Monday, November 23, 2009

Zinfan-Birthday-Girl!

ZinfanGirl is a spoiled lil girl indeed! After a "fake" surprise birthday Thursday night to throw me off the trail, ZinfanHubby surprised me with the coolest birthday party I have ever had. ZinfanGirl's favorite candy is the local Jelly Belly brand jelly beans. ZinfanGirl's favorite drink is wine. Fave candy + fave wine =

Jelly Bean Wine Bar

Brilliant! I walked into a room to be greeted by 20 great ZinfanFriends and a whole lot of Jelly Bellies & wine.

ZinfanHubby sets up the "wine tasting" and the big surprise!


Blackberry (?) flavored Jelly Belly beans to pair with Central Coast Zinfandel


Can you believe there is a dirt flavored Jelly Belly?!


Lots of Zinfandels on hand, natch!

Super-duper, infinitely cool times eleventy billion. Props, ZinfanHubby! Everyone had a blast, wine novices & connoisseurs alike. Though I was not part of the plotting & set-up, I can deduce that this tasting takes quite awhile to set up (labelling the bean flavors, sorting them by "wine") and can cause a small mess (alcohol + small candies = mess). But it was a huge hit, and an awesome way to get newbies involved.

And if any ZinfanFriends out there would like to give it a try, please let me know. We have tons of leftover jelly beans (yet surprisingly, no leftover wine).

Jelly Bellies Up!
-ZFG

*Thanks to my lovely ZinfanFriend D for letting me nab her pics for this blog.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Review: 2006 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Chardonnay Reserve

As I've mentioned a bit lately, the Chards have been my most recent wine of choice. Robert Mondavi's '06 Chard Reserve is another yum-yum in my book.
ZinfanHubby & I had visited Mondavi for the first time back in May while in Napa for our anniversary. As members of another Constellation wine club (Ravenswood), we got to skip the crowded main tasting room and got the VIP treatment & tasting (& cheese!) in the back. We do not buy white wines often, much less Chardonnay, but this one was too good.
ZinfanGirl's first thought upon opening the bottle: hello, mellow yellow! I mean seriously, "honey" "straw" and even "golden" don't do this wine justice. Next up was the smell. I am instantly transported back to my younger days as Non-AlcoholicGirl, as this Chard smells exactly like Martinelli's sparkling apple cider. Maybe this wine was created with kids in mind: it has undertones of caramel apple... or is it kettle corn? Slightly creamy yet tart yet fruity. Yum. Keep out of the reach of kids, OK?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Review: 2008 Qupé "Y" Block Chardonnay

I think my "weather-appropriate wine-o-meter" device is off because man! I am loving Chardonnay lately! One would think that with the cooler weather and shorter days that reds would be at the top of ZinfanGirl's list, but the Chards keep pulling through.

Last night, it was on me to find a wine to pair with a lemon-pepper pasta dish we were making for dinner. I think I did good with Qupe's 2008 "Y" Block Chardonnay. Well actually, Whole Foods did good, as I selected this wine based on WF's review that it "pairs well with poultry or seafood pasta." We've been loving the Central Coast lately as well, so it seemed like a good bet.


The color is extremely pale: straw with some very mild green undertones. It smells buttery (hi, oak barrels) yet slightly crisp. ZinfanGirl likes butter, so buttery Chards are always a plus. First sip has a very buttery forward and middle, and a lingering finish throughout the mouth. There is not much acid in this wine-- surprising for a white wine, IMO. The climax of this wine is in the forward; the back is a bit lacking. But it did pair fabulously with our lemon-pepper-chicken-pasta, so it all worked out well in the end.

Cheers!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

It's All in the Glass

Earlier this year, ZinfanHubby, ZinfanSis & I trekked up north to Oregon to visit my lovely Gram & Grandpa. Ashland, Oregon really is a cute little town, most known for its annual Shakespeare Festival. Though they are wonderful, warm hosts who love having their grandkids visit, Gram & Grandpa don't have much energy for getting out and about, and the three of us spent quite a bit of time exploring the little town while they relaxed at home.

In search of a refreshment, we happened across Liquid Assets. Denise, the owner, was happy to recommend some snacks, suggest some wine flights and a non-alcoholic drink for underage ZinfanSis. We were delighted with their small but solid selection of bottles; it's been awhile, but I know they had a Biale or two (!!!) for sale. We walked away with a bottle of Resonance Vineyard Pinot Noir, a biodynamic Oregonian wine. When in Rome & all that...

Imagine our surprise when we got the wine back to my grandparents' house, removed the capsule and see... glass? No, not the bottle (c'mon, ZinfanGirl isn't that dense), but where the cork should be there was glass instead. What in the...?!?!

The next day we returned to Liquid Assets, and Denise explained the story behind the corkless cork. Resonance winery prides itself on being sustainable and biodynamic, and eschew corks (and the harvesting of cork trees) in favor of glass. Hm, makes sense. Denise continued to tell us that the glass "cork" could also be used as a stopper on other bottles. Sustainable indeed!

ZinfanHubby & I always nab Pinot Noirs for Thanksgiving. We instantly thought of Resonance and their cool glass stopper. Alas, The Resonance Pinot Noir is all but sold out, but another Oregon winery, Sineann, makes a well-reviewed Pinot from Resonance vineyard grapes. Sineann is also corkless, and explains a bit behind their cork-free wines on their site. Sineann's site claims that glass stoppers do not compromise the taste or quality of the wine; in fact, it touts glass stoppers as being superior to cork in terms of fruit preservation and consistency among bottle quality. ZinfanGirl appreciates this, but mostly likes the glass stoppers because they look frickin' cool.

After a bit of research, ZinfanGirl can tell you that Resonance wines, and possibly Sineann as well, use the "Vino-Seal" glass stopper by Alcoa (check out an interesting article about wineries using Alcoa's corkless stopper here). I have heard much debate over real cork vs. synthetic cork vs. screw-cap, but not much talk about glass. Why not? Granted I don't know much about the scientific aspects of each which would obviously determine which is the "best" sealing method, but... didn't I mention that the glass stoppers are frickin' cool?!

ZinfanReaders, I'd love to hear your thoughts on glass stoppers. Experiences, opinions, theories, stories... send 'em my way.

Zinfully yours,
-ZFG

Monday, November 9, 2009

Review: Four Vines 2006 Syrah (One Tree Hill)

On our recent trip to Paso Robles, we popped by one of our new favorite wineries/most recent wine club, Four Vines. Sadly, they were indeed still out of the Sophisticate Zinfandel that we love so much, but that didn't stop us from nabbing a few more bottles. One of them was their 2006 Los Alamos vineyard One Tree Hill Syrah. As I believe I have mentioned before, ZinfanGirl is usually indifferent about Syrah, but once again Four Vines is able to surprise me.


Reddish with almost a carmel hue to it, this Syrah isn't as POW! as most other Syrahs I've had. Four Vines claims this is due to the "low yield cool climate," which is fine by me. Leggy with just enough fruit, the main aroma and flavors of this one are spice & pepper. The body is rounded and smooth, noticeable in the mouth but not too heavy. Clean finish with just a linger of peppery goodness. I bet this would go well with blackened... well, blackened anything, really, which is probably what prompted ZinfanHubby to nab a bottle.

Another Four Vines success story, but overall I will stick to their Zinfandels and blends. Just you wait 'til I review their 2007 Cypher. That is going to be fun!

Review: 2006 Seghesio Home Ranch Petite Sirah

**Apologies, as I was not able to find a picture of Seghesio's 2006 Home Ranch Petite Sirah. Under the Grape Tree blog has a picture up, but since ZinfanGirl is cautious of photo theft & copyright infringement & blah blah blah, she figured she'd just link to the blog (and their review of the same wine) instead.**

There are two wines that ZinfanGirl can almost always peg on site: white Zinfandel, and Petite Sirah. Looking at this wine sitting in my glass, I see this is a fairly leggy wine, dripping slowly down the edges as I swirl it. It smells warm, the way pumpkin pie smells warm-- don't get me wrong, I am not saying this wine smells like pumpkin pie (although that actually sounds kinda yummy...). Maybe it's clove or cinnamon. Let's give it a taste, shall we?

Wow, what a body on this wine! The mid-palate is where it's at! The warmth of the nose also continues down my throat, but not in an unpleasant burning way. Tannins in the finish are just enough to be noticed but without the moisture-sucking-ness of, say, a Cabernet Sauvignon.

There is definitely a dark/bramble fruit presence but it takes a back seat to the "warmy" essence. It's a toasted spice of some sort-- I bet this would make for an interesting mulled wine if it weren't so heavy. And at 15.5% alcohol, definitely proceed with caution. ZinfanGirl is continuously amazed at how just a 1% - 2% increase in alcohol/volume can affect her body & brain (like the time ZinFanHubby brought a bottle of Seghesio's Venom to France. After having spent months drinking 12% alcohol/volume French wines, one sip of this 16+% sangiovese knocked me on my ZinfanAss).

Although I think this wine *could* be matched up with food, its unique flavors and luscious body make it a fine stand-alone wine. Thumbs up, Seghesio.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Review: Seghesio Marian's Reserve 2007 Alexander Valley Red Table Wine


It's been awhile since ZinfanHubby & I have cracked into a Seghesio. We received a club shipment not too long ago and while entertaining guests the other night, decided to pull one out. Our options were either the Marian's Reserve or a Four Vines; having recently opened a Four Vines, Seghesio won out (clearly there was a lack of ZinfanLogic here, as we are going to Templeton this weekend and will surely stop at Four Vines). C'est la vie & stuff.

34% Zinfandel, 33% Petite Syrah (it shows!) and 33% Carignane, this wine packs a punch at a whopping 15.5% alcohol/volume. OK, math lesson over. Maybe ZinfanGirl has become overly sensitive to alcohol over the years, but the boozy-burning scent comes through almost as strongly as the jam of the Zin. As mentioned, the wine looks like a PS: practically purple & inky (in fact, having saved the bottle, I notice a small drip down the white label and it is blue. No exaggeration). Tannins throughout the taste, but they don't suck the moisture out of your mouth too much. The finish is clean and smooth, with a touch of fruit. Drinking this wine makes me want steak. I can't really ID any specific fruit, but the fruitiness is definitely there. This wine is nice: nothing memorable, but that works both ways, yeah?

Clearly ZinfanGirl has *some* fond memories of Seghesio...


Gettin' some ♥ZinfanLove♥ at Seghesio- July '07 (thanks to my ZinfanFriend Lindsey for the pic!)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Review: Wine Tycoon


ZinfanGirl considers herself fortunate that she does not tend to get sucked into time-consuming mindless games. She does not think twice about blocking Farmville invites on Facebook, and rarely picks up a video game controller (except Rock Band. She does love Rock Band). But she has always loved controlling things, which explains her lifelong love of the Sims games. So imagine her delight when a Sims-like game for wine-os hit the shelves...

Many hours were played, many liters of wine bottled, many regions of France explored. So why oh why does this game suck so bad?!

Any wine tycoon, real or fictional, can sum this up in one word: bugs. A freeze here, a glitch there-- these are all forgiveable flaws. I understand that Wine Tycoon is not backed by some game giant like Electronic Arts and therefore shouldn't be compared to such multi-million dollar standards. But y'know, when playing a game, I kind of take for granted that I'll be able to save. I have yet to be able to do so in Wine Tycoon. Sure the Save Game menu is there. It's right next to the Load Game menu. But type in a name, click "save" and try, just TRY to find it again. Good luck.

I did enjoy playing around the various regions of France (yes, the game is based entirely in France). Naturally my heart fluttered when, in the description of Champagne, I saw my former town of Troyes mentioned by name. Having an interactive outlet to help me memorize learn about different French varietals, wines and regions is really great. For a lower-budget game, the graphics aren't bad. I amused myself for hours trying to earn enough money to pay my workers, buy the best equipment possible, and protect my grapes from the Four Ills of Wine Tycoon: Pests, Overgrowth, Weeds and Soil Infertility.

So much potential, it breaks my ZinfanHeart. Aside from the Save issue (seriously, I still can't wrap my head around that one), there are a few other bugs. For instance, while playing in the Burgundy region, I got a request to sell some St Aubin, aged 2 years. Yet in the "Blending" section of the game, it is impossible to age St. Aubin. "Some wines should not be aged," it says. True enough, but then why, dear Wine Tycoon, are you ASKING for it?! In the "Career Mode" option, I am only able to play in Alsace. Other bugs include: some wines having $0 value (I had a batch of wine X-- forget which one it was-- and I would be asked to sell this wine for $0 no matter how great/small the quantity), some vineyards being unresponsive to treatments (yet they grew just fine anyway), and the mysterious hiring of workers (no, dammit, I said ONE bottler!). So, that's my technical opinion.

I was also bummed about not being able to participate more in the growing process. You pick a vineyard, pick a grape to plant, and that's it. But as most wine-o's know, there's much more to it than that. Vines on top of a hill are different than wines grown below. Direction plays a role too. And ZinfanGirl can attest first-hand that the weather is not uniform throughout France, which Wine Tycoon leads you to believe. It does not snow often in Provence, so please stop making it look like Christmastime in Troyes.

While there is different equipment you can buy for each step of the wine making, the only thing differentiating them is price, production and size. Barrels are barrels, no wood or steel. I know there are different presses on the market too. And why lump all "weeds" and "pests" together? Give the noble rot some love, yo!

So, my bottom line: Is it worth $20? I have certainly made stupider purchases in my lifetime. In the grand scheme of things, $20 isn't much for a few hours' of mindless entertainment-- hell, that's cheaper than a movie ticket + popcorn, and unlike going to the movies you can play Wine Tycoon naked from the comfort of your own home. But don't get your hopes up: other than a concise lesson on French wines, this game will not fulfill your dream to be a Wine Tycoon. Sorry, kids. They tried. They really did.

Wine Tycoon by Got Game Entertainment

P.S.- I do have an email in to their customer support about the Save issue. I will post back here ASAP if/when I get a response.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I am a Wine Tycoon!

Dear readers,

ZinfanGirl cannot come to her blog right now. She is too busy being a Wine Tycoon. She recognizes she will have to stop ragging on her Farmville-addicted friends because Wine Tycoon isn't very different. Or is it?

Review to come once all the grapes have been successfully killed off harvested.

Sincerely,
WineTycoonGirl

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Review: 2006 Ridge “Old School” Zinfandel


Maybe ZinfanGirl is easily influenced by the name, but this zin had “old vine” written all over it. Well, that’s half correct. “Two of the four chosen parcels contain nineteenth-century vines, two were planted in the 1960s,” reads the label. Hm. Tastes more old vine to me, but who am I to argue with Ridge? ;)

This wine is a clear red, more garnet than ruby (I need to discover more red gemstones; I feel all my reviews regarding color refer to at least one of these two stones). Must be the 15% Carignane, because surely 2% Petite Sirah isn’t enough to affect the color (PS would make it more inky anyway).

Spice, spice, spice… and fruit, of course, but I think spice wins this one. I detect a hint of licorice as well. The palate and back are nice, but there isn’t much to the front. Perhaps I should left this one on the ZinfanRack for a spell? Too late now!

Another good Ridge wine, but nothing special. With respect to the wine, perhaps I should have waited a bit to open but. But it claims to be delicious now (and it is), and once again… who am I to argue with Ridge?
Zin out,
-ZFG

For more info, visit Ridge Old School Zinfandel

Monday, October 26, 2009

Review: 2007 Ravenswood Mendocino County Zinfandel


First of all, apologies for the less-than-great picture. Second of all, my bottle of Ravenswood’s Mendocino zinfandel is in a *green* bottle—does the one in the picture not look clear to you? And by clear I guess I really mean colorless... anyway, I digress.

Ravenswood's wine maker describes this wine as “very Mendocino.” Not being too familiar with wines from the Mendocino region, I will take his word for it. I’m guessing he means that the cooler weather makes wines from here a bit different than their usual Sonoma juice. There’s only one way to find out…

The blue-red hue conjures up images of rubies. My first sip of this tangy yet berry-forward wine brings to mind one distinct flavor: strawberry fruit Roll-ups. The mild tannins are noticeable, but they work well to balance out the front & back while still preserving the berry goodness that is Zinfandel.

So, Mendocino, I may just have to pay you a visit one of these days. Up for a new ZinfanFriend?

For more info, visit Ravenswood Mendocino Co. Zinfandel

Review: 2007 Four Vines “Sophisticate” Zinfandel


Every time I write about Four Vines, I feel compelled to once again thank Brandy at Donati Family for the recommendation. Seriously Brandy, THANK YOU from the bottom of my little ZinfanHeart.

Imagine my delight when, just one month after joining the Four Vines Incident, our first shipment arrived. Sophisticate is unlike any zin I’ve ever tasted. It is delectable to all the senses. The color instantly reveals that this zin has been fooling around with a bit of Petite Sirah: dark ruby with a slight blue-purple tint. The nose is slightly sweet, but not jammy-sweet like most zins; nay, Sophisticate smells a bit like caramel and a bit like licorice. The sensory pleasures continue into the mouth: tangy front, an almost candy-like (but not saccharine) back, and a sensuous finish. I swear it tasted a bit like coconut; Four Vines claims it’s “vanilla oak.” Whatever it is, it’s not traditionally zin-like, but it works.

Four Vines, you’re too good to me.


For more info (but no buying-- Sophisticate is sold out!) Four Vines Sophisticate Zinfandel

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Report: Livermore Left Intact

Might I pat myself on the back for introducing yet another wine tasting virgin to my scene. We three girls had a fabulous time exploring my new favorite part of the East Bay: lunching, wine-ing, and enjoying the fantastic Livermore sunshine!

We started off with a delicious lunch at Wente's restaurant. We ordered a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc (not Wente's-- is that a faux pas? Oh well.) and it was hands down the best Sauvignon Blanc I have had in a really, really long time. Brophy Clark 2006, Santa Ynez Valley, Valley View Sauvignon Blanc. In fact, just blogging about it reminds me that I best look it up & order some online if need be! Once again, a Wente treated us to a spuerb meal and wonderful service, right down to writing "Happy Birthday" in chocolate on Kelly's crème brûlée.

Happy birthday, wine tasting newbie! @the Restaurant at Wente

Well, since there's a tasting room just a few feet away... off we go!  Being the former sorority girls that we are, we decided we had to have a color theme (red) and wear boas. Birthday girl Kelly got a tiara. We were quite the festive sight!


@Wente vineyards (I appear to have sweated off my make-up).

My comrades were pleased that Wente accomodated their desire for only white wines. How can I be friends with a couple of Reisling lovers is beyond me. As DD, I couldn't even finish off their red wine rejects. Alas, not everyone is as red wine savvy as ZinfanGirl!

Next up was White Crane. What a little gem! They were offering something like 9 tastes for $5-- wowzers! And like any good winery, this was waived with any purchase. We arrived uncertain of where the tasting was. Could it be that little wooden shed just past the vines? That was when we heard the singing...

Our red-clothed, feather-adorned selves entered just as the singing finished. We immediately received remarks about our boas. After explaining that it was Kelly's birthday, the entire winery launched into a (second) round of, "Happy Birthday!" The vibe in that little tasting room was friendly, fun and welcoming-- always good traits, in my Zinfan-pinion. And it's always a rare treat to start your tasting with a sparkling wine-- double points for that, White Crane!

Boas, tiaras & red, oh my! @White Crane

After consulting our trusty map (I'm on the verge of brekaing up with my GPS-- seriously, don't get me started), we found that another recommended winery, Charles R, was just down the road. ZinfanHubby's good friends told us they like Charles R because it is "off the beaten path." They were not joking. I had faith that the Horace-mobile could make it down this gravelly dirt road, and was not disappointed (Horace, like ZinfanGirl, would never let some dirt & rocks interfere with wine).

Literally, off the beaten path! @Charles R Vineyards

Charles R had an interested Chardonnay called Sur Lies, a method which uses less batonnage to bring out the fruit flavors. I knew immediately what this meant even before the lady held the bottle up for my friends to see. "Ewww!" was the (predicted) reaction to the sight of sediment floating in the bottle. ZinfanGirl, however, found it interesting. Dredges & sediment, while not ideal, are just something you deal with in the wine world. Like having to scoop poop if you own a cat, it just comes with the territory (not to insinuate that ZinfanGirl would ever swallow cat poop. Just sayin'.). Our visit to Charles R concluded with Deena's pink melted frosted birthday cupcakes outside in their lovely little picnic area.

Thanks to Kelly for the photos. I better actually, you know, make sure she's OK with me posting them on here.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Livermore Ladies

An old ZinfanFriend from my college days is coming up from SoCal this weekend for her birthday. She has never been wine tasting, and I consider it my ZinfanDuty to remedy this situation immediately. Remember what happened when I found out my pal Noah had never been? In case you don't, please see Hunting the Black Chicken Pt. 1 and Hunting the Black Chicken Pt. 2 to refresh your memory. I take wine tasting virgins and corrupt them into converts-for-life, and Kelly will be no different.

Tomorrow I am loading up our sexy little convertible (with Horace the beaver in tow, natch) with Kelly and a couple of other sorority sisters. Yes, I was a sorostitute in college. Laugh now & get it over with. Done? OK, moving on... So the ladies & I are heading across the Bay to Livermore for a day of wine tasting. The fine folks at Wente/Murrieta's Well/Tamas Estates gave ZinfanHubby & I each a "passport" during our last visit: by collecting stamps from each of the 3 wineries, we each received a gift certificate of $25 off any $50+ purchase. In exchange from being spared an afternoon of wine-ing with a gaggle of giggly girls, ZinfanHubby is relinquishing his passport to the cause-- the cause being lunch at Wente's restaurant. Yum!

As the official director of this trip, I haven't decided which wineries to go to. I'm sure we'll taste at Wente before we have lunch-- well, the girls will. I'm driving, and have tasted at Wente before, so I will save my palate for new locales. A friend who hits up Livermore wineries regularly recommended White Crane and Charles R Vineyards. A fellow Twine'o tweeted a few recs as well: Tenuta, Bent Creek, Ruby Hill and Charles R (again-- I better put Mr. R at the top of my list).

So there's my ZinfanPlans for the weekend. What are yours? Where are ya headed, and who are ya headed there with? And if you should happen to see a convertible cruising through Livermore with 4 girls all wearing red & sporting boas, say hi. We won't bite... hard ;)

I'm Zinfan-OUT!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

El Review: 2008 Calixa Rosado

The time has come to issue my verdict on my south-of-the-border wine purchase! I had a feeling I would end up pairing this wine with seafood, and I was right. I shared it with ZinfanHubby & two others last Saturday night over a dinner of mildly spicy crab-stuffed scallops, couscous and wilted greens, and it was, in the words of Goldilocks, just right.

The first thing I noticed about this rosé rosado was the color. It was a lighter pink than I usually see, with an almost orange-y hue to it. No matter, wine ain't for starin' at, it's for drinkin'! The wine had an acidic nose reminiscent of tart fruit. The flavor is like biting into a ruby red grapefruit: crisp, citric, not quite sweet but not not sweet, if that makes sense. The finish is clean and there is very little aftertaste. I bet this rosado would go smashingly well with a famous Baja California fish taco.

Verdict: Wow, Mexico! And I thought I was just here for the cerveza... I'll join you for a glass of wine any time!

Sadly I couldn't find a picture of this wine online, but here is the website with a little animated image & info about the wine http://www.montexanic.com.mx/

Salude!
-ZinfanGirl

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Review: 2006 Ridge Zinfandel: Nervo Vineyard, Sonoma Co. ATP


Ah Ridge, thy reputation preceeds you! Actually, you do a fine job of living up to that reputation-- at least, the Judgment of Paris thought so ;)

Imagine my joy when ZinfanHubby came home the other day with shipments from both Ravenswood and Ridge. Imagine my continued joy when ZinfanHubby came home a couple of days later with shipments from the same two wineries. Turns out the thoughtful folks at Ravenswood and Ridge had held our prior shipments until the heat spell passed. Many thanks from ZinfanGirl for your preventive measures!

So, Nervo... it says this wine is enjoyable now, but "will be at its best over the next four to five years." ZinfanGirl stopped paying attention after the "enjoyable now" bit. Upon opening the wine didn't seem very special-- balanced body, very soft tannins, no detectable flavors. But having been aerated for a few minutes now, our little Nervo is warming up: a lush, almost caramel-y sweet nose that carries into the forward taste. Not too sweet-- we should all know by now that ZinfanGirl does not do sweet wines-- and cleans up with an extremely smooth finish. Looking at the wine, you can see what a heavy influence the 7% Petite Sirah has on the color: one may have difficulty pegging this as a zin based on sight alone, as the Nervo has the depth and blue-purple hue of the Petite Sirah. But the traditional zin flavors are revealed to the drinker as soon as the wine is tasted.

Verdict: While delicious, and certainly complex, the Nervo isn't anything uber-special in my book. Perhaps I should've listened and let it chillax for a few years, but what can ya do? :)

Cheers!
-ZFG

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Back in the US of A

ZinfanGirl is back from vacay, tanned (OK, sunburnt) and refreshed! Not much to say wine-wise about the trip south of the border; after all, the national wine of Mexico is TEQUILA! But if there is anyone who can sniff out the grape juice, it's... well, OK, it's actually ZinfanHubby, but his lovely wife is a close second.

The resort's house wines were mostly all Chilean (has anyone ever heard of a "house" Malbec before??). Although I hoped to nab a bottle of Mexican wine, I wasn't holding my breath-- the wine community responded to my query of, "Does it exist?" with, "Nada." Alas, at the Mega Mart near our resort, there was indeed a modest section of Mexican wine. ZinfanGirl was surprised to see that majority of Mexican white wines (all 3 or 4 of them) were Chenin Blanc, as she associates C'Blanc with the Loire Valley and, by default, cold climates. The handful of reds were mostly Cabernet, with a couple of Merlots and a Tempranillo thrown in too. Knowing the US of A would only allow this little wine-o to bring back one bottle of yumminess, ZinfanGirl thought quickly, and decided to compromise with a bottle of rosé-- rosado, in fact-- that is verifiably hecho en Mexico!

The selection of rosadas slightly outnumbered the selections of whites & reds, with more variety: merlot, cabernet and grenache. ZinfanGirl nabbed a bottle of the latter. What a delightful souvenier! It is now sitting proudly on the small kitchen wine rack, waiting to be chilled and opened at just the right time. Yum!

Having dispelled the rumor that Mexican wines don't exist, ZinfanGirl is left with one more query: what would be a worthy meal to accompany this rosado mexicano? And please don't say tacos-- the ZinfanTummy has had enough of those for awhile!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I Can Haz Job?

ZinfanGirl apologizes for being so MIA this week & last! A trip to Seattle last week & a trip to Cabo next week aren't leaving much time for wine *tear*

As you all probably already know, I want IN to the wine industry. I'll crush grapes, sell bottles, pick out stems, whatever, but I really would love to be a more active part of this whole process. I was stoked when I saw a job posting on WineJobs.com for a position in my area.

Pros: Flex/part-time hours, small company, proficiency in French preferred (!!!), participation in trade shows & tastings.

Cons: Across the Bay in Oakland--not too far from the ZinfanFamily actually, adamant that they want a 2-3 year commitment to being part-time, must know QuickBooks. And it's a desk job :P

So I applied. And I followed up. And I have been doing the back & forth thing ever since with the owner as far as setting up a time for an interview. He wanted to do it last Thursday; I was flying to Seattle. Called this evening and left a voicemail hoping for a 9AM interview tomorrow in Oakland; I have a 12PM appointment in San Francisco and fear that would cut it awful close. I'm free ALL the rest of the week; he won't be in the office on Thursday & Friday. And of course, I'll be busy doing tequila shots in Mexico all next week. Is this a sign that it's not meant to be?

Well, at least I can say I tried. Maybe he will call back tomorrow and say, "ZinfanGirl, we cannot survive without you, what can we do to make you love us and want to work with us?" But I fear I've already proven a tad difficult to get an interview set up and they will give up. And I'm not entirely sure I'm sold on the job anyway (just didn't get that great a vibe from the owner when we talked on the phone). And, if I may fess up here, it has been a damn long time since I've had an interview and the thought is freaking me out.

Does anyone out there want to give me a job? Please? :)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Crushpad Crush Camp

Totally looking forward to my first crush! http://www.crushpadwine.com/events

Crushpad was awesome enough to offer a few freebies spots at their Crushcamps, so I snagged a couple for myself & ZinfanHubby. I'm stoked! Trying to figure out what to wear-- I've got the "don't wear nice clothes" bit down, but do I want shorts vs. long pants? Sandals vs. tennies? Help a girl out here, any crush pointers would be mucho appreciated!

I'll try to get some pictures but who knows how safe cameras are around grape juice splatters. Time to make a ZinfanMess of myself.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Paso Robles: Pics & Report

OK, technically our weekend shenanigans didn't take place in Paso Robles-- rather, Templeton is where the fun happened!

After a hot 3 hour drive from the Bay Area, ZinfanHubby & I checked in to our hotel in Paso Robles then set off for a day of wine.

Donati Family Vineyard (http://www.donatifamilyvineyard.com/)
Our first stop was Donati Family, who had warmly invited us via Twitter. They had one of the widest tasting selections ZinfanGirl has ever seen at a winery-- major kudos there! 8 tastes for ten bucks?! I knew even before tasting their wines that this would not be our last visit.
After choosing our 8 tastes (ZinfanHubby got the bulk of the tastes, as ZinfanGirl drew the short straw and was stuck behind the wheel), we embarked on a delightful tour of Donati's grape juice. Standouts included:
  • 2007 Pinot Grigio: absolutely delish! A much more golden hue than I usually see in PGs, and a lovely touch of honey that stops just short of sweet.
  • 2006 Claret: the gentleman providing us with the tastes referred to this one as, "having a Dr. Pepper flavor," and I couldn't have described it better myself. Luckily, Dr. Pepper happens to be my favorite soda. The 45% Cab Sauv was definitely noticeable but not overpowering.
  • 2007 Late Harvest Cabernet Franc: as you all should know by now, I'm not a fan of the sweet stuff. This one was ZinfanHubby's doing choosing, but even I must admit that for a sweeter wine this one was more than tolerable. It had a much lighter mouthfeel than a traditional Port (read: I didn't feel like I was drinking maple syrup). We snagged a bottle of this treat to take home.
I met Brandy, the Twine-O behind Donati's Twitter presence and the one who extended the invite to us. It's always good to put a face with the name, and I look forward to seeing her again soon.

OK, since I've made you people wait long enough, here's some pics:


ZinfanGirl & ZinfanHubby check out the vines. They look good.
                           

Whoa! Wine-o's crossing!

Turley Wine Cellars (www.turleywinecellars.com)
Oh Turley, I'd like to hate you based on your pretentious reputation alone but your wine is just too frickin' yummy. And you love Zinfandel just as much as I do. And since we're members, we had to swing by.

Though not as friendly as Brandy & the crew at Donati, the tasting room staff consisted of a couple of pleasant ladies. ZinfanHubby & I sat quietly to the side while the women told the less knowledgeable people about why Turley is so great. They were pouring four wines that day, all Zinfandels. Yummm! We almost always have a bottle or two of Juvenile on hand, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. I most enjoyed the 2006 Dusi vineyard, with its nearly-perfect blend of jam & spice. We were also treated to a couple of tastes not on the tasting menu, which both happened to be my favorites:

  • 2006 Ueberroth Vineyard Zinfandel: a little bit of everything! This wine, made with grapes from a 120 year old vineyard (that's old. Really old. Like, older than ZinfanHubby old.) contains notes of tobacco, spice, herbs and dark red fruit. The finish is like satin. What a treat.


  • White Coat: I probably shouldn't be telling you this, but Turley makes a white wine. It's called White Coat and it is only available for purchase at the winery. This blend of rousanne & granache blanc has a nice, clean finish and very low acid. We nabbed a few bottles of this.

However, the real deal of the day was the Pesenti red wine. I guess Turley had too many non-Turley-worthy grapes and created an inexpensive red blend named after their Pesenti vineyard. At $10 a bottle, we had to buy a case (again, available for sale only at the winery).


Intersection at Turley. Which way do I go?!


I don't think we'd have been able to taste if they weren't...

Four Vines Winery (www.fourvines.com)
Brandy at Donati Family recommended this one to us, and... well let's just say we walked away as their newest club members (called the Four Vines Incident-- how cool is that?!). If I had to recommend one winery in the area to visit, this is it. GO. Do not think twice about it. Their tasting room was under construction, and a good sized crowd was gathered in a dinky back room, but the fun energy was not at all compromised. First of all, they give you their customized wine glasses (collect all 6!) with their rockin' logos on them. ZinfanHubby got one with the anarchy symbol on it, and ZinfanGirl got... wait for it... zinbitch. I have arrived.

OK, cool glasses does not a great wine tasting make. The staff was part biker bar, part Coyote Ugly. With names like Naked, Heretic and Loco, we just knew these wines would be a force to be reckoned with. By this point ZinfanGirl had to slow her tastings down, but wow did we get a lot of tastes! I can't single out one or two or even four as being my favorites; Four Vines as a whole was the highlight of our entire weekend. Fortunately, we ended up joining the Four Vines Incident and walking away with almost a case of wine, a magnum of the Loco, a "zinbitch" shirt for yours truly, a handful of temporary tattoos and of course, our glasses. The one thing we did not leave Four Vines with was pictures-- next time, for sure.

Come evening, it was finally time for some dam fine wine (hey, that rhymes. HEY! That kinda rhymed too!). Castoro was nice responsible enough to send a shuttle to the hotels so us wine lovers didn't risk that horrible drinking & driving stuff. My inner child giggled when their shuttle turned out to be a big yellow schoolbus.

Brief history lesson here: the reason ZinfanHubby & I fell in love with Castoro is because of Horace the beaver. Horace has lived in ZinfanHubby's car since before we met. According to ZinfanLegend, Horace controls the weather by keeping the rain away (did you know beavers build dams because they are psychologically disturbed by running water?!). Yes, ZinfanHubby is a special guy, but that's why we I love him.

It wouldn't be a true Castoro party without our little castor, so Horace came with. The big yellow bus pulled up just as the sun was setting. Castoro-ites moved down the line offering andouille & musard apps, and glasses of their Viognier poured straight from a Rehoboam-- that's like six bottles in one! I knew those cave tours during my stint in Champagne taught me something. One helluva way to get the party started!

The evening progressed with more apps & a delicious BBQ dinner, which was the perfect belly buster for Castoro's selection of red wines (which were flowin' freely, natch). The fun continued with a raffle (we didn't win) and music trivia (we left before the winners were announced). The band was rockin' and everyone was having a good time. ZinfanHubby & I sat back and enjoyed watching the scene. We caught the big yellow bus back to our hotel and called it a (frickin' awesome) day!


ZinfanHubby meets the Rehoboam!


Horace enjoys the dam fine wine from his bretheren.


And the band kept the party going well into the night!

Wow! What a post! So there you have it kids: our weekend in Paso Robles! Can you believe we'll be back down again in November?

Keeping drinking the dam fine wine, from Castoro or wherever. Cheers!
-ZFG

P.S.- If you're a glutton for punishment and need more "ZinfanGirl Does Paso Robles" pictures, please go here: www.tinyurl.com/mbn2yo

Friday, September 18, 2009

Paso Robles, Here We Come!

Next up for ZinfanGirl & ZinfanHubby: Paso Robles! We are members of two Paso Robles wineries:

This weekend is Castoro's club member BBQ. It doesn't start until 6PM on Saturday, so we are heading down early in search of new wines to try (ZinfanGirl may take some time to lounge in the hotel's pool, as temps are expected to hit the 90s). We will stop by Turley either Saturday or Sunday as well, since we will be in the area. Their party isn't until November, which gives us plenty of time to discover the wineries of Paso Robles.

We love Castoro for their amazing quality at amazing prices. ZinfanGirl is looking forward to tasting their new goodies and bringing back a full report for you, my ZinfanReaders.

And by all means, if you have any recommendations of Paso Robles/Templeton area wineries, please send them my way!

Off to drink the Dam Fine Wine!
-ZinfanGirl

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hunting the Black Chicken, Part II

Wow, I am ZinfanSlacking! But I am determined to punch out the rest of the Black Chicken adventure before ZinfanHubby & I head to Paso Robles this weekend.

So, where were we? Ah yes, leaving Regusci winery...

Next stop: Robert Biale vineyards! ZinfanHubby is responsible for introducing me to this treasure. They are appointment-only, and make extraordinary wines. It's worth a visit just to hear the Black Chicken story (which ZinfanGirl knows, but also knows she will never give it the story-telling justice it deserves).

The party was already underway when Noah & I arrived. The wine was flowin' freely and the food was nothing short of delightful!



After filling our bellies with some of the delicious grub, I showed Noah around Biale's grounds. First was the barrel room:


I suspect the barrels in the foreground were put up to keep Black Chicken Society members from wandering back there...

In addition to big steel tanks, Biale has several wooden barrels. French Oak (I'm assuming it's chêne-- oak) I'd heard of but Hungarian?? Need to look into that one!


Noah was especially striken by the barrels that were literally seeping with the goodness. We tried to guess what wine(s) were in which barrels, how long they had been in there, etc., but never confirmed our guesses. There's always next time!


Aldo & Clementina Biale are the reason the Black Chicken exists. Aldo is now in his 90s! They were graciously signing the souvenier glasses and were such delights to chat with. ZinfanGirl's autographed Biale glass is proudly displayed in her "really frickin' awesome, could never be replaced" collection of glasses (from Porto, Champagne, etc).

And of course, we had to get a picture of ZinfanGirl & Noah:

You can't really tell, but my shirt says, "Zinfandel" and has the Robert Biale logo on the bottom right side. Yes, I did decide to wear the shirt, and I rocked it proudly!!!
OK, enough with the pictures already. Let's talk some wine!!!
Biale was pouring all of their wines, and while Noah indulged himself, ZinfanGirl was on driving duty and hence had to keep her tastings under control (for wine anyway. The food is another story). The most memorable stand-outs:

  • Pollo Bianco: The Pollo Bianco (white chicken) is the only white wine produced by Biale. It is about as good as a Sauvignon Blanc can get. It is always released in limited quantities, so ZinfanHubby & I snag as many as we can. It tastes and looks like summer, and I definitely suggest grabbing some if the opportunity ever arises.


  • Black Chicken: The darling of Biale vineyards, this zinfandel has just enough jam to give it that yum-yum mouth & fruity flavor, yet can easily stand up to spice and BBQ. If I could only drink one wine for the rest of my life, it would probably be Black Chicken (or a Turley zin... nah, it would be Black Chicken).


  • Royal Punishers Petite Sirah: It seems unfair to ZinfanGirl that a winery as small as Biale can make a Petite Sirah just as well as they can make Zin. If you're in the mood for a dark, brooding wine, this is an excellent choice.


  • Stagecoach Zin: The Stagecoach grapes are grown at a higher elevation than Black Chicken. I suggest a side-by-side taste & compare to really note the subtle yet distinct differences in these two Zins.

  • Party Line Zinfandel: Not to be confused with the Party Line Petite Sirah reviewed here. When ZinfanHubby & I visited Biale last May, there was talk that the new Party Line Zin may possibily be more delicious than the Black Chicken. Naturally, this was unacceptable-- nothing could be better than the Black Chicken, they exclaimed! While this wine is a delight, I think their fears were unfounded. Nothing tops Black Chicken!
Noah & I walked away with almost 2 cases of goodness, full bellies, and souvenier glasses (one autographed). ZinfanGirl is proud to have initiated another ZinfanFriend into the world of wine, and is looking forward to returning to Biale very soon!
And if you absolutely must know how Black Chicken got its name, please see http://www.robertbialevineyards.com/blackchicken.html
Squawk squawk!!!
-ZinfanGirl

Monday, September 14, 2009

Hunting the Black Chicken, Part I

Hello fellow wine lovers. I have eschewed the urge to go play outside in the sun so that I may give you my rundown of last weekend's trek to Napa. I have lots to tell you about, so please forgive me for cutting this entry into a couple of separate chunks. Part I here will tell you about our day leading up to the BBQ. Part II will conclude with the Biale party itself. Kapeesh? Good.

Friday night/early Saturday morning was something else for the Bay Area. Thunder & lightning shook our city by the bay with a storm far more powerful than any other in ZinfanGirl's memory (remember, she did grow up here). Alas, the rain did not last, and the Napa trip was still on.

ZinfanHubby was unable to accompany me due to a prior engagement, and it was no difficult task to find someone else to take his place. Our dear friend Noah had never been wine tasting before, and ZinfanGirl had every intention to make his intro to the wine world a memorable one. So Saturday morning, just before noon, we crossed two bridges and got on the yellow brick road of Napa wineries, Hwy 29.

The Biale members BBQ didn't start until 1, so we decided to check out a couple of other wineries. I resisted the urge to pop into Stag's Leap Cellars as ZinfanGirl makes it a point to try new things. However, while we were in the Stag's Leap district, we decided to find ourselves some yummy juice, and picked a winery at random...

I had definitely heard of Chimney Rock Winery but was not familiar with their wines. Noah & I sampled the New Release flight:
  • 2007 Elevage Blanc: meritage-style, quite Bordeaux-y, lots of Sauvignon Blanc.
  • 2008 Rosé of Cabernet Franc: a very nice rosé, and by nice, I mean dry. Noah nabbed a bottle of this. This is definitely a summer wine, and has a lovely watermelon hue.
  • 2006 Cab Sauvignon: It was nice, but nothing special (I'm spoiled when it comes to Cabs-- blame all those tastings at Stag's Leap). It didn't seem as rich & velvety as other Stag's Leap Cabs I've had.
  • 2006 Elevage: Another Bordeaux style blend, Chimney Rock's golden child. However, the fact that this was served after the Cab only reaffirmed in my mind that their Cab isn't really all that.
Overall, we enjoyed Chimney Rock but nothing really jumped out as being amazing. The staff was pleasant but not entirely personable; I will give them the benefit of the doubt (the tasting room was a bit crowded that day). The grounds are nice, but ZinfanGirl is partial to wineries with inviting grass/picnic areas. And... well how do I say this diplomatically? Don't go to Chimney Rock planning to buy wines unless you've got a few hundred bucks. This place ain't cheap.
Some pics from Chimney Rock's Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards:

Our next stop was a winery neither of us had heard of. "Hey, what about that one?" my co-pilot asked? So, after completing a U-turn of questionable legality, in we went. Welcome to  Regusci Winery


When we arrived, we were greeted by one of the Regusci residents:

Regusci was packed as well, and we were helped by a friendly Aussie gentleman. We relied heavily on the universal sign language of, "Give me a pour, please!" (a motion resembling tilting a wine glass towards one's mouth, only said wine glass is either imaginery or empty). And then came the wines:

  • Merlot Rosé: This was the first time ZinfanGirl had tried a Merlot rosé. There was quite a bit of talk about Merlot in this winery, I'm thinking it's the Regusci darling.


  • 2006 Merlot: I'm not the hugest Merlot fan, nor do I drink it often, but I must say this one was quite nice. But I remembered exactly why Merlot is considered the red-headed stepchild of the red varietals: there is nothing very special about it. It wants to be loved, and if there is a Merlot to be loved, this one would be up there.


  • 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon: "See?!?" I told Noah, "Cabs are almost always served last!" Again, I felt validated in my initial review of Chimney Rock's Cab. While definitely not a Cask 23, Regusci's Cabernet definitely had that heavy, tannic, velvet goodness that one can only get from a good, strong Cab. It sucked the moisture right off my tongue. It was delicious, but still not enough to sway ZinfanGirl from her wine of choice.

Regusci also sold olive oil, and Noah & I had spotted some olive trees on the grounds (at least, they looked like olive trees). The olive oil was yummy too, but I can't justify spending $20-something on a dinky bottle of olive oil!
OK, dear fans, I will continue with the Hunting of the Black Chicken another time. Cheers!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Review: 2007 Biale Party Line Petite Sirah

In case you couldn't tell, ZinfanGirl has quite a love for Robert Biale & his wines. Yesterday was the members BBQ/pick-up party, and I walked away with quite a take! I will tell my ZinfanReaders all about the party very soon (hopefully tomorrow); alas, for now, I will simply stick with a review to keep you going.

This wine is brand spankin' new. This Petite Sirah joins the Party Line Zinfandel & other amazing Biale wines. While known mainly for their Zins (fear not, ZinfanGirl will post a review of the new Black Chicken release soon!), Biale sure knows their Petite Sirahs & Syrahs. And the new Party Line is no exception.

Inky goodness is dripping down the sides of my glass. Just when I thought you couldn't get a wine with more POW than a Biale Zin, they have to one-up themselves with this pow-a-licious little number. The tannins are mellowed out by luscious black fruit-- any Biale fan will immediately taste and feel similarities (think: blackberry jam) between PLPS and PLZ. Heavier in the mouth than the PLZ, the PLPS is just begging to be invited to your next BBQ. But save the lighter fare for another time, as this wine is best served with real meat: we're talking lamb chops, thick steaks, and any red meat that is best served slightly charred. This wine would easily overpower something delicate like fish or chicken... unless we're talking Black Chicken, of course.

Read more about Biale's Party Line Petite Sirah here.

Open Letter to Hollywood

Dear Hollywood,

You blow my mind. You really do. You can create bomb explosions, alien invasions, and miniature to-scale model cities. So I must ask you this:

Why on earth can't you use/create a realistic fake wine???

I imagine that, after myriad takes, you simply cannot expect your actors to guzzle glass after glass of the delicious grape juice (unless your goal is to have them slurring their words, in which case: may I suggest tequila?). I understand that the only logical thing to do is use some food coloring & water. But you can spend millions of dollars on technical production, computer animation, etc., yet you cannot (or will not) invest enough time, money and/or talent to come up with a believable fake wine?

Case in point: In the last week alone, I have seen episodes of Desperate Housewives (season 3) and Californication (season 1), watched the movie Wall Street, and noticed this totally amateur discrepancy: a green wine bottle pouring out a liquid that could only be described as a rosé. Zinfangirl has had a lot of wine in her life, and has yet to ever see a rosé in dark glass bottles. Why would it be? Is darker glass not reserved specifically for wines that are meant to be stored at room temperature? And is rosé not supposed to be chilled, as in NOT stored at room temp? Surely if you can make audiences believe you just blew up downtown Manhattan, you can make them believe that the characters are drinking the real juice. The stuff you're pouring looks like Kool-Aid, and your target audience is well past that point in their lives (unless there's vodka added in).

Jeez, Hollywood, don't you PAY people to catch these things? And if you do, by all means... I'm available for the position. Clearly, I notice the little things better than your current staff. I'll even work for wine, provided it isn't a rosé from a green bottle.

Sincerely,
Zinfangirl

Friday, September 11, 2009

Review: 2006 Wente Vineyards Counoise

First and foremost, ZinfanGirl asks herself this: has Livermore Valley always been so close by? And why haven't I been there sooner? ZinfanFact: the Girl actually grew up in the same county as Livermore. Granted she was outta there long before her 21st birthday, and as we all know, ZinfanGirl never touched booze before that day... except in Mexico, where the drinking age is 18... and that spring break to Europe when she was 20... OK, there is clearly a reason she isn't called ZinfanAngel. Moving on...

The last time I wrote about Livermore Valley, I expressed my joy at tasting previously unknown varietals (please see Review: Murrieta's Well). This time around, I am sipping another new discovery: Counoise. The gentleman at Wente's tasting room was impressed that I got the pronounciation down pat on the first try and, despite never having heard of it, immediately pegged it as a French grape (ZinfanGirl is happy that her French degree still proves useful from time to time).

Ah, mon petit Counoise! This lovely little grape is used in Rhône valley wines, although its pepper immediately reminded ZinfanGirl of a delightful wine she tasted & bought at a Salon du Vins (wine fair) in Le Mans (Loire Valley, which is known for its sweet Chenin Blancs & is about as far from Rhône as you can get while staying in France). The wine was purchased and given to ZinfanBro without first recording the name, vintner, and other pertinent information. ZinfanBro was given a ZinfanWhooping when he confessed he and a friend drank said wine after the beer had run out one night & they were too drunk to drive to get more. ZinfanFURY!!! But again, I disgress, and the morale of this story is that I was delighted to finally find once again what I thought I had lost forever: that unknown, peppery red wine.

So, back to Wente: the label claims, "aromas of cherry, red licorice and graham. Flavors of candied cherry, red berry, and hints of vanilla and toasted oak..." No pepper? Srsly? That's the first thing I taste (followed closely by the cherry). And how on earth can a French varietal have notes of graham? If you ever have the chance, ask a French person what a graham cracker is-- you will get the same puzzled expression, I imagine, that I am still wearing (seriously, no pepper!?).

Tannins and acidity are mild, and this wine tastes & feels much lighter than it looks. It isn't very "earthy" or, as ZinfanHubby says, "dirty," as I suspect the French Counoises are. This is a good alternative to white or rosé on a warm afternoon (or maybe I am just telling myself this to justify drinking at 1:30PM). I'm recalling a lovely duck confit & candied cherry salad I had not too long ago and think this wine would pair perfectly with such a dish-- something light and berry-centric without being too sweet.

Oh Livermore, thank you so very much for introducing me to these new treasures. I'm so happy we're neighbors :)

Review: Morro Bay Vineyards 2007 Chardonnay

Yet another bottle of BBQ leftover wine. We have the best guests ever, they know me & ZinfanHubby all too well!

This Chard has been sitting in our fridge getting nice & chilly while ZinfanHubby & I battled some kind of infection all week. Wines, unlike friends & family, don't suddenly disappear when we get contagious-- my own ZinfanMama won't even hug me when I'm sick! Rather, the bottles sit, waiting patiently, and are all too willing to embrace us the second we feel (or think we feel) better.

I've been to Morro Bay (the city, not the winery) once. Cute, kinda sleepy little beach town not too unlike Half Moon Bay. I wouldn't have guessed there are wineries there, but considering its position between Monterey (which has wineries cropping up like wildflowers) and Santa Barbara (hello, Sideways!) it isn't surprising. I guess grape vines, like ZinfanGirl herself, are partial to the lovely California coast. Alas, I digress!

Let's see how badly the bug affected my nose & palate... it has the nice, crisp smell of well, a Chardonnay. Slightly sweet, slightly acidic, just enough oak, slight hint of creamy... butter? sweet? I dunno, it's just... creamy (maybe my nose has been affected-- that, or my wine description vocab). It is very light for a Chard, just enough of that signature Chardonnay golden hue coming through, but on sight one could almost mistake it for a Sauvignon Blanc.

This wine is crisp all throughout, but a bit acidic for my taste. The creamy smell was indeed butter; its taste hits about halfway down the mouth and gives the wine a nice mouthfeel. I'm getting two distinct flavors here: the acidity of fruit-- light fruits, maybe apples & pears?-- and the creaminess. Both are balanced, neither one dominates the other, yet they just don't... mesh. It's like sipping 2 different wines altogether.

Verdict: I'd prefer if the butter were more forward and the finish more crisp, but meh. Like I said, I didn't buy this wine, and I probably wouldn't again having tasted it. It has its upsides, and if you're a Chard fan it might be worth giving it a go (although I couldn't find a website for Morro Bay vineyards, I'd bet my money-- no pun intended-- that this wine was purchased at a grocery store for under $15). ZinfanGirl is not the biggest Chard fan, and this certainly isn't the wine to change her mind.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Biale Pick-Up Party: Saturday, Sept. 12th

Hello wine lovers! Anyone heading to any pick-up parties this weekend? ZinfanGirl is off to Napa this Saturday to celebrate the new releases with Robert Biale Vineyards. ZinfanHubby is unable to attend so I will be attending with another partner in crime. However, he has asked me to bring back two cases of Black Chicken booty.

So, being the (semi)fashion-conscious girl that I am, I'm wondering: Would it be tacky for ZinfanGirl to sport her Biale "Zinfandel" shirt to the pick-up party? It's a cute shirt, and black too, which is a sure-fire way to avoid red wine stains! Obviously I wouldn't wear the shirt to another winery's event!

What do you think: fashion faux-pas, or fashionably fabulous? I only have 3 days left to decide!

Attention Twine-o's!

A friend posted some funny new Twitter vocab the other day. I am proud to say I have created a Tword too. Yes, all you Twine-o's, you heard it from ZinfanGirl first! Are you following @zinfangirl on Twitter yet?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Review: 2007 Murrieta's Well Zarzuela

A couple of weeks back, ZinfanHubby & I ventured to the Livermore wineries for the first time. Having grown up not far from the region, it still seemed odd to me that this neck of the Bay could behold anything more than farmland and windmills (Wiki entry: Altamont Pass). Alas, ZinfanGirl now stands corrected, and happily so.

We were besides ourselves with this whole new viti-world that was not any further away than the more popular Napa & Sonoma regions. And when I say besides ourselves, I mean that we walked away with a lot of booty. And I am happy to add yet another region to my ever-expanding list of "Where I've Tasted" wineries.

We hit up the trifecta of Wente, Murrieta's Well and Tamas Estate. According to some friends, we need to check out the "off the beaten path" wineries (which ZinfanHubby & ZinfanGirl much prefer) next time we go, and offered to show us their favorite hidden gems. Huzzah for ZinfanFriends!

Commercial or not, all three wineries scored some points in my book. While Livermore valley Zins are not as-- attention-grabbing, for lack of a better term-- as our beloved Napa juice, they offered plenty of interesting blends and varietals. I am already looking forward to going back!

ZinfanGirl's first Livermore Valley victim-- er, review-- comes from Murrieta's Well. Zarzuela, wha?? Meaning "operetta" in Spanish, this wine is a blend of Spanish & Portugeuse varietals: Touriga Nacional, Tempranillo, Souzao and Touriga Francesca. I'd only ever heard of Tempranillo-- ZinfanGirl clearly needs to get with the global wine program! But the instant I tasted it, I was reminded of my time in Porto, Portugal. Obviously this wine is not port (you will soon learn the ZinfanGirl is not a port fan, and you will rarely see it mentioned here), but the texture immediately revealed its heritage. Unlike many reds, this is a perfect wine for a sunny afternoon and would pair perfectly with light tapas and a siesta. Purple hues and a light mouth are the first noticeable qualities of this wine; a lovely mix of a delicate fruit forward and strong spice finish make it a wine worth remembering. It is, to say the least, a complex wine, one that is sure to delight even veteran wine drinkers who perhaps have given up on finding anything new. And at $30 a bottle, it is a hell of a lot cheaper than a trip to Europe!

Review: 2005 Estancia Shiraz

Slacker? Not me. Especially not when sunny 3-day weekends are involved. Rest assured that ZinfanGirl is never far from the festivies! Being quite the hosts, ZinfanGirl & ZinfanHubby were busy with BBQs, bocce tourneys and poker this weekend. The best thing about hosting parties? All the leftover wine is OURS! *triumphant ZinfanGiggle*

I have actually been keeping a log of recent wine reviews, and will eventually get them all up here. Please check back later this week as I plan on posting many reviews on the site.

Reviewing wine is something I'm still shaky on. Is it possible to be "wrong" about a review? What if I hate a wine everyone else loves, or vice versa? Wine reviewers, please, send your input on this subject my way. And everyone else, please critique my reviews and let me know what I should elaborate on more (or less). I am counting on YOU, my readers, to get better at this whole review thing. See, ZinfanGirl is a nice girl at heart, and fears the day she has to write, "This wine is crap."



So here is today's review: 2005 Estancia Shiraz. A deep, purple-maroon is exactly the color I would expect from this wine. The dark fruit flavors are accentuated with an earthy taste; the wine gets its POW! in its strong back and tingly, lasting finish. Although this Shiraz is from California, every time I sip I can see why it is the wine associated with Aussies: it just begs to be served with a bold, robust meat dish such as lamb or ribs. Overall, it is a great wine to bring to a BBQ, and won't break the bank (BevMo has it on sale for $7.99, $5 off the regular price). But definitely serve it with a well-seasoned, slightly charred chunk of red meat-- this wine would drown out delicate flavors of fish or chicken, and I definitely would not classify it as a wine suitable for serving with dessert (maybe with a dark chocolate-- 80% cacao).

ZinfanHubby has just informed me that Estancia is a member of Constellation, and that we are entitled to tastings & discounts there through our other wine club memberships. Definitely something to keep in mind, as I've been wanting to check out the Central Coast wineries for quite some time now.

Cheers!
-ZinfanGirl

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Turley 2007 Vintage Fall Release

Not too long ago at District Wine Bar I was accused by an employee of having "excellent taste, ma'am" (OK, maybe the "ma'am" part wasn't exactly a compliment) when I witnessed him pulling a delightfully familiar bottle, adorned with a maroon label, out from the reserve cellar. What, did you really think ZinfanGirl couldn't ID a Turley on sight?! I love me some zinfandel, and I highly regard wineries which dedicate themselves to producing a continuous supply of this marvelous juice. Turley holds one of the top places on my list of, "Oh my golly, this is what God must drink!" zin-producing wineries.

We are now in the heart of harvest season, which means more yummy wine will soon be on its way. And of course, order forms precede the wines themselves, and their papery presence is nearly as exciting as the bottles themselves.

My heart always flutters whenever we get something from our beloved Turley. We were recently asked to do a recognizance mission to Turley by another winery (who shall remain unnamed); apparently, word on the wine streets is that their last release was not quite up to usual Turley standards. We have not yet done this mission, but I suspect a stop at Turley will be on the itinerary next month when we head down south for Castoro Cellar's members BBQ.

So what does Turley have to say? Sounds like high hopes for the '07 vintage. Two new vineyards, Fredericks Vineyard and Zampatti Vineyard, are located in Sonoma. It sounds like these newbies will be producing my poison of choice: zinfandel. It also appears as though ZinfanHubby & I were not deemed worthy enough to purchase either one. Maybe next year *sigh*

2008 no doubt was a rough year for many wineries, with all the wildfires & ensuing damage. Fortunately Turley was spared from physical harm, but yields were down *gasp* 50%! I hope 2009 proves to be more fruitful (pun intended?) for them.

ZinfanHubby & I always try to order as many bottles from Turley as possible, as the allotments are based on prior orders. I suspect we will be ordering all 10 of our options this year. In addition to being excluded from the newbie vineyards, we were also denied the Pesenti Petite Syrah and the Library Petite Syrah. Well, it's a damn good thing I am ZinfanGirl and not PetiteSyrahGirl! :P

The Turley member pick-up party is in Templeton on November 7th, and ZinfanGirl will most definitely be attending! The pick-up party back in 2007 was a blast. We ended up finding the last few bottles of their rosé in a corner of the tasting room, and snagged a hell of a deal at $16 a bottle! I think we started a mini-riot once our fellow club members caught on to what we were doing. I suspect ZinfanHubby and I will be drawing straws to determine who is on driving duty.

To check out Turley Wine Cellars, or to sign up to get on the waiting list to get on the mailing list (I still razz my husband for saving the postcard informing him he was now *on* the waiting list to get on the members' list), please visit Turley's website.

Cheers!
ZinfanGirl

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

For the love of Wine (Away)

In the world of passions, mentors can come in handy. The best mentors are the ones who may not even be aware of their influence. I have had many sources of inspiration during my wine journeys, everyone from the man at Château Montcontour who let us in for a tasting (off-season) & talked wine with 3 Americans for hours, to the staff at Coit Liquors who were always willing to give out samples of already opened bottles on my way home from school, to the staff members of tasting rooms all over California. But this individual won my heart in a most wine-sical way...

"And what is a Wiii-mooo?"
"A Wimo is wine tasting in a limo. My friend organizes it. Should be a lot of fun."
"Wine? Limo? Yeah of course I'll be your date! Umm.. platonic, right?"

Jess is-- how do I say this unpretentiously?-- smarter than you. He's smarter than me. He is smart about everything worth being smart about. And it was under the most unusual of circumstances that we crossed paths (and that is one story that, being un-wine-related, will not be published here).

Our friendship grew over shared loves for fun, dancing and wouldn't you know it, wine. Jess is not one to be outdone, whether he tries or not. So it did not strike me as odd when he insisted on dressing up for this Wimo trip. How on earth, after agonizing for hours, did I end up choosing a white dress for wine tasting is beyond me, but I did. And I looked damn good.

I think it was somewhere between Domaine Chandone and Biale that The Incident happened. Imagine 30-something people on a limo-bus stocked with a full bar. Most people were drunk before we even left San Francisco. So it was inevitable that red wine would eventually make contact with my ill-chosen white dress. The culprit was my dear friend Vinay, combined with a too-sharp turn or maybe a speed bump. The victim was my white dress; the poor thing looked like it was fashionably bleeding. Before the thoughts, "Oh f-- my dress! I am gonna walk around with a wine stain all day long!" could process, the never-outdone Jess produced a magic potion from his bag...

Wine Away, how had I never heard of you?!?! A couple of sprays later, and my dress was once again immaculate. And I was head over heels in love.

Not too long ago, at a winery (I believe Martinelli?), I found a 3 pack of travel-size Wine Away spritzers. I keep one in my purse at all times, and lemme tell ya: I have un-ruined more garments, removed more carpet stains, and warranted more "Oh my God THANK YOU!!!!" hugs than I ever imagined possible. All for $10? What a bargain!

Wine lovers everywhere, experienced or not, or even for you clutzy folks (because I can attest that this stuff removes fruit juice, ketchup, and more!): you NEED Wine Away. Get it now. Most wine shops, BevMo, and specialty food stores carry it. If not, order it right here, right now!

And as you may have guessed, the Wine Away wasn't the only one to steal my heart that day.