Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Chance Encountner With A Zinfandel Icon

At the beginning of March, I spent a few days in Utah chasing its elusive (at least to me) Champagne powder. I had rented a condo with a group of college friends with the intention of escaping the wine industry altogether. Great Colorado beer and lots of skiing was the stated agenda. Yes, I realize the irony of Colorado beer in Utah but Colorado just plain brews better beer, most of which I can’t get in CT. It seems the escape from the wine industry was just as elusive as the powder. As I arrived in Utah one of my buddies announced that our condo neighbor was a winemaker, but he had failed to get his name. The next evening I found myself swirling and sipping with none other than zinfandel icon Kent Rosenblum. What are the odds I would travel 1,900 miles, stay at condo that is removed from the hubbub of Salt Lake City and Park City and my next door neighbor would be one of the most famous zinfandel producers in the country? Kent and I had a blast trading industry war stories and swapping strategies of change within the industry. Of course, most of the conversations I can't reveal (what happens in UT...) and some I may not accurately remember (blame the 16.5% abv). For the record, I still made the first chair. What I do recall is that the 2003 Rosenblum Monte Rosso Zinfandel blew me away. I’ve always been a firm believer that good zinfandel can age gracefully and develop beautiful character. A recent experience with a 1976 Ridge (thank you DF) had proved the theory. The 2003 Monte Rosso was practicing it. Perhaps my love of zinfandel has been rekindled. When I returned to work I immediately sought out current vintages of the Monte Rosso and the Paso Robles. I sought out the Monte Rosso for comparison reasons. The Paso Robles was purely sentimental. It brought me back to my younger days of sharing steaks and zinfandels (yes, plural) with my friends before hitting the bars. I'm too old for that now. But I can still enjoy the steak and zinfandel (singular).

2006 Rosenblum Cellars Monte Rosso Zinfandel
Big flavor full throttled zinfandel highlighting baked cherry, vanilla extract, and molasses. There’s real structure here with the brazen fruit supported by a perfect balance of acidity. Certainly carries plenty of weight on the palate but without overstaying its welcome. The finish maintains the full throttle approach with good spice and silky tannins. At 16.2% alcohol I would expect a burny, spicy zin. Instead, winemaker John Kane has masked that alcohol very well and would be a great match for braised short ribs, creamy risottos or a big porterhouse steak. I suspect this will last into 2015 and beyond but you shouldn’t be afraid to drink it now.
There are only 5 cases in the market

2008 Rosenblum Cellars Paso Robles Zinfandel
A mild, more toned-down version of the Rosenblum portfolio. Bright cherry and rhubarb fruit backed by gripping acidity. Through the mid-palate it develops deeper, darker fruit that leans more toward plum and prune. The finish is decidedly spicy with black pepper and shows off more plum fruit with a silky undertone. I liken this to the well mannered, soft temper third child. Every once in awhile they do something unexpected to show you their wild side. Just to keep you on your toes. It’s certainly worth having around the house. Plenty of inventory in CT.

Recommended Colorado Craft Beers:
When most return from a trip to Colorado they gush about the Fat Tire and Sunshine Wheat produced by New Belgium Brewing. And yes, I'll agree those craft beers are delicious. But here are some craft brews made in Colorado that are a little more off the beaten path and outstanding.

Odell Brewing 90 Shilling Ale
Odell Brewing Easy Street Wheat
Left Hand Brewing Sawtooth Ale
Left Hand Brewing Milk Stout 
Left Hand Brewing NITRO Milk Stout

You can find Left Brewing brews in select NYC stores.

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