Wine of the Week
We've got zero doubts about these Zins
Reviewed by Wes Marshall, Fri., Jan. 14, 2011
Zinfandel – Two Great Wines for the New Year
The weather is cooler, the food is heartier, and it's the perfect time for America's great wine, Zinfandel. Not the sweet-as-cotton-candy pink stuff. I'm talking about the whopping, concentrated, opaque blockbuster wines fresh from California's top vineyards.
Zinfandel is a perfect wine for American foods, especially massive slabs of grilled beef, whether in the form of steaks or hamburgers. It also works well with casual foods like deep-dish pizzas, hot dogs, stews, or casseroles. For years, Zinfandel's other great advantage was its low price. Unfortunately, that benefit has slowly evaporated to the point that Zinfandel commands prices similar to Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. But there are still a few bargains out there if you know where to look.
Ghost Pines is a relatively new brand from the folks at Gallo. The Ghost Pines Zinfandel ($15) reflects the modern style of Zinfandel, aiming for alcohol levels between 14% and 15%, which, ironically, is lower than what we saw during much of the first decade of this century. This wine is 14.7% alcohol, which means the grapes are picked a little less ripe, lending it fresh, young fruit flavors.
St. Francis "Old Vines" Sonoma County Zinfandel ($18) is a fascinating wine, one worth tasting at every vintage. I've closely followed this wine for nearly 20 years, and, though it has seen its ups and downs, it has always been interesting. The last few vintages have been classic versions. The grape vines are between 50 and 100 years old and are dry-farmed (i.e., no irrigation). That process stresses the vines so that they produce tiny but powerful grapes. The result is a wine that is somewhat high in alcohol (currently 15.5%) and muscularly flavored. And if ever a wine could handle aging in 100% new American oak, this is it. The fruit flavors are so intense that the oak almost disappears, leaving a nice hit of vanilla and toast.
Both wines are available through better wine shops.
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