There really is nothing like a California red. For me California Zins are something really unique. I remember, on my first trip to Napa back in 2005, I visited Seghesio way out in Sonoma and it solidified my love of Zinfandel. Now I know what your thinking, Zinfandel, that’s the really sweet, pink stuff that comes in that giant bottle. How on Earth could a chef love that? Well, to clarify a misconception, there are two types of zins. The pink, or white crap and the worthy red liquid. Both from the same grapes but the crushing techniques are different. While the red wine is produced from the crushing of the grapes and keeping the skins on during fermentation, the white wine is made by removing the crushed skins right after pressing and only using the juice for the wine. While it is no secret that I dog-cuss that pink stuff I have to have to tip my hat (at least a little…very begrudgingly) for what it gave the wine industry in California during it’s darkest days.
Prohibition all but devastated the wine industry in California in the 1920’s. Many vineyards uprooted their vines and shut their doors but the savvy ones found legal loopholes and created wine for churches and/or selling juice for home winemakers. The ones that survived until the repeal of Prohibition were able to keep their vines growing and producing and now have the distinction of being “Old Vine Zinfandel” which produce that dark, peppery, jammy wine that is a California Zin. Since California didn’t produce notable wines until the 1970’s the sweet, plain, and unoffending white Zinfandel kept the dollars rolling in so that the Mondavi’s of the world could make the battery of fine wines that we now know.
Now this brings us to the wine we opened last night. Blending, which is nothing new in wine making, has taken a turn with Zinfandel being used as a backbone of the blend instead of the traditional Cabernet Sauvignon. Paraduxx by Duckhorn has some amazing blends and Orin Swift, the maker of “The Prisoner” does not disappoint either. Your homework for this week is to find two blends. One with a Cabernet backbone and one with a Zinfandel. Invite some friends over, pour both and compare. Please feel free to comment on your findings.
Name – The Prisoner bottled by Orin Swift
Region – Napa Valley
Grape Varietal – Blend (Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah, skins of the Charbono grapes, and Grenache)
Vintage – 2007
Price – $34.99
Alcohol Content – 15.2 (due to the Zinfandel grapes which can hold more alcohol than most others)
Food Pairing – Rack of Lamb with a Blueberry Demi Glace, “Bacon and Brussels”, Bay Leaf Scented Rice Pilaf
Color/Appearance – Dark ruby color with hints of a rusty brown
Nose/Aroma – Burning alcohol smell that dimishes quickly, ripe berry, touch of oak, and leather (Sara and I were both proud of ourselves for finding this one)
Mouth/Flavors – Smooth and round, Jammy, Earthy, A nice peppery note after an hour of decanting
Rating (out of 10) – 8.5
Impressions – This is a nice example of a well crafted blend. A fantastic gift to give to someone for a thank you. A member at the club gifted me this wine for that reason and I having been itching to open it up. I had a glass of this while in Dallas last week with a Ribeye and it peaked my interest even more. Just as good last night as it was then. To clarify, I didn’t travel with the bottle, it was on the wine list in Dallas.
Food Recommendations – Roasted and grilled meats, big flavors but nothing to overwhelming that would over power the nuances of this wine.
Fun Facts – 92 Points & #47 Wine Spectator Top 100 of 2009, Drink now through 2014