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

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