Wine of the Week:
Vina Robles Zinfandel
Maybe it’s too hot for some wine lovers to enjoy red wines, but some of us try will try anyway. I guess if we can stand around a hot smoker or grill for barbecue, hamburgers or steak, like I’m about to this evening.
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 that 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. They have many old vineyards that were planted 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 zin’s, 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 being 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 per bottle.