Wines of the Month

JUNE, 1999

Zins Win

Summer is almost here, and backyard BBQ enthusiasts minds are turning to thoughts of glowing embers and smoky flavors. And we wine enthusiasts are thinking about the perfect vinous match for grilled and barbecued foods. I think that Zinfandel is one of the best matches for many grilled foods. The robust berry flavors and spicy qualities seen in many Zins almost always seem to pair well with meats, poultry, and even some vegetables (e.g. portobello mushrooms) hot off the grill.

So, to start off the season, here are a few Zins I've enjoyed lately:

Cline Zinfandel California '97 -- A very good summer quaffer at a great price. Nice brambly nose of blackberry and raspberry, though it could be more intense. It delivers more blackberries, raspberries and some plum in the mouth, with modest tannins, and a short plum and berry-laden finish, with more acid than many Zins. I wouldn't keep this very long, especially since it drinks well now. While I haven't always been a fan of the Cline Zins, I've thought that both the '96 and '97 California bottlings have represented excellent value.

Marietta Cellars Zinfandel Sonoma County '94 -- Ripe, juicy, and ready to drink. This is a step up in intensity and complexity from the Cline. Many people don't keep their Zins around this long, but patience can be rewarded. The aroma is quite intense, with blackberry, plum and anise scents. You aren't going to be disappointed when you taste the wine either; plenty of blackberry, plum, and black cherry flavors will keep you coming back for more. And as you keep drinking, you'll notice a hint of anise, a touch of leather, and a tiny bit of mint. The finish is long and clean, emphasizing blackberry, brambles, and black cherry. The tannins were smooth and almost went unnoticed, until the last glass in the bottle, when they became more apparent and rougher, though no sediment was visible. This wine is complex, harmonious and drinking well now. If you're lucky, you might even be able to find some on the retail shelves, as I saw some stock as recently as May.

Marietta Cellars Zinfandel Sonoma County '95 -- Even better than the '94, and drinking very well now. This wine offers all of the complexity of its older sibling, but with more intensity. Aromas of blackberry, raspberry, spice and dusty earth promise good things to come. There is a slight whiff of alcohol in the nose too, but not too much. One taste, and you know the promise has been kept, with generous blackberry, black raspberry, and plum fruit in the forefront, followed by anise and other spice flavors with a tiny bit of mint adding complexity. The long, clean finish shows black cherry and blackberry flavors, with spice and a hint of vanilla. Good acidity, too, which seems to be more common in the '95 vintage. While there is obviously oak in the wine, it isn't overused, as in many California wines, and is well-integrated. The tannins were smooth and round. A lush and harmonious wine, and a wonderful match for grilled meats.

Comments on these wines are always welcome.

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Copyright 1999 by Marcel Lachenmann.