Bruce Freeman picking Zinfandel in upper Ojai CA late August 2020.
“The birds and the bees know when the grapes are ripe,” says Clos des Amis winemaker Bruce Freeman.
It’s 9am on a warm late August morning, and we’re knee deep in thickly trunked Zinfandel wherein large dark clusters of grapes hide bees with a few yellow jackets for good measure. The birds are out too, mostly mourning doves cooing like a daytime owl and acorn woodpeckers making a ruckus.
I’ve asked a silly question: if we’d picked the week before, would the bees be so bad? Would they have taken so much fruit?
Wouldn’t matter, says Bruce.
When the brix is right, the bees know it and they’re right there too ready for the harvest. They snuggle their little fuzzy butts right in there, humping the seeds to get the juicy, seed pulp, leaving hollow hulls and seeds behind.
Last Wednesday, on Zinfandel Day 2017, Sue, John, and I tasted FOUR old vine or ancient vine zinfandel: three from Lodi as part of a Facebook live event and one from Mendocino; all four were samples sent for our review consideration. Two of them should be easy to find in your nearby supermarket! Plus I tasted a blend that features Lodi and Mendocino old and ancient vines fruit that has been aged in bourbon barrels — and you should be able to find that one as well.
the wine that inspired the party… which I thought was a Lodi zin…
And what can you do? Well, how about hosting a tie dye party? That’s what Sue and John did! With plenty of zinfandel and burgers too!
Because anyone can throw a backyard BBQ but why not mix it up by offering a craft or organizing a tasting? And make it easy by offering a burger bar with sides prepared in advance and shared potluck style!
We invited a bunch of people and we gathered a case or so of different bottles of Zinfandel– and one Tie Dye red blend. One person supplied the tasting note sheets, and we opened the bottles around a big table with some appetizers in the center. While the corn and turkey and beef burgers were cooking, we tasted the wines and wrote down our notes and votes. We encouraged folks to taste the white zin first but other than that, people tasted the wine that was closest to them and in general worked their way clockwise around the table. Then we converged on the burger bar, loaded up our plates, and tasted the wines with food. And at one point or another, people did some tie-dying!
Barry and Edie getting their tie dye on!
And this is what we came up with!
Note: We had everyone vote for their favorite #1, #2 and #3 by placing a raffle ticket in a jar with the number on it. We assigned first place votes 3 points, second place votes 2 points, and third place votes 1 point. If a wine received a #1 vote, I wrote the score down. Read on to see which one won!
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. Continue reading →
I realize now that fixing a two traditional holiday Thanksgiving or Christmas meals –first a ham dinner then a turkey dinner– and tasting a bunch of wines with the food really was quite a challenge. If I was a stay at home wine blogger (and not teaching 75% time, working on a PhD, and being a mom!), I am sure I could have accomplished it before Thanksgiving! As it is, I made due with a steady stream of tweets and facebook posts to share what I was tasting and learning. And I know thanks to search engines, people will be finding these posts for years to come!
So what did I learn about ham and wine?
The big surprise was how well the ham dinner went with the 2007 Sonoma County St Francis Old Vines Zinfandel (under $20). I knew I would like this wine with turkey but on a whim I decided to open it. As I tasted through the line-up, I didn’t expect much of the zin. However, the chemical reaction between the ham and the zin was wonderfully tasty!
So much so that if I was to recommend one wine to bring, especially f you didn’t know what was going to be served, I’d go with a zinfandel because it works with ham, turkey, appetizers including blue cheese and crackers, as well as red meats like prime rib.
While this wine wasn’t my favorite with the ham, it’s a great choice for appetizers. I love it with pate, cheese and crackers.
2009 Craggy Ridge Pinot Noir ($35-45) As I wrote when I reviewed it with turkey, this is a lovely, delightful complex pinot noir, full of earth and moss and violets and chocolate and tarragon, truly a wonderful Pinot Noir from New Zealand, lush, sensual. I wouldn’t bring this wine to a big holiday meal with tons of people– save it for when you can focus on it and savor it! I bet it would be better with a pork loin or chop than with salty ham.
For weeks now, the wine bloggosphere has been dizzy with recommendations for wines to pair with Thanksgiving meals, especially how to find wines that will work with everything from appetizers to turkey to pecan pie!
The answer is: bring a bunch of different wines!
As you can imagine, I am the wine person in our gatherings. I usually bring Continue reading →