Charlie Opines About Wine

In my search for interesting wines to serve to guests at our Cape Cod Bed and Breakfast, I attend many planned and impromptu wine tastings. I am happy to share my experiences with you. It's a tough job but someone has to do it.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Old Vine Zinfandel

Charlie’s Weekly Wine-ings

Zin is not a Sin
Last week, just a day short the fall equinox, I was working hard to find wines to serve guest this fall at our Cape Cod bed and breakfast. The weather was just perfect at the Belfry patio wine tasting, sponsored by Cellar 55 Wine Merchants. Knowing that fall is around the corner, I am looking for hardy wines to serve and this all Zinfandel line-up gave me some food for thought.

The always entertaining and knowledgeable Spencer Knowles, from Horizon Beverage Company, presented four very interesting and very different Zinfandels. I am sure I do not even have to mention that they were all RED Zinfandels. Yes, most tastings start with white wines and move to reds and yes, there is something called white Zinfandel. But we did not taste any white Zinfandels tonight, thank goodness. All right, I am being a snob. White Zinfandel is still one of the most popular and highest selling wines by volume in the United States and it is made from the red Zinfandel grape. In the 1970s, Sutter Home Winery in Napa Valley was experimenting with different fermentation methods for its’ not very well selling red Zinfandels and “accidentally” created a very sweet, pink wine. They called it White Zinfandel and it immediately became a national favorite. I have to admit I have drunk my share of White Zin, but that was in the 1980s and it seemed the right thing to do.

Although, most Zinfandel fans today will not drink White Zin, or admit to ever consuming it, the wild financial success of White Zin actually saved the great old Zinfandel vines that now produce the red wines we enjoy. Zinfandel is one of the oldest varieties of grape to be grown in California. In fact, until just recently it was believed that it was the only indigenous American Vitis Vinifera grape. Now we know it is related to the Italian Primitivo grape and can trace it origins to Croatia. So, thank you to all those folks who have consumed large quantities of White Zin over the years. 

The first wine of this tasting was the Cameron Hughes Wines 2009 Flying Winemaker Zinfandel. Cameron Hughes is a negociant who literally flies around the world buying wines and working with winemakers to produce exceptional wines. This wine is sourced from 100 year-old vines in Lodi, CA. Many say Lodi is to Zinfandel what Napa is to Cabernet. This wine, like most Lodi Zins, is a big wine that paired nicely with the food tasting of sirloin capriccio.

Next we tried the 2008 Valley of the Moon Sonoma Zinfandel. Valley of the Moon Winery traces its’ origins to 1863, making it one of the oldest wineries in Sonoma with some old Zinfandel vines. Different from the first one, lighter to me, but a perfect partner for the spiced Long Island Duck that it was served with. 

As the sun set, we moved to the Kenwood Vineyard’s 2009 Jack London Zinfandel. The grapes for this wine are from a vineyard once owned by the world famous author Jack London; thus the name. Again, these Sonoma Mountain Zinfandel vines are over 100 years old. The great pairings continued with the serving of a nice pan roasted pork tenderloin.  

We finished with my favorite, the 2009 Mauritson Dry Creek Zinfandel. Mauritson Family Winery, located in Healdsburg, California, is a small family winery that has farmed the Dry Creek and Anderson Valleys for six generations. I have enjoyed their 2007 and 2008 Zins and was not disappointed with the 2009. It was paired perfectly with the Belfry’s tasty marinated hanger steak.  

I am sorry that my pairing descriptions are not detailed enough to adequately state the excellent results of the food and wine match ups. Each wine was different and each food pairing pulled the best from the wine and vise versa. I love Zinfandels (red, that is) and this night just reinforces my commitment to share more Zins with guest at our Sandwich Inn this fall.

Loving Zin is not a Sin. 

Happy Wine-ing!

Charlie Preus, the Innkeeper’s Assistant and Wine Steward at the 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center, Sandwich, Cape Cod Massachusetts

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sandwich to Dennis: Wine Road Trip

Charlie’s Weekly Wine-ings

In the peak of the season at our bed and breakfast, we seldom get away from Sandwich or the Inn. After breakfast, we are cleaning up and getting ready for tomorrow’s breakfast and new guests, then new guest arrive between 3:00 and 6:00 PM. Last week we had that rare day with no check-ins and our current guests were on day trips or already fixed for dinner reservations. With a sense of adventure, we planned a spur-of-the-moment Road Trip.

We called friends who live in Wellfleet during the summer and winter in Florida. We actually see them more during our winter RV travels than we do during the summer season. Luck was with us and they were available to meet to catch up. We picked a spot in Dennis, the Harvest Gallery Wine Bar. Surprise, yes, the road trip involves wine and my never-ending search for great wines to serve our guest.

As stated on their website, “Harvest Gallery Wine Bar entertains all of the senses!”

Michael Pearson, the owner and also an artist, has combined his love of wine, food, art, and music to create an atmosphere like no other. Harvest Gallery and Wine Bar features over 30 Cape Cod artists accompanied by a full-service wine bar featuring wines from all over the world and a locavore-minded menu with seasonal specials and deserts – all to be enjoyed with live music.

We found everything stated on the website to be true. We planned to meet our Wellfleet friends and others at 6:30. We were the first to arrive and picked the best table in the gallery. Are we getting that old? We are now the early birds.

As a true wine bar, they offered a long list of nice wines that could be tasted as a ‘flight’ of three 2 oz. glasses for only $10.00. I like flights; it is a great way to try a lot of different wines that you may not otherwise sample if you had to buy a bottle. I went with an all red flight of:

Pinot Noir- “Bourgogne by Albert Bichot”, 2009, Burgundy, France
Malbec /Merlot – “Esprit de Flore” 2008, Cahors, France
Cabernet –Owen Roe “Sharecropper’s” 2009, Columbia Valley, WA.

I ordered the Esprit de Flore, but was accidentally given the “Rook”, a Merlot/Syrah from Corvidae Wine Co., so in fact I had a four wine flight. I have had the Rook before and have had other wines form Owen Roe, but never the Sharecropper’s. After our flight tasting, we moved on to a very nice Australian Shiraz/Grenache blend, the “Wallace” 2007 Barossa Valley.

As we enjoyed our wines, we shared a Mediterranean Plate of hummus, taboulli, cucumber, and pita, plus some great guacamole with chips from the very nice small plate menu. After a few hours we had caught up on what our friends and their families had been doing and discovered a few new wines to serve to our guest at our Sandwich Inn. As early birds often do, we also left early. By then the Harvest Gallery and Wine Bar was packed with a younger crowd and the entertainment was in full swing. So we made a short night of it, but had a great time on our Road Trip.

Happy Wine-ing

Charlie Preus, the Innkeeper’s Assistant and Wine Steward at the 1750 Inn at Sandwich Center, Sandwich, Cape Cod Massachusetts