Friday, April 16, 2021

Sonoma Zinfandel Highlights Blind Tasting

A blind tasting opens our eyes to Zinfandel.

Eyes Wide Shut

We just love blind tastings. The mystery of not knowing the identity of the wine you are sipping and swirling adds intrigue to any wine occasion. I know that master sommeliers earn their spurs by being able to identify wines, regions, and grapes by taste and aroma alone.

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I must confess it can be challenging. Winemakers have so many tricks up their sleeves. Whether the wine is finished in stainless steel or French oak has a big impact on the wine. The country and region change the picture too -- a Cabernet Sauvignon from South America may be soft as a Merlot while a Merlot from Washington State can be outright bold. And don’t even mention malolactic fermentation.

All this is to say that when the blinders are put on, identifying wine is tricky. It also forces you to tune into your senses of taste and smell. We did that just recently for a patio blind tasting.

Exploring The 2018 Vintage

I was able to nail the grapes for all three wines -- of course, that is because they were all the same: Zinfandel. I also put the wines in the bag, so I was the only one in the group who knew which was which. The identities were unknown to my wife and two guests.

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We fired up the grill and cooked some burgers and Beyond (no meat) burgers to go with the meal. Some homemade coleslaw added some crunch to the burgers. As the meal was served, wine was poured.

Our three Zins were all 2018 vintage. Leading off was the Cameron Hughes Lot 744 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel. This wine comes from a small family winery that has been crafting Zinfandel for decades. It’s a limited run of 800 cases. It starts with rich, jammy berries accented with leather notes then flows into spice flavors on silky tannins. This was a great start to our tasting. SRP is $17.

Our second selection was the Turley 2018 Fredericks Vineyard Zin from Sonoma Valley. Turley is one of our favorite producers and is famed for their single-vineyard wines. This wine was dubbed drier than the first and was refined with elegant, laid-back fruit and earthy flavors. The grapes come from a certified organic vineyard and the wine gets 15 months in oak barrels. Truly beautiful at a price point of about $45.

Old Vines Zinfandel

Number 3 was the Dry Creek Vineyard Old Vines Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley. This wine was rich with blackberry and cherry and a lingering finish. It’s complex with bright acidity. The wine has 19% Petite Sirah, adding to the rounded mouthfeel. The vines for this wine average more than 100 years in age and in some cases, nearly 140 years old. SRP is $38.

Before we revealed the wines, everyone critiqued the wines and picked their favorite. I replied that I couldn't pick one, because it is like being asked to pick a favorite child. It was a win-win-win! It was a great demonstration of how elegant Zinfandel can be once you step away from the gimmicky Zinfandel sold in the grocery store.

Full Disclosure: Some of the wine was received as marketing samples.

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