Selections for August 2016

Lodi that works for me . . .

2014 ‘ZIN91’ OLD VINE ZINFANDEL - Lodi

We only rarely access Lodi wines for you, and even more rarely do they happen to be Zinfandels.  With apologies to fans of the type, those wines can be too much of a good thing for our idea of drinkability, with overwhelming alcoholic weight, syrupy residual sugar, and an upsetting preponderance of lawn mower bag flavors.  I’m not sure what causes that last effect, but I suspect it has something to do with the environment in which the scent-susceptible thin-skinned Zinfandel clusters hang.  For their several months on the vine, those grapes may be taking on the smells of adjacent fields which are sometimes being groomed for their next planting of corn or some other crop.  These vacant patches are prepared with manure treatments, and you’ve certainly witnessed their fragrance whilst zooming along Highway 5, windows down. 

Am I suggesting Lodi Zin can smell like s - - -?  Maybe.  Does this one?  I think not. 

Let’s scrutinize this wine per my list of usual Lodi Zin complaints.  Does ZIN91 exhibit overwhelming alcoholic weight?  14% isn’t a low figure but it’s fairly modest for this wine type.  – But let’s quit obsessing about the number on the bottle since it’s probably not accurate anyway.  Trusting my senses, I’d say there’s nice refreshing restraint going on in my mouth, considering how these Zins can usually behave!

Does ZIN91 confer Port-like sweetness?  Nope.  It’s a fully dry wine.  Sure, we sense a generous “sweetness” of fruit but that’s a welcome flavor having nothing to do with residual sugar.  Be glad this wine ends with a nice dry grip which makes it more drinkable, more useful.  You can avoid palate fatigue and enjoy more of a dry, balanced wine.

Does it exhibit “lawn mower bag” flavors?  Not overwhelmingly.  I suppose such a signature of place in a wine is commendable as long as competing scents and flavors keep the wine in the range of gulpable usefulness.  ZIN91 says a lot of things, including peppermint, tobacco, soft plums, fresh berries, and juicy cherries.  It declares those with refreshing restraint.  It is Lodi Zin that works, and does not smell like s - - - !  

The cure for Monastrell

2014 CARRO – Yecla, Spain

I burned out on Spanish Monastrell some time ago, considering most of them as having TOO much character.  Yes, certain wines like Torrontes, Gewurztraminer, and Monastrell possess that possibility.  In this varietal’s case the sense of thick, sweet, hickory-oriented barbecue sauce flavors was an OVER-provision; impressive by the sip, but quickly wearying by the whole glass. 

Monastrell is Spain’s Mourvèdre, predominating in the country’s southeast wine regions of Jumilla, Alicante, and here in Yecla.  This is hot country, yielding wines of deep concentration from old head-trained vineyards.  Making more delicate and balanced Monastrell is pretty much out of the question. 

This ‘Carro’ is a thoughtful solution, utilizing the practice of blending.  While Monastrell remains a main character at 50%, other players bring moderation and dimension to the stage:  20% Syrah, 20% Merlot, and 10% Tempranillo are the supporting cast.

Robert Parker conferred 90 points on this inexpensive wine, reporting:

“The 2014 Carro is a ridiculous value in a full-bodied, complex, rich and savory dry red wine. Dense ruby/purple with notes of blackberry and blueberry fruit, licorice and camphor, the wine is totally unoaked and naked. This is a beauty of purity and richness and just goes to show what one can buy if careful with researching importers. Drink it over the next several years.” 

Enjoy with barbecue of all kinds; hickory flavors optional!