Sunday, May 10, 2009

In which I host a wine tasting

This weekend I hosted a wine tasting for some Finer Things Club members. We attempted a horizontal wine tasting, trying six Zinfandels with a 2006 vintage. Towards the end, they all seemed the same, because shockingly, my sense of smell and taste buds are not sophisticated enough to decipher the "coconut after-taste on the long finish" or the vanilla oak aromas. Also because I was fairly generous with the pouring. It was fun though, and in my preparation I learned some good facts about wine tasting and Zinfandel.
  • A horizontal wine tasting means to taste one wine varietal from a single year but from multiple producers.
  • Zinfandel is a clone of the Croatian variety Crljenak and a genetic twin of the Italian Primitivo grape. Zinfandel is now considered indigenous to California.
  • Don't be foolish, there isn't a grape called "white Zinfandel".
  • Zinfandel is a component of most California "jug" wines since it is one of the most widely planted red wine grapes. Case in point -- the Menage.
  • Zinfandel is probably best enjoyed in its youth, within 3-5 years of the vintage. With age, the fruit taste drops and the wine can show the "hot" taste of higher alcohol levels.
  • Other than bold flavored cheeses, popular pairings include grilled steak and hamburgers. We made do with pastrami.
  • We may need to work on sophisticating our senses of smell and taste.
Although I was told that the best Zinfandels don't make it to Virginia from California, the nice man at Total Wine gave me some suggestions of decent wineries that would probably have grown/produced/bottled decent Zinfandels. Here is a virtual taste card for each:

1. Macchia Zinfandel Lodi Old Vine Mischievous 2006
Macchia is Italian for "the spot". This deep-hued wine is a blend from five different old vine Zinfandel vineyards. The rich, ripe berry flavors are highlighted with a subtle hint of soft-vanilla oak. This one was my favorite and a general crowd pleaser.

2. Titus Zinfandel Napa Valley 2006
Aromas of blackberry jam and spicy oak leading to superbly concentrated flavors of bing cherries, raspberry and peppered spice, with just a hint of coconut on the finish. Sounds delicious and I had high hopes for this one, but it was the most expensive in the group and not worth the money.

3. Sobon Estate Rezerve Amador County Primitivo 2006
Big, rich and full bodied; with toasty, jammy aromas and forward fruity flavors. Genetically related to Zinfandel, but strikingly different in balance and intensity. My notes say: not liking it!

4. Sobon Estate Zinfandel Rocky Top Amador County 2006
Bouquet of crushed raspberries leads to tiers of wild berry, raspberry, plum and smoky vanilla flavors that are rich, ripe and jammy. Supple texture with notes of spice on the long finish. This wine had less alcohol than all the others, was less "hot", and probably an OK choice for a hot summer.

5. Napa Wine Co. Zinfandel 2006
No information on this one, and the girls said that label and name seemed fake. Not a crowd pleaser. Do not buy in the future.

6. Pacific Edge Hell n Back Zinfandel 2006
Bold blackberry, cherry, crushed pepper aromas and flavors. Brazen finish is softened by the fruit and is round, satisfying and spicy. For only nine bucks this wine was pretty awesome, went down smooth, and had just the right amount of sweet.

Great success! In some spare moments I took photos, look here.

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