Archive for the 'Zinfandel' Category

2005 Neyers Vineyards Zinfandel, High Valley Vineyards, Napa Valley

04082009You all know I like a good Zinfandel, so when Marquis Wine Cellars – the shop with Vancouver’s best selection of Zins – sent out a recent newsletter touting the Neyers Tofanelli and High Valley Zins, I had to pay them a visit. We’re just putting together some homemade pizza, so I figured there’s no time like the present to crack it open and give it a taste.

Wow… what a nose. The initial whiff gives up a big bunch of crushed dark plum, black cherry and a cool spicy edge. Sounds good, right? Well, a sip is even better. It explodes with all that dark plum and cherry fruit and leads into a balanced, spicy and finely tannic finish that lasts a minute. Did I like it? Hell yeah.

It’s funny. This wine really shows how subjective wine reviews can be. I checked with the Wine Dictator and they gave it a lowly 82-point rating, calling it “Lean and a bit austere…“. On the Neyers web site, the other end of the scale is shown in a 91-point rating and glowing review from Robert Parker. Here’s what he had to say: “Displaying both elegance and power, this beauty can be drunk over the next 5-7 years.” I’m going to side with RP on this one.

If you’re a Zin fan and can find it, I would highly recommend this wine.

$42.90 at Marquis Wine Cellars.

4 1/2 stars


2005 Cosentino Cigar-Zin Zinfandel, Lake County

03142009As I’ve mentioned, I do enjoy seeking out some of the value finds at my local stores, and with the whole economy challenge it seems there are few more sell-offs happening of late. With the monthly vino budget being targeted for the Playhouse Wine Festival store, this one was a “must have.”

You know we love the Zin, and this is a tasty treat for the price. A swirl and sniff brings lots of vanilla with a little bit of briar and almost a bit of cinnamon. Basically the nose is really quite dessert-like. A couple of sips give some tart cherries and ripe red plum with some floral hints as well. The finish has some nice acidity with a bitter dark chocolate edge. A Zin with a bit of bite! (In a good way).

I like it. Not the fruit bomb-type, it has this misdirection in the middle that is kind of fun – it comes off on the nose as being sweet and jammy but has some serious backbone and a bit of an edge. Tasty, and at $10 off, even better!

$19.99 marked down at the local LDB store.

4 stars


2006 Klinker Brick Winery Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi

02072009I reviewed the 2005 vintage of this wine a couple of weeks ago and quite liked it. This one? Not so much.

Maybe it’s my palate this week, but I’m not liking it. The nose has a smoky-sweet BBQ sauce kinda thing going on. That pretty much tells you what’s happening. It’s like there was a fire near the vineyard and the smoke infused the grapes. It’s not working for me.

It’s like you’ve got a handful of crushed blackberries (sounds good so far) and then douse them with a generous dose of Jack Daniels BBQ sauce (OK, not sounding so good anymore). That’s followed up by a short and slightly hot (15.8% booze) and sour finish with not much going on in the middle. ‘Nuff said.

I’d say to give it a pass. Either search out the 2005, or another Zin in the price range.

$31.99 at Liberty Wine Cellars.

2.5 stars


Video notes from the 2009 ZAP Festival Tasting

So, I’ve finally taken the plunge into video for the site. I purchased a Kodak Zi6 HD Pocket video camera and took it along on the trip to ZAP down in San Fran. I meant to film more, but managed to get some of the festival on video.

Here’s a brief intro to the media tasting lounge at ZAP and a quick (and shoddily filmed) shot of the view of the bay.

I wish someone had given me these tips before I first attended the ZAP fest a couple of years ago. Some stuff to think about before going to a big wine festival:

A quick show of the 2nd pavilion and early trade and media crowd at the 2009 ZAP Festival tasting:

How can you not love tasting wine with a view like this??

… and finally, here’s a look at how quickly the pavilion fills up when the doors are opened to the public at 1pm. Compare it to the earlier video shot of just trade and media people. Also, to guage the size of this tasting, remember that there’s another separate pavilion that housed wineries ordered alphabetically A – L. This is a HUGE tasting folks.

That’s it for the shaky video. Don’t be scared by the purple zombie teeth. That’s what happens between brushings when you’re tasting Zins. Graham and I will be putting together our list of highlights this week. Until then, head over to Just-Grapes and have a read of what Shea thought of the tasting.

UPDATE: Viddler seems to be having a few issues today. Their site has been down and all embedded videos may not be showing up. If you don’t see videos in the post, maybe come back later. 🙂


2009 ZAP Festival Tasting in San Francisco

01312009I’m not going to make this a long post, but I just wanted to give a quick update to our SF trip. Today marked the third year in a row that both Graham and I have made the trek down to San Francisco for the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP for short) Festival Tasting at the Fort Mason Center.

There’s a reason we head here every year – it’s FUN. The thing about Zinfandel seems to be that it’s the least threatening of the wine varietals. It tends to be jammy and fun, so the people who are drawn to it tend be unpretentious sorts. That was certainly true this year. Everyone from the winemakers to the volunteers seemed to have fun at the fest.

We hit the floor at 10am for the start of the media and trade tasting and stayed until around 2:30… a lot of that time spent up in the handy media lounge pouring our own samples and taking notes. We spent quite a bit of time hanging out with Shea Coulson from Just-Grapes – another Vancouver-based (but down in Berkeley for the next few months) wine geek and a heckuva’ nice guy.

We were all impressed with the quality of the wines this year. They seemed a bit more in balance and complex. Having said that though, I’ll be up-front and say that my favourites were hit-you-over-the-head fruit bombs. Mazzocco, Turley, Woodenhead and Ravenswood had standouts along with a bunch of smaller producers. The quality of the wine being poured was pretty bloody high.

Another thing that Graham just reminded me of was that all the big-boy producers were pouring full line-ups – from 5 – 10 wines and all of the were great. It was “Mmmm” after “Wow.” Ridge, Ravenswood, Renwood and Mazzocco had multiple wines on the table that just reminded me why I love this grape.

We did run into a few detractors of the wines’ styles, but you know what? If you don’t like your wines diverse – sometimes lean slky and complex but  sometimes huge and jammy, don’t go to the Zin tasting. ‘Nuff said.

I’ll be back next year… and here’s a little shout out to Julie Ann Kodmur and the ZAP folks for the great time we had at ZAP 2009.


2007 Barber Cellars “Mr. Beast” Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley

01302009Well, it’s ZAP time folks. Graham and I are down in San Francisco to do our thing at the big Zinfandel Tasting at the Fort Mason Center tomorrow. We’ve got our rental car and have done a tour of familiar spots in town. One of them was K & L Wine Merchants… one  my favourite wine shops in town.

While we were there, we picked up a couple of bottles to pop open tonight to get things going. Of course one of them was a Zinfandel – a small-production wine from Barber Cellars. There were only 200 cases of this blend of 85% Zinfandel and 15% Sangiovese made.

God, I love finding cool little wines… it just makes me all warm and fuzzy. This won’t knock you out with it’s size or jamminess, but you will have a little “Wow” moment when the dark chocolate coated maraschino cherry finish builds and lingers in your mouth. That follows a nose of ripe blackberry, dark chocolate and licorice. Before that tasty finish, there’s a crushed juice bit of blackberry and cracked pepper… then that “Wow.”

It’s a good deal down here. So search it out if you can.

$18 USD at K & L Wines.

4 stars


2005 Klinker Brick Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi

01272009It’s ZAP week for anyone who is a Zinfandel nut and I was craving a Zin. I headed to the BC LDB store near my office and came across this wine. For some reason, I’ve never had it, even though it’s in that reasonable under-$30 category.

From what I could find, this wine is made from grapes grown on vines that are in the 35 – 110 years old range. What that usually means is a little extra complexity in flavour and structure. The old vines don’t turn out as much fruit and what fruit is produced has a depth of flavour that isn’t found grapes from young vines.

OK, wow. This is actually pretty good – better than I expected, actually. The nose is a mix of bright and brambly cranberry/raspberry fruit with a spicy backbone braced with crushed blackberry juice. Yep, that sounds good and it was. A big ‘ol sip gives up gobs of smoky, spicy blackberry juice with a nicely structured briary backbone with nice tannins. That all leads to  medium-long finish that shows some heat from the 15.5% booze. Even with the heat, it’s satisfying stuff. Yum.

If you’re a Zin fan and like ’em big and ballsy sometimes, this is a wine you should take home.

$28.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

4 stars


2007 Orin Swift Cellars The Prisoner

01172009I’m always up for trying a vintage of The Prisoner. I’ve loved the last 2 vintages (the 2006 made my list for top wines of 2008), so when I came across the 2007 on Friday, I grabbed one to test it out.

One thing I should point out – this is a young wine and really benefits from some time in the decanter. I’ve grabbed a couple to put away for a while (if I can keep my hands off them).

So, I decanted this for a couple of hours last night before taking a sip and that really helped it out. When I first popped the cork, the wine had that bright and youthful fruit thing going on… as the air mellowed it, that evolved into dark jammy blackberry fruit with chocolate.

That really became evident when I took a sip. This blend of 50% Zinfandel, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Syrah, 9% Petite Sirah, 2% Charbono and 1% Grenache made for a concentrated dark fruit explosion with a beautifully balanced chocolate edge to the long finish. Imagine a big handful of ripe blackberries mixed with chocolate covered cherries. Yep, that’s this wine.

Another score for Dave Phinney and the gang down in St. Helena. Tasty stuff.

$52.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

4 1/2 stars


2008 – My Favourites in Wine and Music

It’s the time of year that the “best of” lists make their appearances. Despite what some folks may say, these lists are pretty fun to put together and it’s always good to hear what others liked the most in the past year. What better thing to do on a snowy Saturday than to sit down and make my list? 🙂

Music and wine are a natural match. I’m a music freak/I’m a wine geek. Almost every memorable bottle of wine I’ve had over the years was drunk while music was playing. With that bond in mind, I thought for fun that I’d put together a list of my most memorable albums of the year and pair them with the wines I loved most in 2008 (in no particular order and based only on full bottle samples).

mgmt12000 Paitin Barbaresco, Sori Paitin paired with Oracular Spectacular” by MGMT
I’ll lead off with this one because they were both my top choices for the year. The wine was memorable in a way no other matched and the album still gets regular play. There’s more going on with both than you get at first taste or listen. They both just get better as you go. The wine was, in a word, stellar. The album had standout tracks such as “Time to Pretend”, “Kids” and “Electric Feel” – great stuff.

tvontheradio2001 Yalumba The Octavius, Barossa Old Vine Shiraz paired with Dear Science,” by TV on the Radio
What can I say about these two?.. This was what I popped open on my fortieth birthday and TV on the Radio have put out three of my favourite albums. Both have layers and layers and make you think as much as they are just plain good. The more you taste the wine, the more it comes alive – the same goes for the album. It requires multiple listens to worm its way into your consciousness… and I’m glad it did. Standout tracks include “Halfway Home”, “Golden Age” and “Dancing Choose”.

boniver2003 Russell Creek Winemakers Select Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley paired with For Emma, Forever Ago” by Bon Iver
This is one of my favourite Washington State wineries, owned by a cantankerous and interesting guy, Larry Krivoshein. I bought this wine at his tasting room in Walla Walla and really liked talking and tasting with him. Both the album and the wine are the work of solitary guys in relatively remote locations – Justin Vernon in a remote Wisconsin cabin during a cold winter and Larry down in Walla Walla (seriously, do the drive some time). Both of them doing it their way. In 2008 they both put out products worthy of praise and enjoyment. Standout tracks on the intimate and beautiful album are “Skinny Love”, “The Wolves (Act I And II)” and “Blindsided”.

m831997 Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella Classico paired with Saturdays = Youth” by m83
Both the wine and the album had many layers… Hell, the wine was in the running for my wine of the year. Everyone who knows me knows that I love the Amarone.. and this is a helluva’ bottle of the Amarone. The wine was absolutely seductive – with raisins, plums, cherries, brandy and spice in its flavours. The album? Amazing. m83, aka Anthony Gonzalez, pulls off stuff you wouldn’t think anyone is trying these days. It’s symphonic in parts, with a sense of pop melody that leaves many of the songs in your head long after you’ve given it a listen. It’s also a “grower”, which is a good thing – it’s one of those albums you like more with each listen because you’re getting more from it. Strong stuff. I’d say it’s in my top 3 albums of the year. Tracks such as “Graveyard Girl”, “Kim & Jessie” and “Couleurs” help show why this album made my list.

elbow1999 H. Billiot Millésime Champagne paired with The Seldom Seen Kid” by Elbow
Classics… that’s what both of the wine and the album strike me as. The Billiot is amazing… and to me, is what a Champagne should be – toasty, complex and sexy, with an everlasting finish. The flavours were all about baked apples, along with some peach, honey and ginger spice. Onto the album – Elbow is one of those bands about whom I constantly marvel they’re not more popular. The singer, Guy Garver has an amazing voice that sounds like Peter Gabriel on a bender… and they consistently record strong albums. Great songs on the album are “Grounds For Divorce”, the cheery, hopeful and amazing “One Day Like This” and “The Fix” which just begs to open a British gangster film. I may have listened to this more than any other album this year.

fleetfoxes1998 Castello di Verduno Barolo, Massara paired with Fleet Foxes” by Fleet Foxes
Both of these choices were unexpected finds in 2008. I stumbled on the wine while having lunch in Verduno, Italy. It may have been the setting, but I loved this wine. The Marsala sherry, nuts, leather, cherry and flowers led to a sexy cherry brandy finish. Likewise for the album. At first it struck me as too softly harmonic and folksy (very Simon & Garfunkel-y)… but the more I listened to it, the beauty of the music won me over. It’s a mellow-day album that will leave you in a better mood for having heard it. I can’t say there are standout tracks. It’s a complete and round achievement that stands as an album.

hercules2005 Mazzocco Sonoma Zinfandel Pony, Dry Creek Valley & 2004 Mazzocco Stone Ranch Zinfandel, Alexander Valley paired with Hercules and Love Affair” by Hercules and Love Affair
These choices represent the good-times party choices of the year. If you’re at a party and drag these wines out, anyone who likes wine (especially a great Zin) will love them… and the album will get their booties moving. Both the Mazzocco Zins are made in that crushed blackberry syrup and briar style with balanced structures and finishes. Winemaker Antoine Favero does a great job there. I think they were my favourite Zins of the year – and that’s saying a lot. The Hercules album has the fantastic tune “Blind” that Pitchfork chose as their track of the year. I have to admit, it is pretty bloody good.

neonneon2006 Orin Swift Cellars “The Prisoner” paired with Stainless Style” by Neon Neon
Both of these choices are just plain unique and rock n’ roll. Dave Phinney heads a small (when we visited last January, there were 4 people doing it all) operation that turns out phenomenal wines. I first tried this wine in their offices and then gladly took one to enjoy that night. Graham’s review noted, “the Prisoner has a vibrant blackberry and ripe plum on the bouquet, which opens into briar and with some dark chocolate in the mix.” Loved it. Neon Neon grab you right away with their brand of tense early-80’s musical nostalgia and take it from there. It’s a lot of fun for someone who actually became an adult in the 80’s. I loved the tracks “Dream Cars”, “Belfast” and “Michael Douglas”.

lykkeli2001 Damilano Barolo paired with Youth Novel” by Lykke Li
I loved this wine… it was one of my finds at the Vancouver Wine Fest and was helping me set up for my forthcoming trip to Piedmont at the end of March. Like I wrote back then “…it’s a complex mix of brandied cherry, plums, leather, tar, and spice along with a violet-floral thing going on.” This family-owned winery located near the town of Barolo consistently turns out some of the best values (and wines) from the Langhe. Production on the album is provided by by Bjorn Yttling of Peter Björn and John and are just plain catchy – with Lykke’s sexily fragile voice. Standout tracks are “Dance Dance Dance”, and “Let it Fall”.

cutcopy2007 Seghesio Zinfandel, Sonoma County paired with In Ghost Colors” by Cut/Copy
An amazing wine and an equally impressive album. The Seghesio Zin was tapped by the Wine Dictator as their #10 wine of the year and given a hefty 93 points. I can’t disagree with them much. Personally, I enjoyed the Mazzocco Zins more, but I also loved this wine. We’ve gone through 6 bottles in the last while. It’s got ripe and juicy blackberry fruit long with a form and tannic backbone showing a brambly and spicy finish. Wow. The album is also a “Wow”. I loved it the first time I heard it and have listened to it countless times since then. It’s another 80’s-influenced wonder, is funky as Hell and makes you want to shake your ass. I’m still digging tracks such as “So Haunted”, “Far Away” and “Hearts On Fire”.

frenchkicks2007 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough paired with Swimming” by French Kicks
I’ve drunk a helluva’ lot of this wine this year. It’s amazingly diverse in its food pairings and is mouth-wateringly tasty… and it’s the wine I ordered on my first date with Candace in 2008. We still drink it regularly. It’s got lots of tropical and citrus fruit, with a crisp backbone of acidity. It’s also a pretty amazing deal at $21.99 here in BC making it my value wine of the year. The album. I loved it. It’s one of those albums you put on and like pretty much every track. I’ve listened to it a tonne this year while preparing dinner, driving and working. It stands pretty strongly as an album, but also has great tracks with chiming guitar like “Sex Tourists”, “Abandon” and “Love in the Ruins”.

lsp2005 Lange Estate Winery and Vineyards “Three Hills Cuvée” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley paired with The Age of the Understatement” by The Last Shadow Puppets
OK, last on the list, but certainly not least… I grabbed this bottle on a trip down to the Willamette Valley last year and had been saving it… for a Pinot craving. I popped it open after Candace and I visited Portland in October and it was all it should have been – blackberry, dark cherry, dark chocolate and earthy spice. The album? Again, I loved it. It’s a very stylish side project from the Arctic Monkey’s singer, Alex Turner and  good friend of his, Miles Kane, the guitarist of the Rascals. What they came up with is a stylish and catchy sound that’s like a 60’s garage band that has developed a sudden taste for martinis. I personally think it’s a crime that the amazing tune “My Mistakes Were Made for You” wasn’t the theme for the latest Bond film, “Quantum of Solace”. Other good tracks are “The Age Of The Understatement”, “Standing Next To Me” and “I Don’t Like You Anymore”.

Honourable mentions for wines in 2008 (based on me just really likin’ them):


2007 Seghesio Zinfandel Sonoma County

This is a first for the site – one vintage following another as consecutive posts on the site… but after the #10 rating for 2008 by the Wine Dictator, I had to try it as soon as I could.

I finally happened on the 2007 at an LDB outlet next to where I was buying my groceries tonight and promptly bought a bunch. I AM a Zin fan, after all.

I brought it home, opened it while cooking and promptly offered up the following post on Twitter, “…Holy crap it’s tasty.”.. and it is. The nose has all sorts of berry goodness followed up by flavours that eloquently yell berry, cherry, briar and spice!.. and finish it all up with firm tannins that mean business – and business is good. Very, very good.

It’s complex, tasty and a bit slutty at the same time. It’s like running into your hot doctor (if you have one) out at a club in a sexy black dress.

If you’re  Zin fan, or if you love a great, spicy and seriously tasty red wine, you should search this out. I like the folks at the winery… and I obviously love the wines. It’s not TOO much of the Zin fruit and at the same time, it doesn’t lack that dark fruity goodness.

Go Zin!

$34.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

4 1/2 stars


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