Happy Zinsgiving!

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What’s more American than apple pie you ask?  Well, Zinfandel of course!  Long rumored to be the oldest vitus vinifera varietal cultivated in the US, zin has become America’s Heritage Grape.  More than that, zin really is…California! Ravenswood Winery is one of the oldest zin houses in the area, starting in 1976 when legendary vintner Joel Peterson began his adventure in Sonoma Valley.  Now, Joel has handed over the day to day operation of the winery to a larger interest, and while he isn’t making all of the wine anymore, he is able to focus on some very special wines at Ravenswood – the single vineyard series.  I’m so happy that these wines exist because they are everything that the mass produced zinfandel is not.  While the lower end Vintners Blend series is a passable BBQ wine, and great for any occasion, I would say that my tastes have graduated to the complex and distinct Single Vineyard Designates.  I have had occasion to taste these with Joel, and it’s always a treat. This time, I am preparing for Thanksgiving with two of these wines:  2008 Dickerson and 2008 Teldeschi Single Vineyards Designates. The Dickerson is 100% zin from Napa Valley, and this big baby is aged for 20 months in 30% new French Oak.  This wine has none of the Dry Creek brambly-ness, and is restrained and full of smokey meat, allspice, and pepper.  This wine really is still a baby, with strong tannins.  There is a lot of minerality in the backbone ,and it’s a great wine with a lot of complexity.  There is a ton of licorice in there.  This one needs to open up for a bit.  It falls a bit flat for me, but I am waiting for it to open up. Next up, the Teldschi is from Dry Creek Valley, but is blended with 20% Petite Sirah, 3% Carignange, and 2% Alicante Bouchet.  It is a classic Italian field blend, and brings back images of the old wines of Asti and the home brewed red blends of Gallo in the old days.  There are a lot of blackberry notes in here, with bittersweet chocolate.  What I appreciate with this wine is that it has black and blue fruit without it being brambly and overdone.  All three components are fermented separately and then blended to produce the final result.  I am getting a strong espresso note in here, and the 31% new French oak comes out in toasty notes.    The smokey finish lends itself to fig cake as well.  There is a great lingering tasted of cracked pepper as well.  Teldeschi is opening up slowly, very slowly, to espresso and blackberry notes, very dense and chewy After a day, the Teldeschi has become a bit bitter.  The Dickerson, however, has opened up very nicely, and I am getting more fruit, with smoke, meat and anise on the finish The ruling?  The Teldeschi is a fun wine that adds a littl extra to the traditional Dry Creek experience. […]

3 and Twenty Blackbirds

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I was recently lucky enough to be invited to sit in the presence of wine royalty.  Joel Peterson, the founder and driving force behind Ravenswood Winery, hosted an intimate wine dinner where he poured and discussed his single vineyard designate wines.  What a treat! Ravenswood is a formidable force in the zin world, and Peterson is one of the few men that can be called the Godfather of Zinfandel.  In the early 70s, he challenged the going jug wine mentality and tried to create wines that tasted of the place and rivaled European wines. Single vineyard designates aer Joel’s passion, where you can work with small lots reflective of the European heritage of winemaking.  Zinfandel is still somewhat of a mystery in terms of growing and manipulating, and experiments with Native yeast, open top fermentation and oak treatments have yielded some beautiful examples. Most of these wines have very little manipulation, and are reflective of their terroir.  These wines allow the land to speak for them selves..  Zinfnadel is one of the few wines that is very unique to the area it is grown, and might be the most indicative varietal of terroir in the U.S.  there aer so many regions that produce zin, and each region is different in terms of sytle and flavor profile.  If you further refine that to vineyard blocks, you can start to see how the wine takes on the earth it is grown in.  The wide ranges of climate and terroir produces a higher quality over a wider growing region than any other varietal. Over the course of the evening, we tasted 9 wines, paired with delicious foods from Spruce.  I wish I had saved a bit of each wine to taste with the food, but it was all so tasty!  Each vineyard has it’s own character, and each is from a different corner of Napa and Sonoma.  2007 Dickerson – 1000 cases of this single vineyard were made of this 100% zin from Napa valley.  I found it light and bright, with juicy raspberry and hibiscus flavors.  I also found apple jolly rancher, with a tiny touch of evergreen.  This vineyard had an issue with leaf roll virus, which caused the grapes to have high acid and low sugar levels, somewhat mimicking the coastal environment of other vineyards.  The second taste I took of this showed black cherry and bosenberry.  My favorite sneaky little tidbit about this wine, is that the same wine, bottled under a different label, actually received different scores by certain influential critics.  How’s THAT for marketing!  This vineyard is located in Napa Valley, and was planted in sections between 1930 and 1985.  It is a classic example of an old, dry-farmed and head pruned example of Zinfandel in a valley dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon. $35 This was the first zin of the flight and I would definitely BUY. 2007 Big River – also 100% zin, this vineyard was planted somewhere around 1880.  I tasted cracked pepper, dusty plums and […]