Review: This Prosecco is an all-around pleasure to drink. It is one of those slightly sweet-to-dry delights that will please anyone at the dinner table or party. It’s scarily good, I sipped it a little too fast because I was so taken by the first sip. How can I explain crisp, yet creamy? I’m certainly buying this wine again as an every day celebration since it’s so accessible at under $15. A true value and a-must-have-on-hand-at-all times kinda wine.
It’s so exciting when a wine that was once mis-understood goes mainstream. That’s how we feel about rosé this year. Sure, dry rosé sales have been climbing for over a decade, with lots more consumers drinking and appreciating the delicious pink drink, but only recently has dry rosé become what we’ll call, “mainstream.” How do we define this? While there is no exact definition, I like to call something mainstream when it hits pop culture. And that’s what rosé has done. Can you imagine one of the cast members of “Friends” popping open a rosé for a date and making it look cool? Though on the rise, dry rosé was not quite there yet in the 90s. But perhaps now it is!
Check out this great clip of the show, “Up All Night”, with Maya Rudolph, as it showcases the Whispering Angel Rosé, a wine we feature today, the last day of July!
Though Maya claims to drink this wine “like kool-aid,” we can tell you that the flavors are anything BUT! True to Provence rosé style, the color is light salmon, or “onion skin,” and the nose is rich berry, light flowers and stone mineral notes. The palate delivers what a good dry rosé should – lots of berry fruit, a strong acidic backbone, and lingering finish. Whispering Angel, however, gives you a bit more, with its texture. Still bone dry, still berry/floral/mineral driven, this wine has an absolutely gorgeous, silky-smooth texture that keeps going and going.
Though I don’t drink Kool-Aid, I could say that I could drink this wine like Pellegrino (and I drink a lot of that).
Today, we feature stellar wine that highlights some of the best of Zinfandel, and that is the Kunde Family Estate Zinfandel. One thing I love about Kunde is that they own all of their vineyard land – that means they have complete control. The 2006 Zinfandel showcases exactly why Sonoma Valley is an ideal place for the grape, and the complexity it can gain with a few years of age. So with that, let us give you a little history of Zinfandel!
Hot Spot: California, Southern Italy
Synonyms: Primitivo, Plavac Mali
Zinfandel is often touted as the ideal grape for 4th of July BBQs and even Thanksgiving dinner as it is the quintessential “California” grape. So how did a grape variety from Croatia come to be known as the “California Varietal?” Wine grape historians (not their technical name but we’ll call them that) traced the variety back to the 1820s, when it was imported from an Austrian nursery and found a home somewhere on the east coast of the US. About the time of the Gold Rush in the mid-1800s, Zinfandel found its way to the west coast. By the late 1800s was the “it” grape, partly due to its productivity and sturdy constitution. Even during prohibition, Zinfandel remained popular for home winemakers, which is one reason you see such very old Zinfandel vines.
In the 1960s, researchers recognized that Zinfandel and Primitivo contained the same “grape” DNA. Then in 2001, researchers did some “fingerprinting” on a few old vines in Croatia. Turns out that Zinfandel is a version of an ancient grape called “Crljenak Kaštelanski.” And yet, it is still known as the classic California grape. You may see some plantings in Australia and even Europe, but for the most part, Zinfandel has stayed true to its California base.
And what about White Zinfandel? Zinfandel is a red grape – always has been – but in the 1960s and 70s, Americans preferred white wine. So in 1972, Bob Trinchero launched what turned out to be one of the largest successes in the wine business. Using free run Zinfandel juice, with a little added sweetness and occasionally some more aromatic white varieties, White Zinfandel skyrocketed in popularity and sales. The craze for this slightly sweet, lightly pink wine brought awareness to Zinfandel, even the original red kind. Advocates of the grape began to protect the vineyards, particularly the old vines from before prohibition.
Defining Traits: Big, bold, jammy, spicy, brambly
Depending on where it is grown, the age of the vines, and the methods of the winemaker, Zinfandel can vary in its flavor profile. It’s a sturdy grape, so its rare to find a “light-bodied” Zinfandel, but you’ll find a range of styles, from elegant to spicy to brawny to jammy. Typical characteristics include spice, jam, all sort of wild berry flavors, pepper, leather and sometimes a bit of oak notes.
So we raise or glass to the American grape from Croatia – To Zinfandel!
Central Coast. Thinking of the region may have you wondering, where exactly is it? How much land does it encompass? Isn’t it for cheap, bulk wine that goes into those jugs on the bottom shelf of the grocery?
Central Coast takes up the land just south of San Francisco to just north of Los Angeles – about 250 miles down the California coast. That’s a lot of land. To be precise, as an AVA (American Viticultural Area), it consists of nearly 4 million acres. Nearly 100,000 of those are planted to wine grapes. And yes, it used to be known for creating mass amounts of not-so-hot grape juice that made some not-so-hot jug wines that were cheap, but not too tasty. But in the past couple of decades, the “boutique” side of the Central Coast has worked to catch up with that “bulk” side.
So what are the “hot” regions of the Central Coast? Here are our favorite Central Coast areas and some Let’s start up north…
Monterey: Name of a county and a town, this area just south of San Francisco Bay is an ideal climate for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. You have smaller AVAs like Santa Lucia Highlands (Delicious Pinot!) and Arroyo Seco. Wineries with consistent track records and quality? Bernardus, Hahn, Chalone, Calera, and Bonny Doon.
San Luis Obispo: The county that is home to the growing-in-fame region of Paso Robles, this warmer region is home to Paso Robles (ideal for Zinfandel, Bordeaux and Rhone blends), Edna Valley (luscious Chardonnay) and Arroyo Grande (excellent reds all around). Some to look at include Tablas Creek and Justin.
Santa Barbara: Furthest south, you’ll find Santa Maria Valley. You may think this balmy Southern California area would be good for warm climate grapes, but due to the east-west orientation of the hills surrounding the river, the Pacific air rushes in and keeps those grapes cool, so this area is ideal for Pinot and Chardonnay. Further south you get awesome Syrah & Rhone blends. We are fans of Au Bon Climat, Qupe, Cambria, Fess Parker and Sanford.
For this month’s Tasting Room, we’ve gone with the them of “Wines that Taste Good in a Plastic Cup.” Otherwise known as “Perfect Summer Wines.” But the plastic cup thing is more catchy. Why do we call it this? Well, it’s summer – we have BBQs and picnics with big groups of people; you sip wine in a backyard, at a beach or by a pool. Sometimes on a boat! And these types of gatherings happen without glassware, hence our plastic cup title.
Now, I love my wines in a nice, tulip-shaped glass, but when that is not possible, I do have a few requirements for a wine I’m going to throw in a plastic cup. The first three things I look for: big aromatics, juicy fruit and refreshing acidity. Remember, the reason wines are drunk from pretty tulip shaped glasses is because that shape concentrates the aromas to your nose. A plastic cup, without that shape, dissipates those aromas. But wines that are intense and aromatic can overcome this obstacle. And it’s probably dang hot outside so you need something juicy with nice, crisp acidity. The last requirement for my wine would be a reasonable price! No need to go deep into those pockets when your kid may come running by and spill it out of that cup anyway!
For whites, Torrontes and Sauvignon Blanc are great aromatic wines, perfect for warm weather and those plastic cups. A number of Pinot Gris/Grigios also come up in the aromatic list, as well as Italian and Spanish varieties.
One of our favorite white is the Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes – this is a value bottle that is a great example of the grape. Torrontes is unique to Argentina. We love it because it has the aromatics of a grape like Viognier but the crisp acidity of Sauvignon Blanc. It gives you lots of stone fruits – peach, pear, even apple, with a perfumed floral backbone. It’s just pretty in the nose. Then on the palate, you get this zippy acidity that is so refreshing next to the fruity, floral flavors. A perfect combination.
And of course, Rose… you can’t think of summer without thinking of Rose! To be honest, there are not many Roses I don’t like. I do shy away from sweet rose for the most part, unless I have a super spicy dish with me, but A current favorite is definitely the Mulderbosch from South Africa. It’s a bit different than many rose wines as it is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon – that’s a fuller bodied, thicker-skinned variety than many roses. But we love this part of it – it’s bold enough to match up to some spicy summer foods and yet crisp enough to get you through the heat! And… perfect in a plastic cup.
Finally, red wine lovers have an excellent line up for their glass – I mean, cup. From good California Zinfandel to juicy Cotes-du-Rhone to the wine we feature today – the Yalumba Organic Shiraz – reds have plenty to offer at a picnic or BBQ.
The Yalumba Organic Shiraz is a juicy and spicy wine, with lots of fruit and a great freshness to it to make it perfect for summer and your plastic cup. At a crazy good deal, it’s hard NOT to grab a few cases for summer.
If you’re like me, you may feel bad about the environmental impact of plastic, or you may just love stemware. If you don’t want to use real wine glasses but also don’t want plastic, invest in some stemless wine glasses. I love my Riedel O’s and we use those almost everywhere. If Riedel isn’t in the budget, there are now biodegradable cups being made out there, which should help you feel better about using disposables when your guest count is large.
Happy Summer sipping!
Gwendolyn & Michelle