Wednesday, October 12, 2005

On Zinfandel Rosé

Catie over at the Through The Grape Vine blog recently wrote a post on Zinfandel, its presence (or rather lack thereof) in Washington, and the "white zin" phenomenon. (Catie if you're reading this, I wanted to send this personally via email, but couldn't find any contact information!)

The post nails the "white zin" terminology right on the head: Sutter Home created the name as a marketing device and it worked wonders (as can be evidenced by the fact that anybody is even having this conversation). "White" Zinfandel wine is just rosé. It doesn't sit on the grape skins more than a handful of hours so it doesn't turn completely red.

While I agree whole heartedly with her on the marketzoid misnomers, there are some truly fantastic rosés made from Zinfandel. The first one that comes to mind is the one from Lucas Winery ( Their rosé is made from Zinfandel and has fantastic, surprising fruit. Its apple-like bite (malic acid, perhaps?) is characteristic of the outstanding Chardonnays that Lucas produces. Pedroncelli also makes a wonderful rosé with Zinfandel grapes.

Of course, as I write this, I'm thinking of shuffling off to open a Bandol rosé.

Please keep up the good blogging, Catie.

Wine: Cavatappi Sangiovese

If soup is anything in America, it is the food of fall. Spring pea soups and late summer tomato consommés are wonderful; real honest stews are something else altogether. In Oaxaca (pronounced “wah-ha-ka”), a state in Mexico, soups are serious business. They are traditionally served as meals in themselves. As fine as vichyssoise can be, a hearty, spicy posole is to soup what a great grizzly bear is to the forest.

It’s fall in Seattle and so we must make posole. It will be evening, and so we must have wine. Pairing spicy food with wine generally reminds us of white wines, but what few deciduous trees we have here are losing their leaves and so the wine that we must drink must be red.

Sangiovese can and does pair well with a hearty, spicy soup. The one good Washington Sangiovese I know of is the Cavatappi Sangiovese from Peter’s Cellars. The bouquet is musty, earthy, and even a bit like wet wood; that is to say, it is a delightful fall wine. No light fruits are prancing around here. It has a pleasing finish and beautiful ruby color. It can be had for about ten bucks.

The author Zarela Martinez says that a Oaxacan market is the highest glory of a land where food can express dignity, generosity, and grace. Wine, food, and fall may be able to bring a little bit of that out in all of us.

Value: 4.0
Color & Clarity: 3.5
Bouquet: 3.5
Flavor: 3.0

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Wine as Fuel (Literally)

The New York Times has a story about winemakers in France distilling their wines to get ethanol, which is eventually sold to refineries to be turned into gasoline. "It's like going to a funeral," one winemaker is quoted as saying. While using wine product for something other than wine when it's more profitable to do so is nothing new, it's a bit sad to see it happening in the traditional heart of the wine world.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Wine: Dehasa Gago 2003

Just a little bit of purple in this very accessible Spanish red – color? Let’s talk about color first.

In the early 20th century the chemist R.M. Willstätter found that most fruits which are noticeably red or purple have pigment made of cyanidine-based compounds. Bear with me: I promise this isn’t too painful (and therefore not too accurate, either). Cyanidine, a kind of anthocyanin (if you care at all), changes color depending upon the pH of the solution it’s in. Very roughly, the more acidic the solution, the more cyanidine appears to be red; the less acidic, the more it appears to be purple. (The pH of a liquid doesn’t exactly correlate to the acidity, but let’s just pretend it does for now.)

Those cyanidine compounds are in the skin of the grape; though you are not drinking the skins, you are in fact drinking things pulled from the skins into the wine (this is where most of the flavor comes from, in fact). The wine’s pH will have an impact on the color because of this, but it’s not the only thing influencing color.

As most of us know, wines change color with age. One big reason is that the compounds mentioned above slowly join up with other fellows and turn into that flaky stuff you see at the bottom of old bottles. The color gets less intense over time. Whites tend to brown a bit, becoming more straw or hay colored. Reds on the other hand get a more subtle gradient from an almost orange to a brick color; some look tawny. Old reds will tend not to be purple.

Back to the wine at hand. The Dehesa Gago (“g” according to the label and the designated shorthand) from famed Spanish winemaker Telmo Rodriguez is an impressive eight dollar wine made from Tempranillo. Just after being opened, it’s as cranky as most wines a year old, but given a little bit of air it opens up just fine. The oak works well: it isn’t overbearing but it gives it nice palatability (read as: there is a light vanilla in here). Its most notable qualities are the cherry scent and its chewy mouthfeel. Oh yeah, and it’s a dark red with some purple around the rim.

Value: 4.0
Color & Clarity: 3.0
Bouquet: 3.0
Flavor: 3.5