BY RICK RIOZZA
Playing the game of wine, we are always on the look-out for a great deal these days, even in a down economy, the stats are in that we are drinking more and more wine—but, as someone put it, we want it both ways: the best wine for the lowest price. And we want it now!
Speaking of “now,” it’s already harvest time over at the remaining vineyards in the Rancho Cucamonga Valley and “crush time” is going on at the Historical Landmark Galleano Winery in Mira Loma Ca., which is a little over an hour’s drive west of Palm Springs. And the predominant grape variety that’s being picked is Zinfandel.
I know it’s still hot out and many of us aren’t talking much about red wine yet, but the Galleano Zinfandel is a medium-bodied wine (not the heavy stuff that many believe all Zin to be) that can handle a good chilling for lunch and is a great match for summer dinner fare that will keep things lively and won’t put the party to sleep.
Not too many local wine lovers really know that just before the Prohibition era (1920-33) the Cucamonga Valley had more vineyard acreage than the combined Sonoma/Napa Valley has currently. Sadly, less than 1,000 acres survive. That’s what makes this Zin so special. Southern California old-vine Zinfandel is unique, history in a glass, and sells for less than $5 a 750ml bottle when purchased in its 4 liter bottle size!
So it’s a no-brainer that I would get around to describing and recommending the best Zin value in the land: Galleano Cucamonga Valley Zinfandel , a non-vintage from Galleano Winery sold in 4-liter bottles. And the price: $12. or by the case (4 bottles) around $40.
This engaging Zin is delicious and my favorite house wine around meal time. And most red wine drinkers that I’ve shared this with agree that you cannot find a better tasting Zin at that price range or close to it. I say “most” because I’ve found that those who enjoy “easy” wines—soft tastes with a very round feel, aren’t partial to this Zin, (if they drink Zinfandel at all), because this stuff grabs you!
It would almost be an insult to call this a “jug wine”, but for the fact that the bottle it comes in is traditionally called—well, a “jug”! But don’t confuse this with the cheap stuff. There’s plenty of red and black fruit flavors all over the place. Now some have described it as “rustic”. That could be true, but I would use the word “robust”.
This wine has complexity. Last night with carne asada tacos and pico de gallo salsa, we chilled the wine a bit and it bloomed mint and lavender notes around a blackberry finish. The night before with Italian sausage and sautéd mushroom parmigiana penne pasta, the wine cradled the meal with aged cherry flavors and anise. As it is enjoyed with Italian fare, grilled foods, barbecues, sandwiches, and cheeses, one surely appreciates the talent behind the process.
Don Galleano is the third generation owner and winemaker whom I’ve known for over 25 years. Full disclosure: My family and I represent the winery at various tastings and wine events. But if you think that I may be a bit biased in declaring his Zin the best, well just check out the April 2010 Inland Empire Magazine, where this Zin was declared one of the best in the red wine category that’s produced in the area. (may I add that it was the least priced in a field of twenty and thirty dollar wines! ) And we’re still talking about a four-liter bottle at fourteen dollars!! So for this column, that makes it indeed, the best Zin value in the land.
When we pour at tastings, I let those who are used to fruit-bombs and full-bodied sweet-like Zins know (playing off that Oldsmobile marketing line) that “this IS your grandfather’s Zinfandel: old style with a classic aged fruit & pepper backdrop”. This wine is aged and softened in very large old redwood vats, and that’s why it scores in competitions: there’s great wood backbone here as with the higher priced Zins.
The Galleano Winery is located in Mira Loma, right at the Interstate 15, and California Hwy 60, the one that veers off Interstate 10 at Beaumont and goes on to Moreno Valley and Riverside. It’s a perfect week-end destination when you’re out for a drive and wish to picnic at a winery. Or, when driving to or from Orange County or LA on business or pleasure, it behooves us to stop by to pick-up a case for that dinner party or simply to stock our happy wine bin. Life is good. A la salute!
The Historic Landmark Galleano Winery: 4231 Wineville Rd., Mira Loma, Ca. 91752 951.685.5376 Tours, Wine Tasting Room, Picnics, & Gifts Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm Sunday 10:30am-5pm. www.galleanowinery.com
Rick continues to host corporate & private wine tastings and events. Contact him at email@example.com