#WineStudio Zinfandel March Madness; reviews of 3 from Cantara Cellars

This month, Wine Studio is all in for zin! Zinfandel that is… after all, it is lent!

For the final four Tuesdays in March, Wine Studio, which hosts a weekly virtual tasting on Tuesday nights from 6-7pm, will focus on

The Translational Role of Winemaker through a Single Grape

“Zinfandel has been the archenstone for the California wine scene since the mid 1800s,” writes Wine Studio, but what has “remained constant throughout its turbulent history is its adaptability. The grape is planted all over California and represents the full gamut of wine descriptions depending on where it’s planted.”

Each week features a small production winery with a unique take on zinfandel.

Week 1: 10 March – Getting to know the Grape: Aaron Epstein, Le Metro Wine Curator discusses why he chose Zinfandel. @LeMetroWine and Lynn Wheeler and Kenny Likitprakong winemakers Hobo Wine Co discuss raising a family and grapes. @hobowinecompany

For this first #WineStudio, since no samples were supplied, we asked Cantara Cellars in nearby Camarillo, CA if we could taste, tweet, and review their three new Zinfandels from Lodi bottled just this January 2015 after barrel aging between 36 -40 months. And lucky for us, Mike and Chris Brown said yes. (Reviews below). I will need to visit with Mike again at a later date and ask him some pertinent zin questions!

How big Zinfandel can get was definitely a topic of conversation during #WineStudio.

Aaron weighed in by saying,  “Traditional” #Zinfandel may be overblown for some folks’ taste. But there’s no clearer window into Cali terroir.”

Do zins have to go “big”?  Is this the way #Zinfandel should be? Aaron responded that: “I don’t believe in “that’s the way it should be” anymore. I do value tradition. But I also value change.”

Kenny agreed and added a caveat: “You can have big & balanced for sure! You can also have low ABV wines that are hot. Balance is key.”

And I would definitely agree. Here are some tasting notes on the 2011 Cantara Zinfandels from Lodi, all three of which offer a lovely take on Zinfandel are range from a more delicate and medium bodied expresssion of the grape to a zin blend to a more heavy version:

2011 Old Vine Zinfandel – Mohr-Fry Ranches – Block 817 – Mokelumne River, Lodi -13.4% Alcohol $34.00

About this wine, I tweeted:

Jammy nose, like a party going on. Rich, powerful perfume, spice, jammy, wild blackberry fruit fresh and warm along a dusty road. Herbs, anise, spice, cinnamon. Lasting finish. The lively, bright tartness rolls across the tongue. More cinnamon and cloves. Cantara gets their fruit from this specific block of this vineyard every year. 1963 planting but also vines planted before Prohibition. Light in color with that brownish tinge known to zinfandels. Spice on the nose. Great with turkey, or any saucy dish.

IMG_1189 IMG_0746

2011 – Mischievous Red Blend –Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petite Sirah 13.5% $32

Mischievous is the new blend from Cantara Cellars of Zinfandel, Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, and Petitte Sirah. It has a fabulous heady but not overwhelming nose with the aromas and fruitiness of the zinfandels, and heartiness of the Cabs, and the perfume of roses and violets. Bramble fruit and cherry, this wine is a bit more masculine than Zinfandels on their own, yet it has a carmelized sugar finish. My husband loved this one.

2011 – Graffina Zinfandel – Mokelumne River, Lodi — 14.9% $38

This is the heaviest of the three Cantara Zinfandels, and receives a much more intensive oak treatment than the Old Vine Zinfandel that we tasted first. Much bigger, bolder, more tannins, complex, this wine would stand up to the richest meats and it’s built to last. This is not your grandmother’s zinfandel. While Zinfandels are generally medium bodied wines, it is the oak treatment and harvest brix that bring out that bold jammy zin characteristic.  This is a zinfandel for people who turn their nose up at zin, for the cab drinkers. It makes the Old Vine zin seem like a delicate rose in comparison! I loved it best with a rib eye steak a day or two after we opened it up.

Ready for more Zinfandel? Coming up we have:

Week 2: 17 March –  ”…foster the voice of the soil into your glass of wine”: Nathan Kandler @nwkandler winemaker of Precedent Wine will discuss his  Precedent, 2012 Zinfandel Evangelho Vineyard Contra Costa County $28. Evangelho Vineyard is one of the great old vine Zinfandel vineyards in California; Nathan will share how he “chose this particular site and the intricacies of growing grapes in such a historic area.”

I am grateful to have received a sample of this wine for this week’s event for my review consideration.

Week 3: 24 March – The Zinfandel Heritage Vineyard: We will be discussing rare Zinfandel vine cuttings grown from some of the best vineyards in California. “ZAP recognized the importance of the ongoing research at UC Davis in creating greater diversity for growers,” writes Wine Studio, “and partnered with the University to support the Zinfandel Heritage Vineyard Project.” Since 1997, each year a different winemaker is selected to produce a wine from the Heritage Vineyard; the 2012 Heritage Vineyard Zinfandel Oakville, Napa Valley was made by Chris Leamy, winemaker at Terra d’Oro Winery. @TDOWineryChris

I am grateful to have a sample of this wine for next Tuesday’s virtual tasting.

Week 4: 31 March – Beekeeper Cellars Ian Blackburn @beekeepercellar: We’ll discuss Ian’s “new venture as winemaker and how each of his previous experiences has shaped the way he approaches winemaking with Beekeeper Cellars… In 1995 Ian instituted the first of its class in wine events / education in the Los Angeles area called LearnAboutWine and now he’s onto Phase II with wineLA“Doing what is best for the wine industry and the communities we serve.  Edicts:  innovate, evolve and excite.”

As Beekeeper was unable to supply us with samples, and I am unsure if I will be able to get one, we plan on tasting more locally made zinfandels –likely from Four Brix who gets their fruit from Paso Robles.

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