BY RICK RIOZZA
Enjoy the days! It’s the New Year—the pressure’s off, we’re relaxing and taking stock in our blessings. Now if that attitude isn’t one for toasting with the bubbly and uncorking some bottles of wine—well then we’re on the wrong side of time.
And time is what’s marching on. So let’s take a look at some of the wines we’d like to share with friends and lovers as time continues its stride.
Bucket List Wines: Way before the term “bucket list” was a thing (wasn’t there a movie with Morgan Freeman on that subject?), we wine enthusiasts were always pining away with unbearable lust for some cult crazy wine out there that we knew would make our life more complete once we savored the fruit. Shame on us!
So now that we can laugh over misplaced values of the meaning of life, there is a more relaxed desire for a wine that we think may be just delicious to taste.
A fun wine that I’ve been eager to write about is from our vino enfant terrible, Dave Phinney aka Orin Swift. Everyone in town is familiar with Prisoner wine, which was first produced by Orin Swift and then sold, and from the proceeds and more, Swift went on to produce the likes of Papillon, Palermo, Mannequin, Mercury Head, Abstract.
Back in 2014, we did a column on his Machete—his full-on Petite Sirah, massive and powerful with intense color and structure; a limited release with a case exhibiting 12 different labels of chic women posing with machetes and white Cadillacs. But of course his peculiar and intellectually stimulating labels are part of his scene.
So the new wine in Orin Swifts’ universe in 8 Years in the Desert. The name says it all and how appropriate! This wine is a new Zinfandel based blend from winemaker Dave Phinney. It’s made by E. & J. Gallo now owns Orin Swift Cellars, however Phinney is still involved.
The story behind the label is that the first commercial wine he ever made was a Zin which was not bottled but sold on the bulk market. He states that “Zinfandel may be the most difficult varietal to tame.” So in 2009, Dave Phinney took an 8 year break from making Zinfandel. But he’s back in the Zin business.
I just received an 8 bottle case of the stuff. The price of the bottles range from $50 to $100, depending where you’re at and who you know. First the wine maker’s notes and then I’ll share mine.
Winemaker’s Notes: “Heady aromas of brambly raspberry, black fig, and peppercorn dominate; time in the glass exposes more dark chocolate, fennel, and High Sierra forest floor. The palate is lush and opulent with blackberries, dark plums, and currants. More flavors add to the quality of the blend—a visceral minerality and fresh Herbs de Provence. It’s fully integrated with puckering tannins, the wine bows out with finesse.
The blend is Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Syrah.”
When I first opened this wine, I knew I had to let it breathe for a bit. That gave me enough time to prepare a grilled rare to medium-rare cheese jalapeño hamburger. I figured this pairing would give the 8 Years in the Desert a run for its money. It did; it’s an ideal match that you may wish to play with.
8 Years, as one would expect, is a powerful wine; but, Phinney has the gift of balance and the intensity of the wine is tapered with all the flavors still making its presence. Its aromas and flavors of red fruit, black fruit, minerality and oak maintain on the palate. For those of you who were around and enjoyed Gallo’s Hearty Burgundy back in the 1970s, this wine is reminiscent of that quaff—but this 8 Years is like that one on steroids. You Prisoner fans will love it and it’s a treat for the New Year.
For those of you who have both misplaced your corkscrew and have bearings to try new wine beverages, then enter into the new year with Underwood Riesling Radler, a canned wine cooler from the Union Wine Co in Oregon. As we’ve written previously, canned wines is one of the latest crazes in our business.
It’s comprised of Willamette Valley Riesling, hops and grapefruit. The owner and founder of Union Wine Co. states that one day at a production meeting he threw out, “What if we made a Radler, but with wine?” (A Radler is a traditional German beverage that is half beer and half fruit soda.) And 24 hours later they did. He further adds, “The growth we’ve seen in premium wine coolers is very encouraging, and we’re looking to expand our line”. A 12 ounce can of the Riesling Radler costs around $5.99.
Its flavor profile is easy to comprehend. If you like refreshing Riesling, and beer, and a good hint of grapefruit on the side, well then you’ll be impressed with this canned good.
Finally, I’d like to raise your attention to a tasty spirit that is totally distilled wine. Most of you folks know that brandy is indeed wine that has goes through a distillery, like your other spirits in town such as vodka, bourbon, and the like.
Now if one is going to make a brandy from the Cognac region in France, then your brandy will be known as “Cognac”. It’s a fancy name that deserves it. It’s been a work in progress for a long long time, and the French have it down.
The new world colonists couldn’t get decent grapes to make brandy so they settled on making grain or corn whiskeys which went on to create the bourbon market.
Currently I’m enjoying the Martell VS Single Distillery Fine Cognac. It’s not as “sweet” as the popular Hennessy and Courvoisier. It sell for a great price of $28 at Ralphs. One taste will simply win you over—or not. Cheers!