E Wine of the Week
By Bruce Cochran
Oh, those hedonistic reds
Let’s get ready for fall with a discussion of a favorite red wine for many of us, and maybe a new discovery for some of our new readers.
Try a new wine this week!
Valley of the Moon Zinfandel
Many red wine lovers love big, deep reds, and nothing quite attains the hedonistic nature of a big red wine like zinfandel. Inky dark, with flavors described as “bramble berry” and “black fruits,” a great zinfandel can be a perfect match for hearty dishes and cold weather.
Where are they made? First of all, zinfandel is a uniquely American wine, which I think, makes it great for Thanksgiving. Most of them come from warmer parts of California. One place is Paso Robles on the Central Coast, the self-described “Zinfandel Capital.” North-south running mountains block cool breezes off the Pacific, causing daytime temperatures to soar. Rising air draws in ocean-cooled air in the evening. Many of the world’s great red wine regions have hot days and cold nights.
Napa Valley has long been known for great zinfandel, but during the past several years, it’s been more profitable to plant cabernet sauvignon. Across the Mayacamas Mountains, Sonoma County has a long history of zinfandel. There are still old vineyards planted by Italian immigrants decades ago, some a century ago.
Valley of the Moon Winery, near the town of Glen Ellen, claims to be the oldest winery in the valley, with buildings dating back to 1863. They certainly have an old zinfandel vineyard. Planted in the 1940’s, these short, gnarly old vines are especially striking during winter and early spring, when the leaves are gone.
The winery describes their local microclimate as “banana belt,” with hot days followed by evenings cooled by Pacific fogs
The estate zinfandel is from the small, stumpy old zinfandel vines in Sonoma Valley. Many of these old vineyards, once common throughout Sonoma County, have been lost to urban encroachment, mainly due to their typically low yields, which makes them less profitable. The upside is the deep, intense flavors that old vine fruit can offer. It’s a classic wine world example of quality vs. quantity.
Valley of the Moon’s “Sonoma County” Zinfandel (around $20) is comprised of about one-half estate grapes, including that old vineyard, blended with grapes from other parts of Sonoma County, notably Dry Creek Valley in the north, another place long known for great old-vine zin’s. Farther from the ocean than many other parts of Sonoma County, it, too, has a warm climate. Another good place for big zin’s, including old vine zin, is the Sierra Foothills, especially a winery named Renwood.
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