I have written and podcasted many times over the years about by love of California Zinfandel and Zin-lead field blends. The tradition of the field blend was brought to California by Italian immigrants over 100 years ago and some of the most individual expressions of this tradition are still bearing fruit in Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley. The technique is simple, interplant a vineyard with Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignane, Alicante Bouschet and other varieties, then harvest them at the same time and co-ferment. This tradition reaches its peak with Ridge’s Lytton Springs and Geyserville vineyards which has been chronicled here many times over the years.
Finding distinctive Zinfandel for under $20 is difficult these days and almost everything under $10 does not display much of what makes this variety so special. Occasionally you will find something on close-out that falls within this price band but these are very few and far between. But négociants such as Cameron Hughes regularly bring us wines of distinction that overperform their price point, as is the case with this wine.
Podcast listeners will remember Cameron Hughes from my interview on Winecast 73 seven years ago. Much has changed with his operation over the years but his brands are still as meaningful for wine lovers looking for a bargain. So when I found this wine — a Lodi Field blend of 56% Zinfandel, 17% Syrah, 16% Petite Sirah, and 10% Tempranillo — for $8.99 at my local Costco, I grabbed a bottle.
Lodi has had a long history with Zinfandel dating back to the Gold Rush of the mid 19th Century. I’m sure field blending was also part of this tradition in the region but I’ve never tried any until now. And I don’t think the term “field blend” is regulated so it’s possible some back blending went on to create this wine, but it makes little difference to me since the traditional expression remains in the glass.
Cameron Hughes, Lot 467, Lodi Field Blend 2012 ($9) — Black/purple color with aromas of blackberry jam, fennel, chaparral and sage. Rich blackberry, blueberry and kirsch flavors with white pepper finishing with supple tannins. A bit boozy at the end but balanced currently by exuberant fruit. If you see this at your local Costco, buy it, as this one will not last long. My new go-to BBQ and pizza wine.
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It has been nearly three years since I last hosted Wine Blogging Wednesday but my choice of theme was easy. Wines made from Rhône varieties are among my personal favorites and I was hoping to learn about many more new wines from participants this month. There were 25 bloggers posting reviews from all over the world. Thanks again to all who took the time to participate and here they are in the order I learned about them:
- The first post came two weeks early from Karla at Sol Wine & Film. An overview of the Curtis Winery of Santa Ynez Valley in California, the subject fit the theme perfectly but somehow didn’t mention WBW. But Karla used the WBW hashtag so is included in this roundup.
- New entrant Rags, the Kenyan Wine Brat, posted his video review of CrossRoads Winery Syrah from Texas. While he is no Gary V, his use of “refrigerator smell” to describe the Syrah near the beginning made me think of the famous New York Jets fan. Nice start, man; looking forward to more!
- Next up was Lisa from Wine Muse posting a review of a 2009 Rutherglen Estates “Shelley’s Block” Marsanne Viognier from her native Australia. Made from 70% Marsanne and 30% Viognier, the wine sounds wonderful and a great value at $15AUS.
- Joe the Suburban Wino posted a long and somewhat rambling post about Rhône styled wines that begins with a rant about how difficult the circumflex over the “o” in Rhône is but then uses that word about a hundred times. No review here but there is some serious Rhône knowledge thrown down within Joe’s hilarious
- Another video review was posted by Aleksi who selected two wines for his tasting. The first is the Bellingham, The Bernard Series, Grenache Blanc Viognier (no vintage mentioned) which proved to be an interesting wine despite some metallic flavors. His second selection seemed more successful, 2006 Spinifex “Papillon”, a red blend made from Carignan, Cinsault and Granache.
- Next up was Bob from 2001 Bottles – A Wine Odyssey with a 2006 Church & State “Coyote Bowl” Syrah from British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. It’s not surprising to me that such a nice Syrah could come from Canada as most of the best examples of this variety come from cooler sites. Also tasted was 2009 Twisted Tree Rousanne/Marsanne which was also a winner.
- Richard, The Passionate Foodie and next month’s WBW host, tasted a 2007 Sutton Cellars Carignane “Piferro Vineyard” and found it to be an, “easy drinking wine, but with appealing character, and would be an perfect pairing with burgers, pizza, or even pasta.” Count me in to pick up some of this to try soon.
- First time WBW participant Jason from The Ancient Fire Wine Blog was next with a 2007 Penfolds Bin 138 GMS blend. Made from Grenache, Mourvedre and Shiraz, the wine proved to be, “assertive, but not abusive.” Hope to see you next time, Jason!
- The VA Wine Diva was next with a trio of Rhone-styled wines from Virginia. The first was a 2009 Veritas Vineyards Viognier which was overall a nice wine marred a bit on the finish with a touch of heat. This was followed up by an earthy and leathery 2005 Ingleside Vineyards Syrah. The tasting was capped off with a 2008 Pollak Vineyards “Mille Fleurs” fortified Viognier dessert wine.
- Andrew from Spittoon, the bloke who got me first into WBW back when he hosted, was next with a 2009 See Saw Shiraz-Mourvèdre. Although information about the wine was hard to come by, it proved to be a winner for under £9.
- Matt posted next over at A Good Time With Wine tasting a 2007 Liberty School Cuvee, a blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Viognier. Although Matt prefers the leaner French style in his Syrah, he did like this California wine.
- Next was Magnus posting a bi-lingual review of a 2007 Annie Camarda Syrah from Washington State, quite a find in his native Sweden. And the wine was, “Well balanced, big and juicy with a nice acidity that bring excitement and sophistication – this is good and I am willing to buy me some bottles for the summer as well as for the future.” Magnus was the only person this month to accompany his review with an Iron Maiden video, a trend I’d like to see continue 😉
- Ryan from Catavino in Spain posted next tasting a 2006 Cellar Malondro red blend. A blend of 50% Garnacha and 50% Cariñena from D.O. Montsant, I recalled my trip to the region in 2007 which Ryan commemorated with an archive photo on the post.
- Next was Michael, The Wine Undertaker, who tasted a 2008 Sterling Vineyards Roussanne from Carneros. The wine was the first taste of Roussanne for him but will not be his last given how well this bottle performed.
- Colin from Grapefan passed along a tasting note on Adegga as he took a week long vow of no wine. The wine sounds like a winner, though, a 2006 Syrah from Napa Valley’s Hyde de Villaine.
- Frank from Drink What You Like posted another Virginia Viognier, this time from Jefferson Vineyards. From the 2009 vintage, the wine sounds very interesting and one Wine Blogger Conference attendees will no doubt taste as it’s made in Charlottesville, the site of the 2011 event.
- Next up was Sebastien at downcellar who posted a pair of Mourvèdre from the New and Old World. First was a meaty and dark Spice Route Mourvèdre from Swartland, South Africa. The Old World entry is a 2007 Juan Gil Monastrell from Jumilla, Spain. Both sound like excellent examples of Mourvèdre from outside The Rhône.
- My own entry was next, a tale of two Rhone-styled wines from California. In the end, the Steele “Writer’s Block” Roussanne delivered the goods for a steal of a closeout price.
- William from Simple Hedonisms was next with a review of Wesley Ashley “Intelligent Design Cuvee” Red Rhone Blend. The blend of Carignane, Grenache, Cinsault, Petite Sirah and Mourvedre sounds outstanding.
- Next was Remy at The Wine Case who posted a nice write-up of a 2009 Edmunds St. John “Wylie” Syrah. The effort from this venerable producer of California Syrah proved very nice but made Remy wish he had a bit more patience to see what the wine would evolve to with further cellaring. That’s why you buy more than one bottle, man 😉
- Andrea from Wine Skamp posted next with a review of 2008 Santo Cristo Garnacha, a decent sounding quaffer from Spain’s Campo de Borja.
- Megan was next from the Wannabe Wino blog with a review of a 2009 Hahn GSM blend which sounded like another winner from California.
- Rain followed next from Teach Us Wine with a cautionary tale to always check the seal on your bottle particularly if it’s a screw-cap. Her tale is full of fail but I’m sure she will come back strong next time.
- On Wine Blogging Thursday, WBW founder Lenn Thompson posted his entry; a well-chosen 2005 Doon Vineyards “Cigare Volant.” And it seemed worth the wait.
- And last, but certainly not least, the fabulous Thea posted her entry at Luscious Lushes, a tribute to winemaker Kevin Hamel. She pulled a bottle of 2002 Hamel Wines Syrah, Westside Hills from her cellar to share but also recounts experiences with the 2001 vintage and some other favorite Syrah’s.
So that’s it. I count 25 bloggers and 28 wines tasted. Most of these were red but 8 whites were also reviewed. If I somehow missed your entry, please let me know in the comments and I will update this post.
Thanks again to Lenn for letting me host once again. And without further ado, I pass the baton to Richard from The Passionate Foodie for a very special edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday next month.
Outside here in Minnesota it’s in the mid 20’s Fahrenheit with a thick snowpack. It is far from springtime here but a bit of spring can be had here inside a bottle of dry rosé. Every spring and summer I resolve to drink more rosé but for one reason or another rarely do. So I thought I would start a bit early this year even if it’s not seasonable outside yet.
Rosé wines are a misunderstood lot here in the U.S. where most people think of them as off-dry or even full-on sweet “blush wines.” The most cliche of these is the white Zinfandel which is still a staple on many an American table. Dig a bit deeper in a good wine shop you will find several good dry rosé wines that pair well with food and deliver a unique flavor spectrum that is not quite white but clearly not as heavy as a red. The result is the perfect spring/summer wine; at least for me.
Rosé has a long tradition in southern France. But the people behind this wine are relative newcomers. After leaving a career in advertising in Amsterdam, Lidewij van Wilgen moved her family to France’s Languedoc to start Mas Des Dames in 2002. The 18th century farmhouse that serves as the winery is surrounded by 14 hectares (35 acres) of vines mostly planted to Rhone varieties. Organic methods in the vineyard and traditional vinification techniques are used to make the wines. And based upon this rosé, I’m looking forward to tasting their other wines.
Mas Des Dames, Rosé, Coteaux Du Languedoc 2009 ($16) – A blend of 40% Grenache, 40% Mourvèdre, 20% Syrah. Clear salmon-ruby color with aromas of strawberry and citrus. Crisp grapefruit and strawberry flavors finishing bone dry with bracing acidity. Very refreshing and pairs very well with food. Only 500 cases produced.
Natural cork closure
There are a ton of great wine values out in the market today but I’m always pleased to find wines that considerably outperform their price. And tonight I have such an example. As I’ve blogged recently, Syrah has been a tough sale here in the U.S. I think it’s due to a few factors that’s out of the control of domestic producers looking to find a market for their wines here in the $30+ a bottle market. When you get there, and slightly above, you can get Rhône wines that deliver the goods so why go domestic?
But in the under $10 a bottle market things are different. Here you find the tanker ship Shiraz from down-under and any number of other domestic choices. Usually they are serviceable but not very notable, with the folks at Columbia Crest probably being the standard bearer. A few others make some decent wines such as Don Sebastiani and Sons but nothing really gets close to wines costing over $25.
Or so I thought before picking up this wine at Bottle Barn in Santa Rosa recently. Not only does it deliver the Syrah goods at a steal, it does so with the unforgiving acidity it should.
Chono, Syrah Reserva, Elqui Valley, Chile 2008 ($9) – Inky dark purple-black in color with aromas of blackcurrant, blueberry, bacon, eucalyptus and green olive. Ripe black raspberry fruit flavors with kirsch and white pepper finishing with moderate tannins, good acidity and a nice mineral streak. Delicious and completely unexpected at less than $10 a bottle. My new “Tuesday-Thursday” wine if I can find it in Minnesota.
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