at one price from a producer enables you to get an upgrade to a significantly more expensive bottle. There’s a little bit of gamble to it, and a little bit of fun. I was intrigued by their site, and like everyone, I like a good bargain. So I took a chance!

I went online, signed up and reviewed the options. I saw an offer for a 90+ point $20 red& white blend with a possible $50 upgrade.  It sounded too good to be true, but the optimist in me won over the New Yorker, so  I signed up and purchased six bottles, selecting ground shipping. Within a week, the wines arrived at my door. I opened the box and found four bottles of Tess Winery’s Red & White Blend and two bottles of Napa Valley 2001 Peju Province, Estate Bottles Cab Sauvignon.

From a price perspective, I did a quick search and saw that one of my local wine merchants sells the Tess for $19.99 (cool) and I saw the Peju online for $66/bottle. Score one for value.  Now, would I like them?

The Tess Proprietary Red Blend 2011 was a new one for me: a red and white grape mix. This  blend actually features Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Zinfandel, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. I was curious and a tiny bit worried for just a moment, until I poured and tasted. Bright vivid red in the glass, with a nose of fresh cut flowers, berries and herbs. On the palate, a burst of raspberry, strawberry, and a hint of melon. This could be an ideal summer red, with far more body than a rosé wine yet with the whimsy of a great pinot or sauv blanc. After tasting the wine, I tried it with fish (great pairing) chicken (great pairing) red meat (good pairing) and veggies (great pairing) and was surprised that I haven’t seen this kind of wine before. Well, I expect we’ll be hearing a lot more from the winemaker Sarah Fowler and proprietors Ariana and Lisa Peju. With good depth for a younger wine, lots of notes with more than a dash of whimsy, you’ll drink this with friends and enjoy it time after time. Tess Winery joins the ranks of small California winemakers (organic certified, to note) to keep an eye on!

Tess

I waited until I had a red meat pairing on the menu at home to open the Peju Province 2001 Estate Cabernet. The color is a deep maroon with fading edges, while the nose showed cassis, dried rose petals, leather, earth, and oak. The age on this is apparent, and the first taste was an inspiration of classic Bordeaux. This teenager is mature, established, and a force to be reckoned with. Decanting half the bottle and letting it breathe for 30 minutes was a smart move. Another taste confirmed the first but time had allowed a huge amount of growth that might have required hours in the glass:  excellent depth, complexity, showing relaxed floral notes, older fruit (cassis, red currants, cranberry) and mellowed tannins. Very nice winemaking, a pleasure to taste, and a huge bargain at $20 for the bottle. I furiously made cellar notes for the remaining bottles and plan to open them with friends at a beach party this summer.

Peju

I was happy to have met Tess and Peju wines for the first time, and tried the Underground Cellar. It was an exciting gamble, and one that paid off nicely. With a little research, you can get both stunning bargains, high quality, and good service. You know I’ll be going back for more.

As a parting note, I haven’t even mentioned Underground Cellar’s Influence Points, Referral Program, or free wine storage- until now. More reasons to check them out, just in case you needed them.

à votre santé!

SuperBowl Wine! Bogle Essental Red

3 Feb

Bogle Vineyards Essential Red 2010, Clarksburg, CA. $10/bottle, purchased from Mayfair Wine & Liquor, Queens NY.

A blend of old vine zinfandel, syrah, cabernet savignon and petite syrah. “Unlike anything we’ve made before…” says the back of the bottle, aged in French and American oak for 18 months. I saw this at one of the local wine stores and remembered liking their ’09 Cab Sauvignon served by the glass at a restaurant.  The words ‘old vine’ made me stop and look, the front and back labels peaked my interest and the price was right. Nice marketing, Bogle- it stood out to this Bordeaux snob right away. I thought it might be the right wine to try on game day, with the chill in the air and several dishes that might be hard to pair with a single wine.

Powerful nose of cassis, tobacco leaf and spices. On the palate, there is big, bold fruit: cassis, plum, and cherry  with notes of spice box, clove, and a touch of vanilla.  Nice acidity in the mouth. The flavors were very spicy on the top palate, noted heat from the alcohol, some tobacco and hint of oak. Sweetness from the syrah is present on the finish.  13.5% alcohol.

Bogle Essential 2010

 

You can find the Bogle Vineyards website and more info on this wine here.

My hunch was right, this is a great game day bottle. For the money, this is a nice wine, made even better at the price. Perfect for football or days when you want a spicy wine with a hint of sweetness that will pair with any kind of sports food, from pizza to wings, pasta to meat, it’s easy and enjoyable- an easy touchdown for any friendly get-together. A smart add to your cellar or fridge, when a blend of spicy red grapes is the perfect balance to go with just about anything.

à votre santé!

An Over the Top Zin!

28 Oct

While on hurricane “Sandy” standby, my neighbors called me to come over and taste a new bottle. I was greeted by Lori & Gary and their new bottle of 2010 Earthquake Zinfandel from Lodi, California.

The color is purple with ruby edging. The nose is very sweet blackberry, blueberry, and plum. As I inhaled, I also noticed secondary scents- green vegetation, a touch of earth and some minerals: granite & clay.

On the palate this zin (which has some petite syrah blended in) bursts with bold sweet fruit. As it swished around my mouth, I noticed powerful tannins but not as much acidity. Perhaps with age, it will gain more balance. In the meantime it’s a fun, bold wine with noticeable alcohol- a whopping %16, that you might not notice quickly as you imbibe, so drink responsibly.

Here’s a link to the Michael David Winery, who makes the Earthquake wine. 

If you don’t recall my mention of my neighbors and their connection with Lodi wines, you can find a refresher in my blog post The Casual Summer BBQ.

Finally, a link to the Ripkin Winery and their phenomenal Late Harvest Viognier.

à votre santé!

A New Model For Wine Tasting: The Mini Bottle

11 Jun

Recently several direct email wine advertisers suggested I buy a “Tasting Room” set of wines. This is a manufacturer/product, new to me, with an interesting approach. Their angle is to provide mini-bottle sized wine samples as well as selling full-sized bottles to the end user. One of the ads on a Snooth.com email advertised the price drop from $35 to $18 as an introductory offer, I figured I’d take the plunge. I elected to try the world selection for $18 (plus shipping, total $22.99) which provided me six 50ml (or 1.69 oz) bottles of various wines: two white, four red.

A few days later, via UPS ground, arrived a compact box the size of a standard binder but 3” deep. The package seemed solid, and bore a large notice: Contains Alcoholic Beverages, Adult Signature Required.

Inside that box was a smaller, black cardboard box with an intricate design. I opened it, removed a to cover and found six mini bottles of wine:

-Spring Seed Wines Four O’Clock Chardonnay (Australia)

-Old Coach Road Sauvignon Blanc (Nelson, New Zealand)

-Stickybeak Pinot Noir (Sonoma, CA)

-Il Cuore Zinfandel (Mendocino CA)

-La Montesa Rioja, (Alfaro, Spain)

-Urraca Malbec, (Mendoza, Argentina)

The box inside lid says in large print and two different fonts, “DRINK ME life is good” (see picture at top).  On the lower box left insert is printed a note that the included samples are not meant to be cellared but enjoyed today. On the right insert, I see a web address and suggestion to buy full-sized bottles from Tasting Room. Smart packaging. I’m curious who the specific demographic is for this company.

After a long day of travel and family obligations, we’ve elected Italian for dinner. So I’ll put the whites in the fridge and pull out the first red wine. I crack open the metal screw cap and pour a tiny bit into the glass, then a little more. Then I pour the entire mini-bottle; while more than my normal first taste, for a full sample  it appears pitifully small in my glass (see picture).  Yet the bottle is just enough for a fair assessment. The picture below demonstrates the bottle size and amount of wine in the glass:

Here are my first responses to the wines I tasted:

Stickybeak 2009 Pino Noir (Sonoma Coast) had a diluted ruby color with a nose of red fruit on the vine. The palate is gentle,  fruity and acidic with raspberry, cassis and spice. I probably would not buy again at the listed price of $20/bottle on Wine Spectator,  $15/bottle on TastingRoom.com or at the web price of $13/bottle- there are much better choices out there for less.

http://www.stickybeakwines.com

Il Cuore “The Heart” Zinfandel, Mendocino CA, 2009: Deep garnet color. On the palate: Black cherry, some plum, pepper and a note of wood (maybe redwood) on the abrupt finish. Tastes like part shiraz to me. Interestingly enough, after writing that I found the winemaker’s website and found this Zin is actually a blend of zinfandel and petite syrah grapes.  Also the manufacturer lists their retail cost at $12.50, so it’s curious I’d find this online at $15.99/bottle by Tasting Room. Hmmm. Can you say ‘margin increase’, kids? I thought you could.

http://www.ilcuorewines.com

So far, considering what I’ve tasted from Tasting Room, I’m not rushing to my local providers to see if they can order by the case. But at an average of $3.84 per 1.69 oz taste, it’s a less expensive way to taste.  At the $18/six bottle set price, it’s not a bad way to try wines.

But Tasting Room’s suggested retail cost of $35 per six bottle sampler, my gut response is that I would probably not partake unless there were specific bottles I really wanted to get my hands on.  But YMMV, especially if you want to taste six wines for the cost of two decent glasses. Tasting Room currently has six bottle flights that cover specific wineries to a particular grape to a region or country and many more, including their take on “Hidden Gems” “Wine for Dudes” and “Premium Reds”.

For the taster, the 1.69 ounce bottle is not a bad way to taste a reasonable amount of wine without over-imbibing (er, unless you foolishly drink all six bottles in one sitting.) TR does offer a “Super Flight” which includes two full-sized bottles at those additional prices, which might be of interest to some.

http://www.tastingroom.com/

Here’s an interesting link to a February 2012 article on Tim Bucher, the CEO of Tasting Room:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/12/business/tim-bucher-of-tastingroomcom-on-monday-night-strategizing.html

Last but not least, is the issue I’ve skirted so far. The mini bottle as a wine bottle? OK, we’ve all seen or experienced half bottles, maybe even the tenth on an airplane. Given the change in mood regarding synthetic corks and screwtop caps, why not try the mini bottle as a wine storage device? Tasting Room says they have a ‘sealed, zero-oxygen transfer chamber’ in their Northern California. Interested? More on that here: http://www.tastingroom.com/articles/TASTE/A+Matter+of+T.A.S.T.E.

À votre santé!

JvB does remind you to drink responsibly, use a dedicated driver when drinking outside your home, and never drink and drive!

%d bloggers like this: