Category Archives: Zinfandel

Old Moon Zinfandel

At 5.99 a bottle from Trader Joe’s this bottle is a complete stand out. I always have some on hand. Plummy with a surprising depth in character and a slight coat to the tongue that hints of tannin makes this incredibly well balanced. I would say it holds up to bottles at much higher price points. I love drinking this alone or having it with pastas, pizza, bbq, anything a red can hold up to.

The Search for Zinfandel

Having grown used to the bountiful selection of Zinfandels in the US, Janice and I were disappointed to find the striking scarcity of Zinfandel here in Singapore. A search of SEVEN, and I repeat, SEVEN wine stores turned up just six bottles of Zin. Most of the stores had just one label in stock, while a couple had two, and on average, the bottles cost around $70. Not cheap. 😦

Perplexed at the paucity, I asked a sales clerk in one of the stores, who explained that Zinfandel hasn’t quite caught on with the local palate. To top it off, most stores stock very few labels from the US anyway, and the if they do, these are invariably the Cabernet Sauvignons. Which is a pity, because I’ve grown to become quite fond of Zinfandel over the years. When I started out drinking, I hated the metallic tinge that seemed to be associated with it, but then that was because I was mainly swilling down the likes of Yellow Tail, Beringer, and Sutter Homes. I think Mike first opened my eyes to good Zinfandel, when he brought a bottle of Burford and Brown Zinfandel 2003 to Wendy and my new year’s party three years ago (wow).

In the end, we did manage to scrounge up the number of bottles we needed, though we quite extended our budget in the process. Oh well. These wines better be exciting! We did include a bottle of Beringer White Zinfandel, which Janice thought might be fun to try, and hey, it was the cheapest bottle we got!

The wines:
1. Beringer White Zinfandel 2007
2. Collage (a Kendall-Jackson brand) Zinfandel-Shiraz 2004
3. Marr Old Vine Zinfandel Mendocino County 2005 (I’m keeping my fingers crossed on this one; it was one of the few old vines we could find. We found the other, a St. Francis Zin selling for $70 after a 30% discount, only after we’d already bought the Mendocino one)
4. Outpost Howell Mountain Zinfandel 2004 (I’ve read good things about Outpost, and Wine Spectator has pretty rave reviews of this wine, so I’m quite excited about this)
5. The Curse, Tscharke, Zinfandel, Barossa 2006 (Which seems to have garnered strong reviews from RP as well… neat)
6. Irvine Zinfandel, Barossa 2005

On the upside, I now know three more wine stores that I can hit up for future sprees. And despite my attempt to save, I walked away with three bottles for my personal stash: a Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2008, a Mollydooker Two Left Feet Shiraz Merlot 2006 (because I’ve read so much about their top wines, and had to try this that was on 15% discount), and a Simi Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2003.

Wine: For value for your money, anything but French

In a tasting of five under $20 bottles this week, I concluded that I should stay away from cheaper French wines. Granted, only two out of the five bottles were French, and statistically speaking, that’s not a decent enough sample size to work with. Still, wine tasting is first and foremost a sensory experience and is not, and should not be, math, and why insist on the French route when there’s a whole other world of cheap but delicious wines to taste?

I should note too though, Sihao’s distinction that one cannot objectively judge French wines for their value; he is partial to French, and more broadly speaking, old world wines, for the more subtle and elegant taste. Nonetheless, since my limited pocketbook has the final say most of the time anyway, I will keep my money away from the cheaper French wines.

Tasting notes:
We washed down a sushi dinner on Tuesday with a bottle of Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2006from New Zealand and a bottle of Domaine des Aubuisieres Vouvray Cuvée de Silex 2006, a Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley in France. The SB was like I remembered it, light, lively, and fruity, and curiously I picked up some tomato garlic puree notes (think pizza) as well. In contrast, the vouvray was a little hard to swallow at first: it had the faint scent of cat pee that we would have thought to find in the NZ wine, and the body tasted like a boorish thick-set sort of fellow (kind of odd description I know, but that’s what comes to mind) with a somewhat harsh and bitter finish. None of the spritzy citrus-y aromas found in the SB, but lots of melon and minerally flavors. After sitting in the glass for a while, the Vouvray did mellow out somewhat, much to our relief.

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For dessert, I broke out the half bottle of Cabernet Franc Port 2004 from Tabor Hill Winery, Michigan that I had been saving. Pauline had given me a bottle of it a while ago, when she had visited Singapore, Michigan on a weekend road trip. I’d shared that bottle with her, and marveled at how delicious it was. Last year, when I had visited Tabor Hill with some of the DGS folks on our Memorial Day road trip, I’d tried to buy another bottle, only to be informed that it was sold out. Happily, Pauline had bought more than one bottle on her road trip, and just before she left for the west coast last summer, she gave me another bottle. This we had on Tuesday, paired against a double chocolate gelato. Aged in French and American oak, it had aromas of plum with a touch of spice, maybe some sort of herbs. Sensuous and silky, it just slid down my throat and I lamented the fact that I had to restrain from refilling my glass since I still had to drive home. Oddly, the port recalled a description by the San Francisco Chronicle used to describe baritone Dimitriv Hvorostovsky’s voice: “…a gorgeously dark, burnished tone and a voice that moves freely and without strain through a broad range, [the result of which was exquisite].”

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For dinner on Thursday, four of us ventured to a Columbian restaurant, and brought along with us two bottles of wine, a Ravenswood Zinfandel and a Bourgogne Appellation Bourgogne Controlee, Red Burgundy wine, from Domaine Digioia-Royer. The Zin, when we first opened, had the characteristic fruity notes of Californian wines and the slightest edge of a metallic finish in the body that I associate with zinfandels. I didn’t quite like the finish at first; it seemed a little hollow to me. But as it opened up through the dinner, it softened and became a lot fuller, and rounder, and was simply quite delicious and rich with our hearty dinners of skirt steak and pork rib tips. In marked contrast, the burgundy was a disappointment, especially all the more so since it came on the heels of the dozens of attractively priced wines that have blown my socks away in the recent weeks. The wine was weak and watery, and did not have any sort of distinctive nose. Not a wine to share in company, and not even a wine that I could enjoy on my own.

Cafe Too and and Old Vine Zinfandel

Rarely do you find such a win win situation. Cafe Too is part of the Inspiration Corporation and is used as a venue for people to gain basic culinary skills that will make them marketable. So in the end you get high quality food for much less and get to feel good about it. 🙂 What is so great is that they offer a wonderful $20 prix fixe menu that changes each month. That’s right $20 for a nicely made 5 course meal. An additional bonus is that this is also BYOB with NO CORKAGE. Love! The portions are on the small side but with 5 courses you walk away comfortably full.
Bogle Vineyards 2005 Old Vine Zinfandel-$11
I have whole heartedly jumped on the old vine train. A trend growing in popularity, more and more vineyards are featuring wines from older vines, +50 years old usually. The idea is that with older vines less fruit is produced and more subtle flavors come out. I’ve tried a few wines with this labeling and I have found at the very least I have enjoyed the majority of them. This is definitely true for this particular bottle. Sweet, complex and richer than most zins I have tasted, at this price point, Bogle’s Old Vine Zinfandel is a great deal and has become a new house staple. Cherry, jammy, sweet, and fruity to the nose and same on the tongue, it went well with all the dishes served showing great versatility and most importantly drinkability. 😉 I would drink this with anything from a thick steak to a dark bittersweet chocolate cake.

Wines with Southeast Asian Cuisine

Now, a word of disclaimer: we didn’t choose the wines to suit the cuisine – peppery pork rib soup, Malay beef curry, and stir fried chili vegetables.

Beringer Founder’s Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 $10 – Not bad

Fruit forward – strong blackberry nose. Light tannins. Mild wine, very sippable. Some websites described the wine as “boring”… but hey, in my book, wine’s never boring. Horrible maybe (the heavy kerosene-scented muscadet I tried in Ushuaia, Argentina comes to mind), but never boring. Granted, it may not be the most exciting of wine – I’d call it the girl next door. Very pleasant. 🙂

Brown Estate Zinfandel 2004 $40 – Damn good

Let me preface by saying that I’m not really a big fan of Zinfandels. But that could just be because the earliest Zinfandels I tried were cheap bottles pulled off shelves without much thought, other than the fact that they were cheap. Consequently, most of them had a really heavy metallic flavor that frankly just left a bad taste in my mouth. One trip to Napa, I tried a Zinfandel port, and that nasty metallic flavor shone through too. After that, I tried to steer clear away from the wines.

But then, at our New Year’s party last year, Mike brought a bottle of Zinfandel, which he claims is his favorite wine ever. I was skeptical of course, but gamely tasted some. Unfortunately, I cannot recall the name of that bottle, though, if I need to, Mike of course remembers. But it was a beautiful wine – fruit forward with bursts of berries, rich, and smooth.

This bottle of Brown Zin that Jon brought out for dinner reminded me of that one that Mike brought. Jon had purchased a whole case, following a tasting at the Tasting Room for my birthday this year (I’ve actually procured a bottle from him too, but intend to leave it in his wine fridge until after I move). If the cabernet we tried earlier was flat, this was exciting. The flavors of berries just danced in our mouths, and the light tannins allowed us to swirl the wine around without that dry puckering feel. It opened up more with time and became even smoother. Quite an elegant wine.