Monday, November 15, 2004

A Little Angst, A Little Wine

Well I suppose it’s not a good idea to leave the blog unposted for yet another day. I haven’t been doing this long enough that any of you could have built much confidence that I’m coming back if I leave for too long.

I’m having a case of “blogger-block.” Perhaps it’s caused by post-election fatigue. I’ve started several different posts the past couple of days. And once I get three or four paragraphs into them, I suddenly realize I just don’t care and toss them into electronic oblivion.

The common theme to these? All were about politics. So I’m not even going to try to go there at the moment. Needs a rest. Including Policyguy’s good suggestion of tackling wine shipping laws. I’d love to take a shot at it, but can’t manage it right now.

But wine is a topic I have neglected lately. Blogging about it anyway. My consuming of it has been quite healthy, thank you very much. And yes, it is healthy. I’m thinking of those studies that show wine drinkers – especially red wine drinkers - are healthier than teetotalers. They actually suggest 2-3 glasses of red wine per day for health. At the rate I’m going, I’ve almost made up for all those days before I turned 21, when I didn’t get my three glasses (rimshot).

In that vein, I think it’s time for some wine-blogging.

I’ve selected something a little better than the bargain bin this time – though it is one with a terrific reputation for value. It’s the Ravenswood Zinfandel Vintner’s Blend, 2002. This is one I buy every year. Ravenswood is one of the pioneers of the Big-In-Your-Face-Fruit style of California Zin. Their motto is “No Wimpy Wines.”

Their single vinyard bottlings can get a little pricey. But the Vinters Blend takes some grapes from the Ravenswood holdings, and blends them with Zinfandel grapes selected by their chief winemaker, but purchased elsewhere. The result knocks anywhere from five to fifteen bucks off their other Zinfandel bottling prices, and is usually still a very nice wine to boot.

So here we go. It’s got a natural cork, leaving me with the charming possibility of a spoiled wine tasting of mold and rotted cork. Let’s leave slavish devotion to inferior tradition to the French. This is a fixable problem winemakers: screwcaps, synthetic corks, magical fairy spells, whatever. Just pick a solution and go with it. Anyhow, this particular cork looks ok. Let’s try the wine.

The color is a nice deep garnet. A bit on the lighter side judging by the “jammy Zin” scale. The nose is rather subdued. Hints of earth, and cherries, or maybe currants. But nothing really leaping out.

On the palate, the wine is also fairly closed. The tannins are well structured, not overbearing. And I’m thankful for them, because the remainder of mouthfeel is surprisingly soft. I expected something much more assertive.

The flavor is also subdued and subtle. And what comes through is surprisingly non-Zinfandelish. In a blind test, I’d have trouble distinguishing this wine from a Syrah. The earthiness is almost characteristic of Red Burgandy. The fruit is peppery and curranty, and not at all jammy. The peppery quality is about the only Zin like trait.

This is not one of the better years I’ve sampled for Ravenswood Vinter’s Blend. But it is perhaps one of the most interesting. Instead of the expected smack in the face of jammy, peppery fruit, this one is softer, subtler, and more intellectually engaging. It is also probably going to pair with a wider range of food.

I’ll see if the wine opens up a bit as it’s open. I have a hunch it will. Not many mass market Zins benefit from aging, but this one very well might.

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