Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Zinis zinifera...I mean, Vitis vinifera

I grew up in Lodi, California, the zinfandel capitol of the world. So naturally, I have always had an affinity for this varietal- Vitis vinifera. Zinfandel can be so interesting, as each climate can produce completely different flavor profiles; yet, at the core of each wine, you always know its a zin. This is also a varietal that holds a very interesting historical story. Its said that Croatia founded several indigenous varietals related to Zinfandel, thus forming their wine production in the 19th century. Sadly, most of these varietals were wiped out by the phylloxera epidemic in the late 19th century. In summary, this was a nasty bug that caused fungus to rapidly spread on grapevines, in turn, killing all the vines. Again, it is said, that "way back when", just after the phillloxera epidemic, one of these surviving vines was smuggled into Lodi where is flourishes today... and all throughout the state. 

The Zinfandel vine likes hot days and cool nights, making good 'ol Lodi the perfect place for a home. However, there are great zins growing all up and down the state of California.  If you ever have the chance to pick a ripe, sweet blackberry from the wild- do it.  Beacuase this is what a good Zinfandel tastes like.  Growing up I remember going to Healdsburg with my best friend and her family to stay long weekends at their ranch house. We would spend all day long picking wild black berries from the bushes that were surrounded by grapevines. We'd walk up and down the hills, covered in the sweet black juice, sticky and dirty. To get the best and most plump berries we would even step into the treacherous bushes that were filled with sharp thorns; the one outside the bush would hold the others arm just in case we fell in all together. I don't think we felt any pain back then. That dusty, fresh brambliness with a bit of tartness and tannins the wild blackberries were filled with...it brings me back to those days all the time.

So to relive more of these memories- this time over decadent cheese and charcuterie- I joined my good friend, Tanya, along with three different Zinfandels from three different appellations in California. 

Irie 2007 Zinfandel
Hahn Estates

Paso Robles
A spicy note of clove on the nose along with ripe raisin. Smooth and delicate on the mouth, very elegant. Currant and blueberry take the high notes on this one with a pleasant dusty fruit coming through at the end. This Zinfandel is just short of hearty, has great tannins and acidity, and lingers quite nicely 

Kenwood 2008 Jack London Zinfandel
Sonoma Mountains
This wine is a melting pot...in that it was difficult to pick out the specific flavors as they were all very melded together creating one balanced wine...but here is what we got.
High notes of dark cherry and tar on the nose and more dark cherry on the mid palate. This wine is filled with vibrant, juicy acidity and has a slightly smokey finish. Slightly jammy and the tannins last for quite a while, while they are not overbearing but very soft.

Dogwood Cellars 2007 Zinfandel

The nose was filled with blackberry, black currant and hickory. Followed by jam, jam and more jam; this wine is your typical California jam bomb.
Plenty of spice on the front end and a bit of black pepper that almost resonates through out the palate. It finishes with lots of vanilla and cranberry...and more jam.

Charcuterie: I was especially grateful for the help I received from the Bay Cities Deli in Santa Monica. With their help we had a delightful selection that paired very well with our Zins.
Cheese: Whole Foods- enough said.

I, Melissa Nilssen, do not encourage spitting wine.  Drink wines that are over $5 (you know who you are). If you drink from a box and you are my friend...you will no longer be my friend (again, you know who you are). You don't have to spend over $20 for a good wine.  Please take time to eat, drink and talk about the experience- tis quite fun.

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