This past week and a half, I had the good fortune to participate in three events, two virtual, one live: #VirtualVines with Old York Cellars (January 29), Zinfandel Advocates and Producers’ (ZAP’s) annual #ZinEx, Zinfandel Experience (January 31), and #BWETaste (February 4), a virtual tasting with Hope Family Wines, a sponsor of the Boston Wine Expo, which I attended two years ago. Here is my roundup of the wines and events.
#VirtualVines with Old York Cellars
As you may recall, Old York Cellars invited me to participate in a similar virtual tasting a few months ago, which resulted in my first experience with New Jersey wines. When they asked me again to taste their port-style offerings, I couldn’t refuse, even though I don’t typically drink port-style or fortified wines because of my palate sensitivity to alcohol. The samples were provided by Old York Cellars. Below are my thoughts.
2012 Southpaw White (port-style Riesling)
Bronze Medal: US National Wine Competition
20.6% alcohol, 7.5% residual sugar, $24.00 (500ml bottle) at the winery
Can be cellared up to eight years.
The wine was gold in color due to longer, stainless-steel aging. The wine spent a year to a year and a half in the tank before bottling. Without food, aromas and flavors included baked apple and peach and honey. It had low acidity, a long finish, and noticeable alcohol. With vanilla bean ice cream, the dairy softened the presence of alcohol, while the sweetness of the ice cream enhanced citrus fruit flavors on the palate. The alcohol should integrate with more time in the bottle and as the wine opens up by exposure to air.
2011 Southpaw Red (ruby port-style Maréchal Foch, a hearty, hybrid grape)
20.57% alcohol, 5% residual sugar, $22.00 (500ml bottle) at the winery
Can be cellared up to nine years.
This wine was garnet in color and barrel aged. It was drier than the white, with a burst of candied cherry and plum flavors, a light oak quality, low acidity, and noticeable alcohol. My food pairing choice was blue cheese, a classic, contrasting palate pairing. The cheese enhanced the fruit forwardness of the wine. Again, the dairy softened the presence of higher alcohol. This wine will also soften with more bottle ageing and after being open for a while.
If you have a sensitive palate like me, you might prefer these wines with more bottle age and/or paired with food.
I was supposed to attend the Saturday tasting last year, but my big move to Napa got in the way. Lucky for me, ZAP and their public relations company, Elemental Meme, gave me a second chance to attend. I was a little wary, as I prefer small, intimate tastings, not large public tastings, but I said yes. I rented a car and headed to the Golden Gate Club on the most gorgeous day of 2015 to taste some Zinfandel. I am a lightweight, partially because of my aforementioned palate sensibilities, but I tasted around 25ish Zinfandels in four hours, which didn’t even scratch the surface. My key takeaways from the event were:
This was the most organized public tasting I’ve ever attended. Entry was allowed in increments, so not everyone was there at once. People flowed in and out, which helped greatly with crowd control.
The event provided ample water, spit cups, dump buckets, bread, and cheese. There’s really no reason that anyone should have left the event impaired, unless they didn’t take advantage of what was provided. Always remember: equal parts wine, water, cheese, spitting, and dumping.
There were barrel samples, current and upcoming releases, and some library offerings. The 1997 Ridge Jimsomare Ranch Zinfandel , Santa Cruz Mountains, was a show stopper. I was amazed at how this wine held up, still with great fruit and acidity.
Not all Zinfandels are big, jammy fruit bombs. In fact, none of the ones I tasted from Ridge, D-Cubed, Miro Cellars, Hendry, Bedrock Wine Company, Mazzocco, or Four Vines fell into that Zinfandel stereotype. Zinfandels, when well made, are food-friendly wines with a balance of fruit, spice, acidity, and tannin.
Many Zinfandel producers add a small percentage of another grape variety or varieties, the most common being Petite Sirah, to give the wine a boost. The most different blend I tasted was 2012 Four Vines Maverick Zinfandel, Amador County, with 10% Barbera, a wild berry child with ample acidity and spice.
Zinfandels are produced in a variety of climates and AVAs, but the most unique came from Miro Cellars, two single-vineyard, Russian River Valley Zinfandels (upcoming releases). The cooler climate produces fruit with more acid, red berry flavors, and a peppery zing.
Ahem, Napa makes more than just Cabernet Sauvignon. Just ask D-Cubed and Hendry. Just sayin’.
This was not my first Boston Wine Expo tasting, but it was my first experience with Hope Family Wines based in Paso Robles, California. I was impressed with the variety and quality of the three samples provided to us by our sponsor: 2013 Liberty School Merlot, Troublemaker Blend 8, and 2012 Treana Red. The social media representative from Hope Family Wines was a riot and there was lots of fun camaraderie during the hour-long tasting. Below are my reviews, originally published on Vivino.
2013 Liberty School Merlot, $16.00 from the winery
Throw out all of your biases and past experiences with Merlot. This baby is dark and dense, with blackberry, blackcurrant, and black cherry flavors, accompanied by a kiss of vanilla, a hint of spice and a touch of red berry acidity on the finish. Pair this with steak, burgers, or pork.
Troublemaker Blend 8, $20 from the winery
Here comes Troublemaker Blend 8 (2011, 2012, and 2013), a Rhône-style blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre, plus Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. Floral, fruity, and spicy, with aromas and flavors of violets, black cherry, raspberry, cocoa, baking spices, and pepper. It finishes with nice acidity. Oh, and it’s sassy, just like me.
2012 Treana Red, $45 from the winery
Treana is Hope Family Wines’ flagship brand. Treana Red is comprised of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah, and is deep purple in color. It dazzles the palate with a velvety mouthfeel, dark, rich plum and blackberry flavors, and a peppery, spicy finish. It’s bold, yet refined. I’d pair this with hearty meat dishes and strong, pungent cheeses.
A big thank you to Old York Cellars, ZAP, Elemental Meme, Hope Family Wines, and Boston Wine Expo for the opportunity to taste lots of different wines and participate in these events. It’s been a wine-tastic week and a half.