FOOD & DRINK: CELLAR TALK

I ♡ ZINFANDEL
By Virginia E Schultz

Larry TurleyLarry Turley (right) shares his magic with fans.
I love Zinfandel! No, it's not a first class contender, but then I save the premier cru wines for special occasions. Of course, that's when I can afford it or a friend opens a bottle...or if I'm lucky, maybe two, half of which I can take home to sip on later.

Zinfandel is what I drink at the end of a hot summer day or in the cold of winter when I want to relax. I'm not wearing a Chanel or Yves St. Laurent, but a pair of jeans or something casual that, being an old fashioned kind of girl, I wouldn't wear to shop on Bond Street or even Knightsbridge. When you serve a Zinfandel, your guest is not going to comment on the lovely bouquet or the way it lingers on the tongue. Zinfandel is like an old friend you've known for years and don't need to impress.

Zinfandel has changed, something too few people realize. That rusty, teeth staining wine is long gone ... or at least in the majority of American brands. You can drink it when it's barely off the vine with corn on the cob or a cheeseburger and no one is going to comment. Stylistically, Zinfandels show more focus and are beginning to have less alcohol, yet retain that lovely fruit which is why I love drinking this wine alone.

It was Helen Turley, more than anyone, who first brought the changes in Zinfandel, but it is her brother Larry, whom she fired, who is creating the reds impressing my knowledgeable European friends. Of course, there is criticism about alcohol levels of 16 and even 17 per cent. Of course, some of those same critics don't hesitate to serve Chateauneuf-du-Pape, I might add.

Turley Zinfandel
For me, some of the best Zinfandels are grown on old vine plots. Winemakers such as Larry Turley talk continually on how these vines resist droughts and those long heat waves that can destroy vineyard in a matter of weeks. Many of the old Napa vineyards were destroyed in the eighties and replanted with walnuts and prunes, but Larry followed the old fashioned rule of pulling out ten and keeping the best of 5 for himself. These vineyards first were used to make the sweet pink Zinfandel loved by college students or the wine served at the end of the meal with chocolate. Then, surprise, surprise, someone in the 1990s discovered (or should I say rediscovered) that these same vines made a wonderful red Zinfandel one wasn't afraid to serve to even their wine connoisseur friends. At the time, I found the best way to serve these wines was to decant them into a crystal decanter and let my friends taste before I told them what they were drinking.

Recently I had a 2010 Seghesio Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley Cortina that I wouldn't hesitate to offer my friend Nelly whose French palate can be extremely critical. I think it's a shame more Americans don't serve this wine because it is so very American.
BEDROCK: The Bedrock Heritage Sonoma Valley 2011 $37.00

Wine Spectator gave this a 95 rating and I couldn't agree more. It's a blend of Zinfandel, Carignane and 21 other blends. I had it with home-made sausage, scallop potatoes, six hour freshly picked peas and freshly made sourdough bread and was still contentedly drinking it with the blueberry pie she served at the end. If you want to impress, this is the Zinfandel to serve.

TURLEY Zinfandel Paso Robles Dusi Vineyard 2011 $42.00

Lovely complex flavors, although the tannins can be a little too big for some people as I discovered when I served this with steak and pork pie (the recipe is actually for steak and kidney). I have decided to save the second bottle at least until 2016 to see how it changes.

FATTOI Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2007 $100.00

Okay, I splurged a bit, but I was feeling down because I couldn't join my friend Maxine in Venice with our lovely friends Dick and Baxter. Besides, I love Italian wine and had three days enjoyment drinking this wine that, like Italian men, knew how to please until the delicious lingering end.

Wines can vary in price, especially in the States. Unlike in Europe where we can have wine sent from anywhere, in Europe to the UK, in the States it's not possible to buy a bottle of wine in California or Oregon and have it sent to s state such as Georgia. Ridiculous! I rather not get into how I feel about that, thank you.

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