Can you really go wrong with a California Zin? It pairs well with hearty winter foods like a bowl of chili or squash dishes, even a take-out pie from your favorite pizzeria, yet it’s also a nice solo wine that doesn’t need fat, sugar, spice or salt to improve its performance on your palate.
Here are six of my favorites this year.
2010 Frei Brothers Reserve Zinfandel (Dry Creek Valley, California, $17) is full-bodied with dark chocolate emerging towards the finish, preceded by soft black-cherry notes. Expect a clean finish with no tannins. (www.freibrothers.com)
2010 Frank Family Vineyards Zinfandel (Napa Valley, California, $35) offers an eucalyptus and toasty-oak nose followed by raspberries and sweet-plum notes. It’s very earthy with a dash of black pepper, and so deep and luscious that it’s an inky purple in the glass. (www.frankfamilyvineyards.com)
2009 Duckhorn Wine Company Decoy Zinfandel (Sonoma County, California, $22) is elegant, almost silky, with complex layers of dark-red fruit and a soft finish. (www.decoywines.com)
2009 Shannon Ridge Winery Zinfandel (Lake County, California, $19) is lighter in body than many Zinfandels yet it still explodes with white pepper and concentrated raspberries and strawberries before a long, soft finish. (www.shannonridge.com)
2010 Seghesio Family Vineyards Zinfandel (Sonoma County, California, $24) is a consistently good Zin year after year, earning 93 points from Wine Enthusiast for this vintage, which shows black-cherry notes accented by toasty oak, winding into a smooth, soft and – dare I say – seductive finish. (www.seghesio.com)
2009 Murphy-Goode “Liar’s Dice” Zinfandel (Sonoma County, California, $21) features baking spices on the nose and sweet (but not tart) cherry notes before a toasted-vanilla finish. (www.murphygoodewinery.com)
WINE DEAL OF THE WEEK
Thief Wine Shop & Bar is offering a whopper of a deal: 40 percent off 2007 Saviah Cellars “Big Sky Cuvée” (http://www.saviahcellars.com). Normally $35, the Bordeaux-style blend featuring Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot from Washington State (Columbia Valley, to be exact) sells for $19.95 this week. To reserve a bottle, dial up either Thief Wine location at 414-277-7707 (Milwaukee Public Market) or 414-906-1906 (Shorewood). Note that a case drops the price even further. How does $17.96 a bottle sound?
WINE EVENT OF THE WEEK
Do you ever read the words of wine critics and wonder what it might be like to have dinner with him or her? I do – about Eric Asimov, who has penned wine stories and reviews for The New York Times since 1992. Bacchus is hosting a dinner with him on Nov. 8 at 6:30 p.m. Your chair at the table costs $95 and includes a signed copy of his memoir How to Love Wine: A Memoir and Manifesto, which published on Oct. 16. To reserve that chair (don’t you hear it calling your name?) contact Bacchus at 414-765-1166.
WINE OF THE WEEK
Just when you think you’ve heard it all you realize, no, you actually have not. The first winery tasting room for dogs (complete with kennels carved into wine barrels and a doggie cam) debuted in Napa Valley in May. It’s the genius idea from Raymond Vineyards’ owner Jean-Charles Boisset, who owns a French bulldog. Now, visitors to Raymond Vineyards can park their pooches at the winery next door, Frenchie Winery. Frenchie Winery – featuring a French bulldog on the label – has released two wines so far. The 2009 Frenchie Winery “Louis XIV” Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma County/Napa Valley, California, $30), which is available only online or through the tasting room, is fruit forward, featuring luscious cassis, vanilla and cola notes and is slightly tannic at the back of the palate. A buck from every bottle sold is donated to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. (www.frenchiewinery.com)