Thursday, February 01, 2007

From the Gutter to Cloud 9

Even though I couldn’t make it to the 16th Annual Zinfandel Festival (which for me would be the equivalent of nirvana), I did get a chance to enjoy a really smokin’ good bottle of zin recently.

I realized when I began this posting that I haven’t written anything about zinfandel thus far. It’s odd because I really love zin. Unfortunately, most of the zin that’s available in my price range is pretty uninspiring.

It’s ironic that such a humble grape now commands such a high price. I’ve had some decent zins in the $15 range, but to get something really interesting, $20 is something of a starting point.

Which is why I relished every sip of the Cloud 9 Winery Seity Zinfandel 2003. It isn’t exactly cheap—$30-ish retail, and I had it at a restaurant, so it was even pricier—but it was worth every penny.

The grapes are sourced from the Seity Vineyard in Amador County, which is one of the best (if not the best) areas for zin growing. Instead of paraphrasing from the winery’s Web site, I’ll let them do the “talking:”

"Seity is Cloud 9’s first vineyard-designated wine - from a vineyard that unquestionably epitomizes Cloud 9’s drive for quality and distinctiveness. This 10-acre vineyard is home to the oldest Zinfandel vines on Earth, with proof of existence dating to 1869 when the vineyard was listed as a descriptor on a deed from the U.S. Geological Survey. The roots plunge to a depth of nearly 20 feet, passing through multiple soil layers and adding unique flavor components and complexity that can only be found in such a historic vineyard. Lying on a north-facing slope in the Sierra Foothills, the vineyard flowers and ripens later than most and is typically the last vineyard to be harvested in Amador County. The colder temperatures result in increased pigmentation build-up – creating a dark red wine with intense flavors, including chocolate and coffee – two endemic characteristics of this unique vineyard."

Are you drooling yet? I know I am.

The aromas explode out of the glass: strawberry, raspberry, tea, vanilla and spice. On the palate, the flavors are an enticing blend of red and black fruit, sweet spice, vanilla and, yes, coffee and chocolate. Then, the angels start singing.

Okay, maybe that last bit is a bit of an exaggeration, but that’s roughly how I felt.

It’s a shame zinfandel doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Alternately, it’s a shame that while it gets little respect, it’s still hard to find inexpensive zin that’s worthwhile. Zin makes the perfect pizza/burger wine, and for a chili fanatic like myself, it pairs very well with hot and spicy foods.

Any recommendations on good, cheap zin?


cookingchat said...

I too an a big zin fan. In fact I just blogged about another one from Amador Co., the 2005 Easton...good, but not great. This one sounds very nice. I've blogged about several others on Cooking Chat too.

cookingchat said...

p.s. that Easton one I mentioned is just about $15. Similarly priced, the Ravenswood old vine from Lodi is a good bargain; neither have the complexity of the higher priced version, but a pleasant sipping wine nonetheless.

Sonadora said...

I don't know if it would be considered "inexpensive" but I had a Mauritson Zinfandel not too long ago that ran me about $20. Delicious! I highly recommend the zins from this winery.

John said...

Thanks for the tips.

David - I've heard good things about the Easton and I'm a big fan of the Ravenswood Lodi.

Sonadora - The Mauritson is another I've heard good things about.

Farley said...

Haven't had it in a while, but the Rosenblum Vintner's Blend (ran me about $10 or so down South) was always good, esp. for the price. And Castle Rock has a cheapish Zin, but that's more hit or miss.

John said...

I'm with you on the Rosenblum Cuvee Zin, Farley. It's probably one of the most interesting under-$10 zins out there.