I've always paired wine with food. Like my obsession with finding the right wines to age, I was similarly obsessed with finding the right wine to go with my culinary creations. I never followed white wines with fish and red wines with red meat. I dissected the flavors of a dish and the aromas of a wine and looked for synergies. Similar to my taste in music, I looked for harmony over discord. So I'm especially excited about my 2015 The Year of the Appellation project.
In 2015, my goal is to know California wines as well as I know Texas wines (actually planted vines and harvested grapes). Because the Zinfandel Experience is at the end of January, I decided to start exploring California appellations that produce Zinfandel. (Once we complete our exploration of Zinfandel we'll be moving on to Pinot Noir.)
When I lived in Texas I'd regularly host blind wine tastings where friends and I would explore specific varietals of wine. I had spreadsheets upon spreadsheets of extensive notes about how various wines aged. My focus at the time was Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, and Texas wines, but because of restrictive shipping I was unable to fully explore California wines outside of those I'd discovered when I lived in California (Monterey Pinot Noirs and Napa Valley Cabernet Franc).
The order in which we're touring the ten California appellations that produce the most Zinfandel grapes is based solely on what is available at either our local corner liquor store or through one of the shopping delivery services we use (Instacart or Google Shopping Express). The primary constraints I've placed on our tastings is that wines need to be less than $40 and easily available. I firmly believe you should be able to find great wine whenever you need it to turn a blah meal or gathering into an occasion. For this tasting, I picked up wines from our corner liquor store.
To truly appreciate the nuances imparted in a wine by where its grown, you need to compare wines of the same vintage and same blend. (For general guidelines on how to taste wine, check out my recent Hosting a Wine Tasting Party post for Cultivar Wine.) For our first tasting of Zinfandels from Paso Robles I was unable to find samples from the same vintage, hence the mix of 2009, 2010, and 2012. For this tasting of Zinfandels from Lodi, I was unable to find samples with the same grapes, one was 100% Zinfandel whereas the other was a mix of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah.
As with the first of our appellation tastings (mixed vintage Zinfandels from Paso Robles, California), we chose to go into our tasting of Lodi Zinfandels blind without specific knowledge of the appellation or the wineries we were tasting.
Overview of the Lodi Appellation
The second American Vitacultural Area (AVA) or appellation known for California Zinfandels we decided to explore was Lodi, an appellation that according to Lodi Wine accounts for 40% of the Zinfandel crushed in the state.
Lodi itself is further subdivided into seven subappellations. Where vintners in Napa label their wines by subappellation this doesn't appear to be as widespread a practice with Lodi vintners (based on the small sample size of bottles on the shelves of our corner liquor store and Safeway).
Zinfandels from Lodi are generally described as "compellingly lush, round, gentle, bright, and often distinctly earthy."
Both cubes and I preferred the Lodi Zinfandels we tasted over those from Paso Robles.
2011 Scotto Family Cellars Old Vines Zinfandel
The color tended more towards brown than other zinfandels I'd tasted with purple at the edges. When I swirled the wine I saw legs that were more defined and slower to extend than the other wine. The Scotto Family Cellars Zinfandel brought to mind a less sweet version of the Tobin James Zinfandel. It was more complex than the 7 Deadly Zins. The nose was more earthy with cherry on the nose, on the palate and through the soft long finish. There was just a hint of tannin but nothing to dissuade me from drinking the wine.
After the tasting, we learned that the 2011 Scotto Family Cellars Old Vines Zinfandel had won a Gold Medal at the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.
- Last Call Wines described the wine as:
"This medium-bodied, well balanced wine is drinking beautifully, with initial flavors of rich, ripe plums and dark chocolate, followed by vanilla and spice. The racy nose has black cherry and pepper with a hint of herbs."
- Lea and Sandeman were a little less descriptive in their notes:
"Packed with spicy, ripe red fruit with a hint of dark chocolate. Full bodied and rich, but still very drinkable and great value."
2011 7 Deadly Zins from Michael David Winery
Raising my glass I saw a deep purple color with red edges. Swirling the liquid revealed well-defined legs. The nose and the palate on the 7 Deadly Zins transported me back in time. First, the nose took me to a campfire under the redwoods at Gerstle Cove in Sonoma County. Second, the taste took me back to Lent when I was in the third grade and we were confined to a church building filled with incense. Besides those memories, leather, black pepper, and earth with a hint of fruit caressed my nose and encouraged me back for sip after sip.
After the tasting, we learned Robert Parker had awarded the wine 88 points. We also discovered from the vintner's notes that this pick is not 100% Zinfandel. (ph 3.60 / TA 0.61 / Alcohol 15.0% / Bottled on 5.15.2013) It's a blend of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah.
- They describe the wine as:
"Fuller and richer with more texture and deeper fruit, it reveals hints of tapenade, new saddle leather, black cherries and black currants. It off ers a lot of fl avor for its price."
- Richard Jennings described the wine as follows on Cellar Tracker:
"Very dark ruby color; baked raspberry, oak, cough syrup nose showing heat; baked raspberry, raspberry syrup, oak palate with low acidity; medium finish."
Of the two Lodi Zinfandels we tried of the 2011 vintage, the 7 Deadly Zins was my favorite. cubes preferred the Zinfandel from Scotto Family Cellars. Locally K&L Wines still has some of the 7 Deadly Zins (about two cases) in stock at $13.99 a bottle.
If you'd like to see more photos from the various wine tastings, visit The Year of The Appellation gallery.
Be sure to come back next Wednesday when I share our thoughts on Sonoma Zinfandels.
Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.