Monday, November 19, 2012

Zinfandels for Thanksgiving

For many wine folks, going traditional on Thanksgiving means opening a Zinfandel or two for the celebration. Zinfandel has been called the quintessential American wine, a title that seems shrill, not to mention a heavy load to carry. What I really care for is Zinfandel's rustic flavors match up well with the gamey bird and its innumerable stuffings, as well as with the unavoidable sides of pumpkin, mint jelly, cranberry sauce, and gravy.

Of course, year-round Zinfandel is routinely enjoyed with barbecued pork, roast duck, or even roast chicken. Thus, wine folks not inclined to eating turkey would appreciate Zinfandel's culinary versatility.

At least three new Zinfandels have just arrived at the store which should bring excitement to the holiday table. One is from our good friend Kenny Likitprakong of Hobo Wine. Kenny is third generation California winemaker and his Zinfandel from a one-acre block of Branham Vineyard in Rockpile--an ancient vineyard site in California--is one of the most deliciously complex Zinfandels made.

Ottimino's Zinfandel originates from the Ottimino vineyard in Green Valley, a sub-appellation of Russian River. Evoking classic Zinfandel character with its brambly fruit and juicy flavors. The vineyard is just eight miles from the coast, on the path of cooling ocean breezes that help the vines rein in ripening and leave good acidity.

A new label, Heartfel Zinfandel is from a tiny winery run by winemaker Dan Morgan. The fruit comes from the Brignole Vineyard in Alexander Valley, planted with Zinfandel and other grape varieties dating back to 1908. Dan extracts the old-vine fruit to produce a Zinfandel that's powerful and rich flavors yet graceful on the palate.

Rockpile (Sonoma) Zinfandel "Branham Vineyard", Hobo Wine 2010 $24.00 (Click to buy!)
From a one-acre old-block parcel atop Rockpile in Sonoma. Beautifully balanced, complex, aromatic Zinfandel with layers of red berries, spicy fruit, and tobacco. Expressive and elegant. A revelation for Zinfandel. Kenny Likitprakong, third-generation California winemaker, makes only a barrel of this classy Zinfandel.

Russian River Zinfandel "Ottimino Vineyard", Ottimino 2007 $26.00 (Click to buy!)
A big, classic Zinfandel that's well balanced and delivers sexy, lush blackberry, licorice flavors with beautiful, rich tannins. This powerful wine is packed with flavor but not overripe with alcohol weighing in at 14.4%. The vineyard is situated in the Green Valley enclave of Russian River, about eight miles from the coast. Marine breezes cool the vineyard, especially during the hot summer, allowing for a gradual and even ripening. The vines are dry farmed forcing the roots to go down to keep the vines healthy. Winemaker Bill Knuttel, formerly of Chalkhill Vineyards, did a perfect job in extracting the flavors and raising the wine in French oak before bottling it unfined. An outstanding Zinfandel from one of the best vintages in western Sonoma.

Alexander Valley Zinfandel, Heartfelt Wines 2010 $22.00 (Click to buy!)
From an old vineyard planted in 1908 situated in Alexander Valley's Chianti Mountain. This has luscious, juicy, ripe fruit and brambly, earthy spices. Rich and powerful but exceptionally balanced and graceful on the palate. A field blend of about 80% Zinfandel and the rest a mix of Petit Sirah, Carignane, Mataro, and Alicante Bouschet. Made by Dan Morgan, a longtime, local winemaker. A great find!

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