Selections for January 2017

The LAST Zinfandel for a while, we promise!                

2013 GARDIENNE WINES ‘Old Vine’ ZINFANDEL – Spenker Vineyard, Lodi

Suppositions and assumptions abound here; many erroneous. 

First off, we should probably leave ‘Old Vine’ without quotation marks in this case, for it is true for once.  That designation on a wine label has no official meaning.  Anybody could apply that moniker to enhance the potential customer’s impression.  The Zinfandel vines of the Spenker Vineyard were planted in 1888.  Old vines?  Do the math.  Drop the quotes.

Next, the Lodi location.  Lodi, for us, is usually a problem.  It can deliver very obvious “impact” wines but only rarely furnishes real complexity.  The latter happens ONLY from the right Lodi vineyards (Spenker qualifies) and in the right hands.  The 125 cases of THIS Lodi Zin were handmade by our very qualified friend Adam Webb, who also had a lot to do with our own Domaine des Plus-de-Vie Mourvèdre.  With a reverence for this nearly-sacred old vine fruit, Adam went to the labor-intensive trouble of BARREL FERMENTING the fruit.  Anyone familiar with red winemaking understands the ridiculousness of the task, but certain Bordeaux and Spanish Tempranillo makers have proven its worth and Adam makes a case for it more locally.

Zinfandel.  We’ve recently shown you three of them now.  One was bigger, but intriguing based on age.  Two, including this, are more balanced regardless of the alcohol reading.  A variety we’re usually shunning has seen a proper spotlight, based on our identifying useful examples.  Consider what’s happening in your glass:  The wine is a bit color deprived, but the beguiling scents easily compensate.  Are you smelling overwhelmingly jammy fruit?  Probably not, if it’s an old vine Adam Webb wine!  I’m getting potpourri instead, broken down to dried citrus peel, a mixture of herbs, and a delicate wild strawberry perfume.  Jammy-ness is also absent from the mouth, replaced by silky and refreshingly, mildly gritty tannins carrying tobacco, citrus, and stone fruit flavors – evasively, wonderfully.

Thank you Adam Webb, for keeping us interested in Zinfandel!

Not Quite (or more than) California . . .

2014 BARTER & TRADE CABERNET SAUVIGNON – Columbia Valley, Washington State

The worm is turning.  When a very valid Paso Robles-based producer turns his gaze northward for a new project we consumers ought to take note, giving more consideration to what Washington State has to offer.  As someone doing just that for nearly two decades I can tell you California is easily matched by the power, intrigue, and value this “alternative” place can provide.

This is the work of Andrew Jones who already represents himself with a more local range of wine labels such as Field Recordings, Neverland, and Fiction – not to mention his Tin City Cider project.  Andrew got into winemaking via his work as a nurseryman providing grapevine starts to vineyard owners all over California’s Central Coast.  This occupation gave him grape-supplying contacts and a broad perspective of “place” few other California winemakers possess. 

That he would also get involved in Washington State’s wine game is no surprise.  Guys like him are ever-curious about what other winemaking opportunities might avail themselves.  – And leave it to Andrew to quickly identify the effective Washington State recipe:  Cabernet Sauvignon rarely stands alone here, but is more effective with this region’s other two superstar red grapes.  This first-ever Barter & Trade is represented by 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, and 5% Syrah.  The crimson color is nearly opaque, suggesting an “impact” wine.  The nose further substantiates the idea of power with loamy sweetness and deep black cherry and blackberry fruit, plus a tinge of mint.  Add to this my favorite Washington State red wine descriptor – “charcoal briquettes” – and you’re assured of the source.  The palate feel is indeed one of fat fruit impact, yet a mineral freshness keeps the palate alert and in play.

Here is one of those rare $20 Cabs which, regardless of source, delivers a surprising amount of goods for that price.  Want to support a small local biz like The Wine Steward?  Want to encourage a hardworking, young small-production winemaker with whom we like to participate?  Taste this wine soon (preferably with medium-rare steak and ‘shrooms) and – when you like it – dash back in for more!