Earthquake Zinfandel

Earthquake ZinfandelTonight, we’re shaking things up.  OK, not really.  That was going to be a play on the Earthquake name of this wine, but truthfully, we’re not shaking things up.  In fact, we’re continuing the theme of the past few reviews, zinfandel!
You know, seeing zinfandel! with an exclamation point after it looks excellent.  It looks appropriate for this style of wine.  Perhaps I should start a movement to always include an exclamation point after zinfandel!  Who’s on board?
This particular zinfandel is in fact a huge brother to the 7 Deadly Zins we reviewed yesterday.  It’s another wine from Michael David Winery.  It’s another Lodi zinfandel.  And just like 7 Deadly Zins, it’s blended with a bit of petite sirah and petite verdot.  (And, yes I know I went on from the whole exclamation point thing.  It got ancient quick.)
As a “huge brother,” or “huge sister” if you prefer, it’s slightly more expensive than 7 Deadly Zins with a suggested retail fee of $26.00 — of course, if you shop around you may find it for less. Read more

Rodney Strong Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc

Rodney Strong Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon BlancThe May/June issue of Mutineer Magazine will be on shelves any day now, including my Wine Steals column.  In this issue I do a roundup of sauvignon blanc from California and Chile, including this one from Rodney Strong.
Wine is an fascinating thing when it comes to brands.  There are so many of them, that the options are nearly endless.  And for me, a few brands stand out in my mind that I have an sympathy toward.  It’s not that they are necessarily better than additional brands, but they’re connected with memories.  I imagine the same is right for additional folks too.  Rodney Strong is one of those brands for me.
Back in the mid 1990′s, a Rodney Strong cabernet sauvignon was one of the first wines of quality that I tasted.  Sure, I had tasted a number of crappy wines previous to that one.  But when I tasted the Rodney Strong, I knew there was more to wine than the plonk I had been drinking.  It was a pivotal moment in my wine appreciation.  Since then, I always get a excellent feeling when I come across a bottle of Rodney Strong—even if there may be better wines right next to it.  It’s a private connection.  And I reckon those private connections are an vital part of enjoying wine.  You shouldn’t like or dislike something just because I, or any additional reviewers, say it’s excellent or terrible.  If you have a private connection to a wine that makes it more enjoyable to you, then embrace that.
Now that I’ve revealed my sympathy and bias for Rodney Strong, I should make it apparent that I tasted this particular bottle in a blind tasting.  Therefore, I didn’t know what it was when I tasted it and my bias could not influence the review. Read more

Redwood Creek Zinfandel

Redwood Creek ZinfandelSummer is quickly approaching, and that means grilling season.  And grilling season means it’s time for zinfandel.  While summer is a fantastic time to try some cool, crisp colorless wines, if you’re looking for a wine to go with your burgers from the grill, then it’s zinfandel you should be grabbing.  I’m not talking about that sickeningly sweet colorless zinfandel, I’m talking about red, bold, spicy zinfandel.  To get you ready for the season, I’m going to present a number of zinfandel reviews over the next link weeks.
This one from Redwook Creek is a bargain-priced Lod zin, at only $8.00.  I don’t have a whole lot of tale to go in the rear this wine.  It’s an E&J Gallo brand — one of many. Read more

Apothic Red 2009

Apothic Red 2009Alright, I’m going back to a theme we had going last week… checking out new vintages of wines we’ve earlier reviewed.  Last year we checked out the 2008 Apothic Red and it was a very fascinating wine, so we were glad to be able to revisit it with the 2009 vintage, which we like even more!
This wine is a blend of zinfandel, syrah and merlot, but there’s a strong influence from the winemaking (not just the grapes) that make this a tasty wine.  Perhaps that’s why they subtitled this wine “Winemaker’s Blend.” Read more

Bota Box Malbec

Bota Box MalbecLast nighttime we reviewed a boxed wine, so let’s crack into another box tonight.  This one is produced by Bota Box, a brand that I’ve never reviewed on this site previous to.  But, I have given their ancient vine zinfandel kudos in my column in Mutineer Magazine in the past.
There’s nothing too fancy about the Bota Box packaging, it’s a basic bag-in-box package.  But I did notice that when opening this box, it was much simpler than most boxed wines.  If you’ve ever opened a boxed wine, you’re probably familiar with the perforated section of cardboard that you need to open to get the spigot out.  Well, on most boxed wines, it’s nearly impossible to tear that section by hand, so you end up getting a knife and hoping that you don’t puncture the bag — or puncture yourself!  But that wasn’t an issue at all with Bota Box.
The box itself is made of 100% post-consumer recycled paper, but that’s not all there is for you tree huggers to get excited about.  The packaging weighs much less than bottles, which means less fuel is used in shipping it.  If you’re looking for a wine with a low carbon footprint, this may be your pick.
OK, enough rambling about the packaging and let’s get to the juice.  After all, who wants to buy a wine just for the box?  Although I do know many people who’ve bought wine just because of the cool bottle it came in (points at self in embarrassment). Read more

Zin Nation at the Cincinnati Wine Festival

Zin Nation at the Cincinnati Wine FestivalThis weekend is the 21st Cincinnati International Wine Festival, and if you’re in the area I highly recommend checking it out.  It’s your chance to sample hundreds of different wines, all in one place.  They have tastings on Friday evening, Saturday afternoon and Saturday evening.  If you want the bargain fee, and the smaller crowds, go for the Saturday afternoon tasting.
This afternoon I met up with winemaker Sue Hofmann, from DFV Wines, and previewed some of her wines that she’ll be pouring at the festival.  Although it’s not all she does, Sue’s specialty is zinfandel.  And she produces zinfandel for a few different marks.  If you don’t recognize the DFV Wines name, don’t be alarmed.  That’s the name of the parent companionship and you’re much more liable to recognize their brands: Bota Box, Twisted, Gnarly Head and Brazin to name a few.
While talking with Sue today she shared that zinfandel producers are really refining their craft in the recent years to produce better and better zin.  And the wines Sue is making are a fantastic example of that.  She spends time with the growers, and her experience — all ears on zinfandel — has enabled her to really be with you what each plot and grower is capable of producing.  She selects the grapes for each wine to make different styles of zinfandel, each with their own unique nuances.
The wines she and DFV are producing are also value-all ears — which makes us like them that much more.  Most of their wines are in the $5 to $15 per bottle fee range.
Here are a few that I tasted today.  I should note that I’m not scoring these wines, as I didn’t taste them in my habitual environment with my habitual processes.  Yes, I’m very strict about that.  I don’t just pull a number out of the air when I score it, but I evaluate each wine against 16 qualitative measures.  It’s a tedious administer and I just didn’t have time to do it today.  And I normally like to taste blind, which I didn’t do today.  All that said, I would expect all of these wines to end up in the low to mid 80′s, if not 90ish for the Brazin.
Bota Box 2009 Ancient Vine ZinfandelThis wine is a set alight red affect.  When I first smelled it, there was slight fish smell to it, which was a bit of a turn off, but it dissipated as the wine opened up.  And once it did open up it showed dusty blackberry and soft plum aromas.  The palate is on the lighter side for a zinfandel, but it subdue offered plenty of jammy red fruit.  In a way I’d describe this as a “set alight and lively” zinfandel.  It’s certainly not my top shelf zinfandel, but it’s enjoyable and a steal of a deal at $20 a box — that’s the equivalent of $5.00 per bottle.
Gnarly Head 2009 Ancient Vine ZinWe recently reviewed the 2008 Gnarly Head Ancient Vine Zin and liked it a lot.  So I was glad to get a chance to taste the 2009.   The nose came right to life on this wine, with plenty of oak — most notably presenting itself with a strong vanilla note.  Sue informed me that the oak in this is from staves, not barrels, which are basically oak sticks that are soaked in the wine.  Some snobs may turn their nose at them, but they are much less expensive than barrels — which saves us consumers money while subdue imparting oak qualities to the wine.  And as Sue described it, being able to use different staves provides the winemaker with a “spice cabinet” to work with.
In addition to the oak on the nose, this wine also shows a cherry cola aroma.  That cola also comes through on the palate and make for a fun zinfandel.  It’s a full and juicy palate too, with gobs of cherry and blackberry flavors in addition to the cola.  It’s a nice wine for about $10.00.
Brazin 2008 Ancient Vine Zin Read more

Monthaven Cabernet Sauvignon

Monthaven Cabernet SauvignonWe’re back to another box today, or an Octavin to be more precise.  This is a cabernet sauvignon from the Central Coast of California.  When a wine is labeled as appearance from the Central Coast, that usually means that the fruit came from a link different sources because Central Coast is a broad province (or AVA).  Within the Central Coast AVA there are several smaller appellations, which are typically known for higher quality fruit and wines are often labeled with those smaller appellations versus using Central Coast.  In the case of Monthaven, most of the juice is from Paso Robles and Monterey.
Although it’s in a box, it’s a serious wine.  The quality of the juice is respectable and the wine is barrel aged, which is a administer usually reserved for more expensive wines.  Despite the varietal on the mark, it’s not all cabernet sauvignon grapes in this wine.  It has 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petite Sirah, 4% Carignan, 4% Tempranillo, 4% Petit Verdot, 3% Zinfandel, 2% Merlot and 1% Mourvèdre.  But with 75% cabernet sauvignon they are able to mark it as such. Read more

St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc

St. Supery Sauvignon BlancI have often dissed sauvignon blanc from California.  I’ve called it bland, dull, lifeless.  I’m guilty of badmouthing the whole category based on a few underwhelming experiences.  But truthfully, California can produce exceptional sauvignon blanc.  And this bottle from St. Supery proves me incorrect for all the terrible things I’ve said about Californian sauvignon blanc in the past.
Based in Napa Valley, St. Supery has been around since 1989.  It’s owned by Robert Skalli, a third generation winemaker from Southern France.  In addition to St. Supery, the Skalli family subdue owned vineyards in Southern France, where Robert has pioneered varietally-labeled wines versus the appellation-based designations that have been the tradition in France for ages.
Despite Skalli’s French heritage, the St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc is a very “new world” style wine with lively tropical fruit flavors. Read more