2006 Ognissole Primitivo Di Manduria: Good aroma, but more acidic

oct. 2, 2011: this was the second wine my father served with our roasted chicken, potatoes, carrots and onions. he served this to compare a red zinfandel with a primitivo, since these are different clones of the same croatian grape. we all agreed that this primitivo wasn't as expressive as the 1992 ridge. given, these were two very different vintages. but my dad thought this wine was acidic, though it smelled good. my mom, however, didn't like the aroma at all and said it had a strong tannic finish. greg said the first wine (the 1992 ridge zinfandel) was better, though he detected a blackberry and cherry nose. but it had an acidic finish. as for me, i thought we were all spoiled by the ridge. this primitivo definitely couldn't compare. 14.5 percent alcohol.


2009 Raymond Collection Lot No. 7 Field Blend: Acidic at first, but then it mellows

oct. 6, 2011: this is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah, petite sirah and zinfandel that, at first, calls for a meal with tomato sauce, or maybe lemon. that's because the opening acidity in this field blend from st. helena, california, pulls at your tongue, and the acids in a tomato or lemon dish would likely counter balance the acids in this wine for an overall neutral finish. that said, this winetree purchase is light, loose, and definitely filled with red fruits, and within minutes of opening this bottle, i'm not sure i'd get this one again unless i could find some way to mute or at least reduce that sting on my tongue. it could be a case of bottle variation, since we had this wine at the winetree tasting last night and we both liked it. but my first thought is this isn't a sipping wine, and we prefer ones that are more tannic and versatile. greg, however, thinks this is similar to the apothic red blend of syrah, zinfandel and merlot from california, though he said it's a bit more sour. he likes it. 13.8 percent alcohol. about $12.50.

correction: about an hour later, the acids seem to have toned down, and the fruits are really thrusting forward now. this is a good sign, as i like the red fruit flavors here. in fact, that's this wine's strength, i think. this is a wine that needs to sit for a while. don't open and immediately serve; have patience.

second night: it's fruity, mellow, the acidity just isn't there. this is definitely a wine that needs to sit, and that'll hold out for a night or two.


Pelligrini Vineyards Finale Bin 3131 : A very good Long Island dessert wine

oct. 2, 2011: i got this ice wine in august at pelligrini vineyards, in cutchogue, long island. i was visiting denise the weekend before hurricane irene hit, and it was a beautiful sunny day: one of the best days of my summer, in fact, and i spent it with a very good friend. once i got back to the midwest, i wanted to make sure to serve this with my parents, since this was something i thought they would like.

taking a tip from teddy gislason, i made an apple tart with puff pastry to pair with it, and that recipe worked out rather well (i used granny smith apples and added one table spoon of brown sugar instead of white cane sugar to the topping): http://www.puffpastry.com/recipedetail.aspx?recipeID=23986

this bin 3131 vintner's pride from the north fork of long island was a blend of gewurtztraminer and sauvignon blanc grapes, and it came in at 13.5 percent alcohol. my dad said the aroma is absolutely incredible (he said that's likely due to the gewurtztraminer) and that it's better than many ice wines he's had before. my mom enjoyed it, saying it's good. greg and i both liked it. i thought it had that slight syrupy quality that ice wines tend to have in that it has a bit if a thicker consistency. it also went well with the apple pastry puffs.

i know this isn't a wine we can get here in evansville, but if you have a chance to experience it, don't miss it.

1992 Ridge California Zinfandel Late Picked: Excellent!!

oct. 2, 2011: we had my parents over for a roasted chicken, potatoes, onions and carrots on sunday. my dad introduced this 1992 ridge, which is one of the three "R"s of zinfandel: ridge, rosenblum and renwood. we've had at least several of the last two, but our only exposure to ridge is through my parents. this 1992 late picked pagani ranch (80 percent zinfandel, 15 percent mataro, 5 percent petite sirah) did not disappoint. we were all in awe of this zin, which my dad said had a smooth mouthfeel, with an excellent long finish. he said the first sip was slightly sweet, but that went away about 10 minutes later. greg thought it had a berryish nose and flavor, and he really liked it. my mom said it's just the perfect wine for her tastes. "there's nothing like a california wine," adding later that it had a raspberry flavor. i thought it was smooth, berryish, with a gentle but strong feel. it was very well balanced, and very good. 15.8 percent alcohol. gift.


Wine column no. 16: Zinlicious

All Sam's Club has to have is a sale and Greg goes crazy. Lamb, you said? There's a sale on lamb? And there he goes to the store off of Burkardt Road so that we can freeze some racks and chops that we can then pair with a good bottle of red Zinfandel. 

Not that I'm complaining. Greg's memory for the price of various cuts of meat is like an MIT student's memory for the Blackjack cards everyone else hasn't yet played in Vegas. Which is to say: Don't even bother to try to keep score, because you'll lose every time.

So when we had our friend Rob and his son River over for dinner one recent Saturday, I was all about serving these newly purchased racks of lamb and their corrolating chops with a marinade of fresh thyme, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil that I let sit for about an hour. The chops weren't a success, but the racks of lamb were -- and paired with a 2004 Renwood Grandpere Zinfandel from California, they really shined. 

This Zinfandel smelled of caramel and chocolate, but the texture was all smooth and subdued. Paired with the tender, juicy lamb, this Varsity Liquors purchase definitely didn't need to impress -- it just did. 15.5 percent alcohol. About $28.

Speaking of Renwood, Winetree's got a 2006 Old Vine that's worth trying, too. For about $14, this bottle of Zinfandel is more spicy than sweet -- which worked out wonderfully, even when Greg was disappointed in the results of a two-hour effort to grill and smoke pork ribs that he'd marinated in barbecue sauce.
He was right that the smoked ribs were too dry. But honestly, I liked the grilled ribs, which were covered with the carmelized barbecue sauce. And paired with this Renwood from Amador County in California, they were delicious. This 15 percent alcohol creation was lighter than other versions of red Zinfandel we've had (think higher-priced Rosenblum Cellars, which we wrote about here:http://www.courierpress.com/news/2011/may/16/variety-of-rosenblum-zinfandels-worth-exploring/), but that was a winning element in this particular meal match. All in all, this was a really good bottle. It still really surprises us how varied red Zinfandel can be.

Another good, inexpensive red Zinfandel is the 2008 Zin Your Face, which you can get at Winetree. At 14.9 percent alcohol, this Cameron Hughes creation from Healdsburg, Calif., packs a punch, but it's a pleasant one. The label says this is spicy amd jammy, and that's definitely true. I paired it with spicy salsa, but even that couldn't compete with this Zinfandel's bursts of flavor. Greg liked it, too, saying it was spicy and fruity. I think it had flavors of cassis and oak, and even five days after being opened, it held up after being corked several times. A good buy offering good flavors, no doubt about it. About $12.

Now here's a Zinfandel that isn't really a Zinfandel, depending on what you read: The 2008 Layer Cake Primitivo, which is from Puglia, Italy. The ones that writewine magazines -- Wine Spectator, for instance -- say the Primitivo grape and Zinfandel grape are actually both clones of the same grape that originated in Croatia. Wine Spectator goes on to say that grape clones are naturally occuring genetic subtypes that are encouraged by some growers, but all I know is that this Primitivo was smoky, tannic, a bit peppery and more subdued in its cassis flavors. It also wasn't your typical sweet Zinfandel. It was well matched against a homemade pizza that Greg made of seven cheeses, ground hamburger, portobello mushrooms and artichokes. 13.5 percent alcohol. $12.99 at Schnucks.


2005 Lodi Lapis Luna Romanza Shoup Vineyard Zinfandel: Fruity

you're not messing around when you bake a pork loin that's smothered in a habanero, thyme, salt and pepper rub and set it down, piping hot and sliced into thick slabs, on your dinner table. this is why you need a substantial wine to match the flavor muscles emanating from this dish. and here is where a funny thing happens: pair a medium spicy dish like this pork with a fruity zinfandel (87 percent zinfandel, 13 percent green valley sangiovese) from lodi, calif., and -- to me at least -- the sugars in the wine become even more pronounced ... almost too much so.

but sitting across the table from me was greg, who had the opposite reaction. to him, the sweetness of this lapis luna zin was the perfect match to the pork. he didn't mind how light this wine was, the paler reddish color it cast off in our glasses, or the way it lacked the type of earthy goodness i've started to really appreciate in the zins we've had in the past. maybe i've had too many rosenblum zins; maybe i've started to equate the lusciousness of that company's higher-priced wines to the way i think red zinfandel really should be.

but here's the thing: we've had two other lapis lunas, and both were sweet. given, they were both cabernet sauvignon -- so we're dealing with a different grape here -- but i think there might be something about the way that company grows and processes its grapes that impacts the way their resulting wine comes off in the glass. 14.1 percent alcohol.