What Zin our mouths

The annual ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates & Producers) Zinfandel Festival kicks off on the 27th in San Francisco. The Fort Mason Center a gorgeous location for this raucous and lively tasting–I’ve been a few times and walked away with purple teeth, rosy cheeks, and a new found enthusiasm for Zin. We haven’t decided if We’re going to make it to the festival this year. We’ve put something like 6,000 miles on my car in the last six weeks (including a delightful jaunt to Napa Valley this past weekend). We love the road trips, but I’m feeling a little road weary. And looking it too: both my car and my body could use a detail.

Lucky for us Bruce Patch of Wine Guerrilla breezed through town a few weeks ago and dropped off some bottles of Zin at my place. (A hand delivery to Hollywood–wow that was nice. Should I have tipped him?) So while We may miss ZAP, We’ve been having our own little Zin Fest. (And it’s too has been raucous and lively.)

Tasting wine Guerrilla’s line-up side-by-side was fascinating. Same grape, same vintage, same producer but each bottle distinct and unique. It’s really fun to experience wine this way–gather some friends with strong livers, a bit of time, and give this type of tasting a go. (What would one call this? It’s not a vertical tasting: same type of wine, different vintage. It’s not a horizontal tasting: same vintage, different producers. It’s a sort of vert/horiz producer-centric hybrid.)

Here’s are the 2009′s We slurped our way through:

Adel’s Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, $30
Conte Vineyard, Russian River Valley (field blend), $30
Harris-Kratka Vineyard, Alexander Valley, $30
“Old Vine,” Forchini Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley (another field blend), $35
“Old Vine, Block 1,” Coffaro Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley, $40

(We greatly enjoyed the 2008′s We sampled last year: read the cleverly titled review here.)

It’s difficult not to pick favorites when tasting this way. Inevitably you pick the “winner of the group.” I found myself taking extra slurps of the Harris-Kratka. I enjoyed it’s brightness and zing. It wasn’t overloaded with syrupy fruit or earthiness, which can turn me off in Zins, but rather it was sleek and spicy. At the other end of the tasting spectrum was the Forchini which had wild, oily like texture and very meaty flavors. The Conte falls somewhere in between these two. It struck me as less complex and therefore maybe a little easier to drink (but not my favorite). There is lots of blackberry and blueberry fruit flavors in the Coffaro and a hint of spicy wood. These were present in Adel’s Vineyard, which I found more fresh and with hints chalky, cocoa powder.

Ah, the nuances. This is what makes a vert/horiz/all-about-one producer/grape/vintage tasting so fun. Bottom-line: they were all delicious. If you’re heading to ZAP, seek out Wine Guerrilla–and say “Hi” to Bruce from Us. And if you’re not, do like We did and have your own private festival. And don’t forget the two other Zinfandel tasting essentials: chocolate and teeth whiteners.

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Wines of Note: Guerrillas in Our Midst

First thing first, how beautiful are the Wine Guerrilla labels. We know…pretty surfaces say nothing about the juice inside, but really, you can’t help but ooh and ahh over the dreamy, feminine Paul Klee-inspired paintings of semi-nude muses. And such lovely images for a grape that is often described as meaty, over-bearing, too alcoholic, masculine. Are the clever folks at Wine Guerrilla trying to tell us a different story?

Recently We enjoyed two different Wine Guerrilla zins over a perfectly grilled sirloin with a few friends. The smokiness of the meat and the deep, earthy, dark berry flavors of the wine were a fantastic compliment. We didn’t take notes, but a common comment was, “Is there more wine?”

No, We answered, secretly holding back two bottles to taste side by side, in a more serious-taking-notes setting. We were curious if We could taste the difference between two wines from the same region: Dry Creek Valley. One of the wines was labeled as such and the other from “Cofffaro Vineyards, Old Vines.” We asked our wine novice friend G Zamora to taste with Us. Or rather, he asked to be a part of our tasting.

A cool thing about Our young friend Zamora is his openness to trying new things…especially booze. Lately he’s been exploring wine. Just a few months ago he brought a bottle of Jameson’s to a party, but the last two gatherings it’s been wine. And not wine from the corner store (although We have nothing against this…Hello, Big Mac’s Mondays), but from a wine shop. Not only that, He asked for help with selecting a wine. This can be intimidating stuff for a young man who up until a year ago drank nothing but Corona Light and will probably be carded for another decade. Needless to say, We said, Of course…taste with Us.

So here are Our takes on two zinfandels, both from Dry Creek Valley, both from Wine Guerrilla, both FANTASTIC (oops…spoiler).

Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Wine Guerrilla 2008 (sample, retails for about $22)

She said: The color is deep, opaque purple-y garnet. On the nose blackberry juice with a hint of spice and wood. Quenching with medium tannin. Not hot, despite the 15.7% alcohol, rather the wine is fresh and lively and also not over burdened by fruit. Some tar and coffee with the tartness of raspberry and boysenberries. Really terrific and easy to drink alone, but imagine it would be a delicious accompaniment to grilled meats and be a good food wine in general. Greatly enjoyed it.

He said: Deep purple, glassy and opaque. Much more zing and fruit on the nose than the “Old Vine” reviewed below. Cherry, earth, tobacco, cola, cedar and tar on the nose. In the mouth it’s tart and a little chalky. Like the “bottlecaps” candy. Also some wood texture, like chewing on a toothpick and a waxy lipstick-y feeling and taste, even. Really good.

Zamora said: It’s a purpley-red color. The smell is more fruity than the old, but is still intense. It was light and easy.

Zinfandel, Coffaro Vineyards “Old Vine,” Dry Creek Valley, Wine Guerrilla 2008 (sample, retails for about $35)

She said: The color is identical to me to the Dry Creek, but in the nose has more intense blackberry flavors, like a syrup to pour over pancakes; also cassis and cedar. On the palate there is intense fruit in the beginning that leads to medium/high tannin–lots of structure. Some bramble/earthy flavors mixed with blueberries, mushroom, and vanilla bean. Really great, again. Not sure I prefer one over the other, but they are different: the straight Dry Creek is more fresh, the Coffaro more mellow and earthy. Both a delight.

He said: Same color as the above. Cola, maybe prune juice-Dr. Pepper, earthy, cherry and musty on the nose. (I also agree with Her on the pancake syrup.) In the mouth it’s creamy cola with a little vanilla. This one is 15.6% alcohol, but not high heat. I can, however, feel it on the roof of my mouth which I burned on pizza at the W Hotel last night. Full-bodied, tannins throughout with some weight on the mid-palate. Really, really good.

Zamora said: The same purpley-red. At first smell was just intense. Later the smell reminded me of butterscotch. The taste reminded me of incense. It tingled the tip of my tongue.

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