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Powerful wines for these times

A very old zinfandel vine (Photograph supplied)

As Mother Nature has just given us a reminder of her power, I am thinking of wines that can do the same – the type of wine that makes me want to listen to White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane, or hear a steak sizzling in a cast iron skillet while I smell its delicious aroma.

Hope I will not offend if I describe them as “masculine wines”, although of course they are lovely to share with the fairer members of our species. I am thinking of Californian zinfandel as, along with very recent new arrivals, we now have eight in stock. Let me tell you about them.

Our 2017 Michael David Winery Earthquake Old Vine Lodi Zinfandel sources its fruit from vines planted about the time that San Francisco’s 1906 earthquake occurred – very old indeed. Canadian critic Natalie MacLean backs me as she writes: “From Michael David Winery in the Lodi, Earthquake 2019 Zinfandel is a dry, fruity and full-bodied, vibrant zin produced from some of the oldest vines in Lodi planted around the time of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The wine is rich with a mouthful of raspberry, blackberry, cherry, mocha, toasty oak spice and smoked meat flavours finishing long on the palate. Enjoy with smoky ribs and burgers from the grill. 91/100.” $38 (Stock #7102).

I have been a fan of Dry Creek Vineyards since 1980 and still have a few of their bottles from the 1977 and 1978 vintages. Their 2019 Dry Creek Vineyards Heritage Vines Zinfandel is supplied by unique vines that this winery created. To preserve the tradition and “heritage” of old zinfandel vineyards, cuttings from a pre-Prohibition era vineyard were grafted onto phylloxera-resistant rootstock. Then, for several years they worked diligently to screen and propagate virus-free vines that would ultimately produce a crop. The Wine Enthusiast says, “Offering tremendous value for the quality, this wine is blended with 19 per cent petite sirah. Tart, tangy red fruit, from plum to cherry. It is a full-bodied and richly textured red. Editor’s choice 92/100.” $32.95 (Stock #6507).

Our 2019 Dry Creek Old Vine Zinfandel is a recent arrival and for this bottling the vines average more than 100 years in age and, in some cases, nearly 140 years old! This vintage presents alluring aromatics of blackberry, boysenberry and fresh raspberry with notes of cocoa powder, cardamom, toasty cedar and nutmeg. On the palate, brambly layers of black cherry, blackberry and boysenberry come forward with nuances of coriander, marzipan and espresso. The wine is complex, with bright acidity complemented by a long, lingering finish. The tannins are structured but soft, and lend a round, rich mouthfeel. $42 (Stock #6539).

The 2019 Bogle Old Vines Zinfandel is a result of their winemaker seeking out vines that range in age from 60 to 80 years. They are dry-farmed and produce small yields of concentrated clusters of fruit. This results in incredibly intense and flavourful wine with notes of raspberry, peppercorn, juniper, dried herbs and vanilla. The Wine Enthusiast picks it as a “best buy” and rates it 91 points. $24.30 (Stock #8042).

Moving up to the very end of Dry Creek Valley we come to masterful winemaker, Ed Sbragia, and his family winery to see what his son Adam does with his Home Field Red Blend. Born and raised in Dry Creek Valley, Adam has explored every vineyard in every corner of his home field to create this modern wine that expresses purity of fruit and his family's long wine making history. Home Field is a red blend made from five different grapes grown in six different vineyards – 51 per cent zinfandel, 8 per cent carignane, 4 per cent petite sirah 25 per cent cabernet sauvignon and 12 per cent merlot. I am so looking forward to tasting this new arrival of 2017 Sbragia Homefield Red Blend as this is the very first vintage. $35 (Stock #6334).

I plead guilty of having enjoyed a few bottles of Sbragia 2017 Gino’s Zinfandel. This very special zinfandel was aged in new French oak for 20 months, to help highlight its quintessential Dry Creek Valley zinfandel characteristics, which include aromatics of brambly fruit, and intense blackberry, raspberry flavours. Subtle floral notes, brown sugar and spice are apparent mid palate as a wonderful depth of flavour leads to a juicy finish. $42 (Stock #6803).

The 2019 Three Sticks Head High Sonoma County Zinfandel has just arrived and the vineyard that supplied the grapes is Durell, one that has a spectacular reputation. This 100 per cent zinfandel is softly textured and layered with cola, dried cherries and plums. Dense blackberry and pepper provide an earthy intensity and complexity. $35 (Stock #6134).

I have written about “Bermuda’s own zinfandel” and by that, I mean 2012 Wild Hogge Moongate from Huw and Dale Morris in Paso Robles, California. I cannot leave it out so here is a direct copy of what I said last year: “If you were using the grape in Croatia you would call it tribidraq or crljenak kastelanski; in Italy the label would read primitivo and in California, zinfandel. Huw and Dale call their blend of 75 per cent zinfandel, 13 per cent syrah and 12 per cent cabernet franc 2012 Wild Hogge Moongate and we all know why they do that. They prefer to call the major grape ‘primitivo.’”

Their website reads: “Primitivo, an Italian zinfandel, contributes a unique taste of rich ripe fruit. The cab franc adds a little black pepper, and the spicy syrah balances out the richness of the primitivo. Matured in American oak for two years and in the bottle for another two years, the wine exhibits a powerful aroma of earthiness and dark berry fruit. The palate has a rich texture and notes of blackberry jam. Will go well with any lamb dish or rich Italian meal. 177 cases were produced.” $38.90 (Stock #5967).

Why are there so many very old zinfandel vineyards? My friend Jedidiah Tecumseh Steele, a masterful winemaker, told me this story: During prohibition some large cities allowed wine to be made in homes. Thick-skinned zinfandel stood up to long journeys by train and so was the chosen grape to reach East Coast population centres. Chardonnay, merlot and so on, were pulled up and replanted with walnuts, olives, and other crops, but zinfandel flourished. You will not go wrong if you let it flourish in your home!

• This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Contact Michael Robinson at mrobinson@bll.bm. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). Visit www.wineonline.bm

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Published September 30, 2022 at 8:00 am (Updated September 30, 2022 at 9:41 am)

Powerful wines for these times

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