‘E’ Wine of the Week
By Bruce Cochran
Some people switch to white wines this time of year, but others among us like reds whatever the temperature outside. This week let’s turn up the air conditioning and look at a quintessentially American red wine.
If you’re headed to Little Rock later this month, mark you calendars! I’m a big supporter of CARE — even fostered a great dog, adopted it, loved it — and now I’m delighted to announce an event to help this fine organization: Paws in the Vineyard from 5 to 7 p.m. June 28 at Metropolitan Bank, 5500 Kavanaugh Blvd. For details. see www.careforanimals.org.
Try a new wine this week!
Many red wine lovers love big, deep, full-bodied 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 wine lovers who love hearty wines.
Where are they made? First of all, zinfandel is a uniquely American wine, though they wouldn’t agree with that in Italy. They claim that we got it from them, a grape they call primitivo. Today many people believe the Italians got the variety from Croatia, across the Adriatic Sea.
Most California Zinfandel is grown in warmer parts of the state. It takes lots of sun to fully ripen zinfandel grapes.
At one time Napa Valley was known for great zinfandel, but during the past several years, it’s been more profitable to plant cabernet sauvignon and other Bordeaux varietals.
Across the Mayacamas Mountains, Sonoma County has a long history of zinfandel. Many old vineyards were planted there by Italian immigrants decades ago, some a century ago. These unique vineyards are easily recognizable by the odd-looking “headpruned” style, where each vine stands alone on a thick, gnarly trunk instead of along a trellised row. At this advanced age, the vines produce only a few grapes, but they’re very intense in color and flavor.
Another good place for big zins, including old vine zin, is the Sierra Foothills, where wine has been made since the gold rush days.
Today, though, the self-described “Zinfandel Capital” is Paso Robles on the central coast. North-south running mountains there block the cool breezes off the Pacific, causing daytime temperatures to soar. Rising hot air draws in ocean-cooled air in the evening. Many of the world’s great red wine regions have hot days and cold nights like this.
Vina Robles makes a fine, single-vineyard Paso zin. Grapes are picked by hand in the cool of the morning and sorted at the vineyard. Fermented in small stainless steel fermenters, 1 percent of the juice is drained off to further concentrate the wine. Then, it’s 16 months in oak barrels. This deep, rich, yet balanced red retails for about $30.
Bruce Cochran has traveled to every major wine region on four continents. A 30-year veteran of the wine trade, he taught continuing education wine classes for 26 years at colleges throughout Arkansas.