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Thinking of the West Coast

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Relaxing at the Michael David Winery in Lodi, California (Photograph supplied)

With the sad news that David Crosby is no longer with us, this old rock and roller is thinking of the very first time – 1978 – when my wife and I travelled together to San Francisco.

We stayed at “Spreckels”, a mansion that belonged to Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills and Nash. Those were the days of “flower power” and “peace” in that city. I believe that I was the first Bermudian to actively pursue relationships with the new wineries sprouting up.

Last night I decided to pull the cork on a new arrival, and it proved to be the perfect one to set the mood for this music, or anything, as it is indeed beautiful and perfect for memories, or to celebrate your team getting to the Superbowl.

It is 2020 Mount Peak Winery Rattlesnake Sonoma County Zinfandel. This wine is a tribute to the crest called Rattlesnake Hill, the highest point of the Monte Rosso Vineyard and a site famous for rattlesnakes living among the vines. During the day, the snakes seek the abundant sunshine, and in the evening, they coil inside and around the vines.

This zinfandel is filled with an alluring mouth-watering quality, with robust flavours that include ripe blueberries, blackberries, cherry jam and fig, all tied together by a brambly undertone. Accents of white pepper, liquorice and smoke weave through, deepening throughout the luscious finish that goes on and on and on. At $79 it is more than I have ever paid for a zinfandel, but it is so balanced and delicious! What a treat. (Stock #6664).

Since I have American football on my mind I will carry on with ideas for the big event. If you are in the Rhone Valley of France you would refer to durif grapes, but in America they become petite syrah or petit sirah. Our Napa Valley one is 2017 Stags’ Leap Winery Petite Sirah. Canadian critic Natalie MacLean awards it 93 points and writes: “Fleshy and full-bodied with concentrated blackberry, blueberry, liquorice, and a smattering of cracked black pepper flavours on the palate. Love, love the smoky finish. Tannins are fine. Pair with full-bodied meaty game dishes. Enjoy now and for the next ten years.

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate tells us that “it is composed of 85 per cent petite sirah, 6 per cent syrah, 6 per cent grenache and 3 per cent mixed Rhone varietals” and that, “it bursts from the glass with exuberant scents of prunes, baked black cherries and mulberries with hints of candied violets, unsmoked cigars and new leather plus a hint of spice cake”. $64 (Stock #6343).

Travelling down south we come to Paso Robles and visit one of my favourite mid-priced producers and pick up a bottle of 2018 J. Lohr Paso Robles Tower Road Petite Sirah that is a blend of 93 per cent petite sirah, 3 per cent syrah, 3 per cent grenache and 1 per cent viognier. The Tasting Panel magazine awards it 93/100 and comments, “For the first time in 13 vintages, a small amount of viognier is present in this wine. The grapes are grown on well draining, heavy soils in Paso Robles’ Estrella District, where cooling winds meet warm days. Aged 16 months in (50 per cent new) French oak, the result is not your typical petite sirah.

Yes, it’s a true teeth-coater, with blue fruit surging on a velvety sheath of black cherry and vanilla, but the aromas and flavours of violets, sweet plum, garden herbs, and white pepper remain distinct. It finishes with a lovely cranberry brightness. 93/100.” It is a common practice in the Rhone Valley to add a little of the white viognier to certain red wines. $33.25 (Stock #6411).

Staying in that mindset of watching a very physical game we find a winery that refers to their wine as “large weighty, knock your socks off type of wine” and it is 2018 Michael David Winery Petite Petit from the Lodi area. It is a blend of 85 per cent petite sirah and 15 per cent petit verdot, the latter often used in Bordeaux as part of their red wine blends.

Showcasing aromas of dark fruit and raspberry, this wine is layered with rich flavours of black cherry, cola and light oak on the palate. Dark, full bodied and deeply satisfying. Like the elephants on the label, whose size is imposing, Petite Petit is large! Offering a joyous explosion of colour and fun, it is a substantial, dense, full-bodied, whopper style of wine loaded with pure black fruit and vanilla flavours that coat the palate. It reveals remarkable richness. The Wine Enthusiast gives it a very good 93/100 and opines: “This powerful wine is packed with black fruits, black pepper, dark chocolate, and firm tannins. Editors’ choice.” $29 (Stock #7101).

The Hope Family Troublemaker Blend No. 14 from Paso Robles should keep the level of intensity high as it consists of syrah, grenache, mourvédre, zinfandel and petite syrah. Syrah is the backbone of the wine setting the stage for a fruit forward style and a full body. Sweet and bright red fruit flavours of grenache blend with the rustic and lively flavours of the mourvédre. The zinfandel adds its signature zing to round out the blend and petite syrah contributes to the deep colour. This intensely rich wine is deep purple in colour and radiates aromas of black fruit, cherry and spicy black pepper. On the palate, loads of vanilla, caramel and blackcurrant gracefully evolve into soft supple tannins and a signature zing that balances the wine. $28.70 (Stock #8029).

So here you have five ways to stay warm and enjoy brats, burgers, steaks, Mexican dishes and all manner of food and game watching that requires “non wimpy wines”. Sadly, my Packers did not have an impressive season! But I will be tuned in for sure.

This column is a paid for advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd written by Michael Robinson. He can be contacted at mrobinson@bll.bm. Burrows Lightbourn have stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). A selection of their wines, beers and spirits is available at www.wineonline.bm

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Published January 27, 2023 at 8:00 am (Updated January 26, 2023 at 2:17 pm)

Thinking of the West Coast

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