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March 28, 2010

Big Bold Reds- Zinfandels

The Zinfande grape is grown all over California contributing to the reason the styles are so uniquely different; considering the climate and soil are remarkably different in each area. So our wine club decided to find our favorite.

Our wine tasting club developed from a group of people who took a series of UT wine classes together. We realized early on that we had several things in common; we love drinking and evaluating wine. We also love to cook and eat; great combinations for making memories with friends.

Once a month someone hosts and determines the theme for the evening. At our last wine tasting it was decided that everyone would bring their favorite Red Zinfandel and an appetizer to pair with the wine. The wines we shared ranged from big, bold and complex to fruity and sweet depending on where the varietal was grown. Interestingly they were all from the same vintage, 2007.

The Zinfandel grape is California’s most common varietal and has grown there since the mid-1800s. The origin of the grape is unknown but it is genetically related to a very popular wine in Italy where the grape is called Primitivo. More recently research has shown that the grape is related to a grape in Croatia, Plavic Mali.

Zinfandel is used for producing both White Zinfandel, a fruity, light rosé wine and a red Zinfandel wine.

Each of the wines we tasted were very good, a testament to why the Zinfandel wines have developed into one of the best red varietals in California. We had a very large selection of food bites to accompany the wines, some which worked and some that didn’t. It was amazing what happened when a sip of wine followed a bite of food. You don’t have to know much about wine to enjoy it- just open the bottle and pour. But to understand why many combinations work and why some don’t you have to try the combinations for yourself.

Before the tasting began, we gathered together, relaxing while everyone arrived. Our host provided a very nice O’Brien 2006 Chardonnay for everyone to enjoy. It was flavorful with fruit and a little oak. But the reds were the focus of the evening.

The first Zinfandel we tried was from Steele Wines, located in Lake County, North of Napa Valley California. The area is picturesque with Clear Lake reflecting the Mount Konocti mountain range. The owner/winemaker has been making wines in California for over 40 years, beginning Steele wines in 1991. The wines are aged in oak and can be enjoyed soon or cellared up to 8-10 years.

The group consensus was fairly consistent in the fact that the Steele wine was a full bodied wine with flavors of red fruit including cherry and maybe raspberry with some spice. I got a little hint of cedar and others agreed. The acidity was medium with medium high tannins. The foods we tasted with this wine included sausage, grilled shrimp and asparagus, none which really complimented the wine that well. The shrimp was probably the best.

The second Zinfandel was from Wild Cayote Estate Winery in the heart of Paso Robles region of Central California. They grow their own grapes on 15 acres, make their own wine and sell out every year. They claim what they don’t sell, they drink. They only produce big, bold reds so that must be why they are known as the “House-of-Reds.” This wine had more spice, peppery with plum and jam flavors and a long finish. The aroma was big and very pleasant. The alcohol content was high at 14.9%. Again the shrimp was the best choice with this dish. Mussels were also served and they were very good but frankly they did not go with any of the wines.

The next wine was slipped in as an unexpected, but delightful treat. We tasted these without knowing what they were so we were surprised to know that our host added an Italian wine to the mix, a Primitivo from Italy. DNA testing has revealed that Primitivo possesses a genetic makeup very similar to the California grape Zinfandel. But tonight even though no one actually picked this out as being different from the other wines, we all liked it very much. It is a little less jammy with more notes of earth and spice with lighter fruit flavors.

The fouth wine we tasted was 7 Deadly Zins from Michael David Winery where brothers are striving to use all natural methods in growing their grapes such as beneficial insects for pest control and natural mined sulfur for mildew control. They represent a sixth generation of growers in the Lodi appellation which is located directly east of San Francisco at the edge of the Sacramento River Delta. Their website gives a most interesting story about how they named this wine. “They blended fruit from seven vineyards, and looking to their past, they quickly related the Seven Sins from their Catholic school upbringing to the seven Old vines in their wine.” This wine had a lot of jam flavors and less spice to me, but others thought it had a lot of peppery flavors. Some noted cinnamon and smooth tannins. We had mini beef tostados and I thought this was okay with this wine.

The last wine was a Brazin Zinfandel also in Lodi, one of the oldest California wine growing regions. They use grapes from an area located in the Mokelumne River AVA of Lodi where the grapes thrive in the region’s Mediterranean like climate and sandy soils. The flavors of this wine are indeed intense, with blackberry, plums and pepper. The finish was good and the tannins were soft. We had potato wedges which were very good with all the wines but nothing notable food wise with this wine.

So what did we conclude? I can only tell you that we liked them all for different reasons. The Wild Cayote was noted as being very good. Everyone agreed it was favored until we tried the Brazin. The flavor was amazing, complex and delicious. There is no doubt that food selection was important, changing each wine as we went along. All wines ranged in price between $15.00- 22.00, very affordable wines.

It was a wonderful experiment and I would give each wine “a thumbs up”. When I thought about the styles the next day, I realized we forgot one of my favorites. For the money, The Bogle old vine Zinfandel is a good wine. I have to note here that we have enjoyed this wine on many occasions. We even bought two cases. But no one brought this wine to the tasting. Maybe it will be the next wine we serve.

Looking back on this wine and food tasting, I realized we missed a great opportunity to have saucy barbeque ribs or a good pepper steak. We did have pizza when we first arrived but strangely we didn’t try it with the Zinfandels. I would have preferred a plan that involved a little more attention to the food pairing. Even though the food was sensational it just didn’t complement the wines as well as it could have.

Since I am hosting the next event, I am going to try a little different approach. I think I will ask everyone to bring a wine that pairs specifically with the food they bring, including 2-3 whites and 2-3 reds, depending on the number of people we have. I hope that no one will object to this because I am really looking forward to the next event.

Posted by terri at 12:53 AM | Comments (0)

March 09, 2010

Welcome to Cooking Wiser with Terri Geiser!

Cooking wiser with Terri Geiser came to fruition while I was teaching a cooking class one night. A friend of mine said, “with all of these tips you should be on T.V. You could have your own show called Cooking Wiser with Terri Geiser.” She made an apron for me and monogrammed the slogan on. Every time I wore it people commented on how catchy it was. Thanks Colleen!

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