Category Archives: What We’re Drinking

Zinfandel. A History


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!

Origin: Croatia
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!

Why we should drink more affordable Bordeaux

When we hear Bordeaux, many of us imagine large chateaux and even larger price tags. We think of complex classification systems and confusing labels. Most of all, we think of unapprochable wine – the expensive stuff needs to be put in the cellar (not to mention that it’s just expensive) and the cheap stuff is just… cheap. But there is such a wealth of wine from Bordeaux that neither needs age nor a fat wallet. All it needs is a good meal.

Wines of Bordeaux are extremely food-friendly. They are often lower in alcohol and high in acidity (two necessary aspects when pairing with food). Most Bordeaux is made to be drunk when young – no cellar time necessary. So for those of us looking for a great bottle to go with dinner, Bordeaux is an excellent choice. If you are nervous about navigating the world of Bordeaux and searching for a great wine under $50 that fits your palate, here are a few suggestions.

- Entre-Deux-Mers – translates to “between two seas.” This region produces excellent and crisp white wines, great for pairing with seafood or as an aperitif. Not only that, but they carry a very lovely price tag (under $15).

- Right Bank – if your palate tends to softer, more elegant reds, look for Bordeaux from St-Emilion or other right bank appellations (Fronsac, Canon-Fronsac, Cotes de Castillon, Bourg, Blaye, etc). These wines are typically Merlot-based and often very approchable when young.

- Vintage – there have been a few stellar vintages in Bordeaux this past decade, including 2005 and 2009. Many 2009 are still in futures sales, but there are some excellent under-$50 wines from the ’05 vintage. Stellar vintages translate into great wines, even in the entry-level sector. So snag some ’05s and give them a try.

It’s also helpful to read the tasting notes so you get an idea of what the wine tastes like. Don’t base it off of scores, but rather read what the winemaker or wine critic says about the wine – this is important in buying Bordeaux.

So give our Affordable Bordeaux a try. And enjoy the 1 cent shipping we’re offering on this list this week. Cheers!

Spooky labels for Halloween!

Our new neighborhood is apparently a Halloween destination. We have been warned of the excessive crowds of children, told to purchase 50 lbs of candy, and to get home early as the street is shut down. Say what? We’ve also learned that our house, situated on the corner, was not only the best decorated home (need decorations, now!), but also the “refill” house of the neighborhood. This is no problem for us, but it got me thinking that I need to serve wine that fits the spooky Halloween theme!

Typically I don’t buy wines for their label.  The saying, “it’s what’s inside that counts” rings most true when it comes to wine, but I feel I can make an exception for Halloween. Here are a few lables I’ll be serving for the adults that  night.

Ghost Pines - it’s possible I will get one of every varietal here. The winery produces Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. I have not heard of the winery or tried the wines yet, but they definitely fit into that spooky theme.

Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo - “Cellar of the devil” – got to have these wines on hand for any Halloween festivities as they are great value and actually named for a haunted cellar!

Razor’s Edge – Choose from Shiraz or Shiraz-Grenache. The label harks back to movies with Freddy Kruger or Jason from “Halloween.” What’s inside is that ripe Aussie fruit style – easy drinking and good for watching the kiddos go door-to-door.

 

Hello Kitty Devil Pinot Noir – it just speaks for itself…

Ode to Pinot Noir

It’s been 7 years since we watched Miles and Jack take that life-altering road trip through Santa Barbara wine country, but the enthusiasm for Pinot Noir remains strong. People are still seeking great Pinot, and even better, great, affordable Pinot. And it can be had! We are enjoying more and more deals in the wine world, including great Pinot Noir.

As a rememberance to Miles and his passion for Pinot, here is how he explained it to Maya:

“It’s a hard grape to grow. As you know. Right? It’s, uh, it’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It’s, you know, it’s not a survivor like cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and thrive even when it’s neglected. No, pinot needs constant care and attention. You know? And, in fact, it can only grow in these really specific, little tucked-away corners of the world. And only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand pinot’s potential can then coax it into its fullest expression.”

Of course, this speech could also be taken  to describe some people and relationships, which is why it is so moving. So take time to enjoy and savor the next glass of Pinot Noir you enjoy – it is a delicate grape, and one that deserves attention. Cheers!