Shauna and Kent Rosenblum obtained the fruit for their 2008 Rock Wall Montepulciano from Randy Taylor’s vineyards in Contra Costa County. The grapes were fermented in small macrobins after spending some time out in the sun. The Rosenblums allowed 15%-20% whole berry inclusion, did a cold soak at 42 degrees, tannin addition and used of their house yeast, RP15, a Zinfandel yeast, as the core of their regimen. All new French oak was used for ageing. The wine started with strong oak aromas—dill initially—then notes of leather. Coffee became more pronounced with a little air. In the mouth, plush black cherry/strawberry led into light, supple tannins. Lighter bodied, the soft acids in the mid-palate made the wine seem a bit hollow. A fairly complex finish consisted of a briary cherry-strawberry mélange, with a crème fraiche note and slight bitterness. On the second day, the collective aromas screamed “Zinfandel”. Dill, herbs and vanilla up front, crossing into espresso, the fruit come through had a distinct briar-like quality. In the mouth, espresso notes preceded ripe, very plump briary fruit flavors. Slight, fine-grained tannins, and softer but more pronounced acids made for a round and rich mouthfeel. The wine was an unobtrusive companion to the mushroom pizza and did not overpower the blackened salmon. (14.1% ABV, 1 bottle tasted, production volume unknown, This wine is produced in small lots and tends to sell out to club members.)
The 2008 Raffaldini Montepulciano, from the Swan Creek AVA in North Carolina, received extended oak ageing. It starts with some VE/VA up front, fleshy ripe strawberry/raspberry and oak terpene notes. In the mouth, strawberry flavors dominated with a structure of finely dusty, suede-like, lightly drying tannins, a light body and softer acids. It finished creamy, with a waxy edge. On the second day, a more distinct though faint aroma of rose petals accompanied the previously noted fruit. The fruit flavors became accented by a hibiscus-like note. Supple, smooth, fine, tannins and good acids and balance defined its structure. The finish was more truncated and more drying on the second day. This wine was a nice companion to the mushroom pizza and did not compete with any of its elements. Paired with blackened salmon, it worked structurally, clashed somewhat, aromatically. (12.5% ABV, 2 bottles tasted, production volume unknown)
The 2008 Mandola Spino, from Duchman Family Winery, is a 100% varietal wine sourced from fruit grown in the Reddy Vineyards and the Mandola state vineyards in the Texas High Plains and Texas Hill Country. Temperature-controlled fermentation was followed by nine months in French oak. The wine starts with aromas of bright, fleshy strawberry, a faint floral hint, and a slightly funky edge. Cranberry and strawberry flavors dominate this light-bodied wine with, light fine tannins, some heat and lower acids. The finish is a bit hollow feeling. On the second day the faint funky aromas persisted, taking on a more vegetal character, but were dominated by fleshy macerated strawberry followed by a floral/oaky note. In the mouth, strawberry dominated cranberry and a slight mineral-like astringency. The structure took on more definition with taut, fine, slight tannins, vibrant acids, good body and balance. The medium-length finish was juicy with cherry/cranberry flavors and a vague floral hint. The rustically-styled wine blended in well with a mushroom pizza but clashed aromatically with blackened salmon. (12.5% ABV, 1 bottle tasted, 662 cases made)
This Zinfandel-based blend is upper medium depth garnet in color with a medium opacity, becoming ruby at the rim. Rich plum and berry aromas up front. Pleasantly piney notes soon emerge, backed by hints of sweet oak. More time in the glass brings out subtle char and espresso aromas. It quickly becomes very tangy and ends very, very racy with a steely, scalpel-sharp note. Very fine tannins are slight, velvety textured, smooth and have a tea-like astringency. The 15.7% alcohol is well-carried and perhaps tamed by the racy, high acidity, which lifts the tone of the plum and berry flavors but also tends to overshadow them. The lingering finish is a dynamic kaleidoscope of acidity, plum and berry flavors, heat and mild, velvety astringency. For the time being, it can be paired with high-acid foods. Paired with Greek salad (grilled chicken, feta, Persian cucumbers and balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing).
Don't let the "dry" label mislead you—this is a very flavorful, food-friendly wine that shouldn't be kept just for warm weather. It’s good for snow as well as sun. A delicate nose with notes of citrus and baking spices leads to mineral, tart green apple and spicy mouth-filling flavors with a crisp finish. . Enjoy with a nutty, stronger blue cheese like Rogue Creamery's Smokey Blue and crostini, or alongside a fruit-based tart. Or heck, Grand Marnier French Toast with orange zest and chopped walnuts, if that's your fancy. At this price, keep a few bottles handy for (deserving) company.
A cheerful bright cherry aroma wafts up from the glass at first. After the wine opens a bit, deeper cherry aromas and flavors carry an undertone of tobacco and earth. Tannins are moderately woody, in a pleasant way. This wine is good to sip on its own; it also works well with pasta with a fresh tomato sauce, liberally sprinkled with freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese.
A rather fascinating red blend from South Africa. A wine that is fat but racy enough that it doesn’t have to go on a diet. A big nose of smoke, bacon fat, and blackberries. Follows through with vanilla and cumin notes and nice tannic structure on the intrigued taste buds. Like all good shows, ends with a big finish. If there ever was a wine to go with BBQ spareribs, this is it, to my (admittedly subjective) way of thinking.
Here is a elegant and earthy red from Spain’s Catalonian region and the Montsant D.O. Very tight when first opened, with aromas of bittersweet chocolate and black tea. It gives up its secrets slowly and you’ll be rewarded by keeping it in the glass and returning to it. It slowly opens up on the palate with layers of dark blackberries and spice (cumin, for one). This wine would work well with grilled kebabs or even Indian food.