9th Annual Urban Wine Xperience

One of the things I love most about living in the East Bay.  It’s a wine-lovers paradise.  Napa ValleySonoma, the Santa Cruz Mountain, and Livermore Valley wine regions are all within a 90 minute or so drive.  Even so, I frequently find myself also taking advantage of the East Bay’s Urban Wine Country, which includes a dozens of family-owned wineries in Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda and Emeryville. EBVA-LOGO_Square

That’s because the East Bay features some of California’s finest urban wineries.  In fact, the East Bay is California’s largest urban winemaking region.

Once a year, the East Bay Vintner’s Alliance (EBVA), an association representing more than 20 urban wineries, hosts The Urban Wine Xperience.  It’s a great opportunity to taste all the best artisanal wines made in the Bay Area all at the same time.

The Ninth Annual Urban Wine Xperience will be held  on August 2nd on the Ferry Lawn at Jack London Square in Oakland, CA.   Member wineries will pour a wide array of their white, rosé, red, dessert wines, and mead.  Local eateries and food purveyors will create delicious bites that pair perfectly with the EBVA’s wine portfolio.  Wine, food and live music can all be enjoyed in the outdoor setting of vibrant Jack London Square on the shore at the Ferry Lawn.

The event promises to be  bigger and better than ever – a testament to the rise of Oakland and urban wine making in the East Bay.

9th Annual Urban Wine Xperience

The participating wineries include:

Aubin CellarsCampovidaCarica Wines, Cerruti Cellars, Chouinard Cellars, Dashe Cellars, Ehrenberg Cellars, Eno Wines, Irish Monkey CellarsJeff Cohn Cellars,  Mead KitchenLusu CellarsParadox WinesPeriscope CellarsR&B CellarsRockwall Wine CompanyRosenblum CellarsStage Left CellarsTwo Mile WinesUrban Legend Cellars  and Urbano Cellars

Each the participating wineries will be pouring three wines, so there will be plenty of wine!

Scheduled participating restaurants offering bites include:

Venga Paella, Pacific Fine Foods, alaMar, Tay Ho, Nido,  Acapulco, Bocanova, Café Jolie Scolari, Chop Bar, Mockingbird, Tribune Tavern, Haven and Lungomare.


The Urban Wine Experience
August 2 @ 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Ferry Lawn at Jack London Square
Oakland, CA ( map )

Advance tickets are $45 per person (Designated drivers are $15) and are available for purchase online. Any remaining tickets will be sold at the door for $60 per person.

Attendees are strongly encouraged to take public transportation to the event.  Both the  Lake Merritt and 12th Street/Oakland City Center BART stations are  close to Jack London Square.

Remember to maximize your enjoyment and learning at public tastings:

  • Wear dark, comfortable clothes
  • Hydrate
  • Spit
  • Skip the perfume and cologne

Hope to see you at The Urban Wine Xperience!


Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Wine Of The Week; 2007 Rosenblum Cellars Zinfandel Rockpile Road Vineyard

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  For this week, my Wine Of The Week is the 2007 Rosenblum Cellars Zindandel Rockpile Road Vineyard

The Winery

Rosenblum Cellars is an urban winery located in Alameda, CA.  It was founded by Kent Rosenblum, a veterinarian in 1978.  In 2008 it was sold to beverage giant Diageo.   Rosenblum made their reputation making premium Zinfandel but they also make Rhone varietals.  Their 2003 Rockpile Road Zinfandel was the #3 wine in the Wine Spectator Top 100 wines of 2005 when Jeff Cohn (who went on to found JC Cellars) was the winemaker.  It was an amazing accomplishment because before then no Zinfandel from California had cracked the Top 10!

I don’t recall how my wife and I discovered Rosenblum, but we were in the Rosenblum Cellars wine club for years. It was our first wine club, so I have many fond memories.  It’s where my wife learned to love Petite Sirah (she used to be like Miles in “Sideways” except it as…”I am not drinking Petite Sirah!!”, instead of Merlot), and the wine club release parties were fantastic…they busted out all their wines ( I remember going to one release party where there must have been 25-30 wines to try!  One might say Rosenblum is also where I learned to pace myself!).  We also made some enduring friendships (Kenny, Miguel and others) there.  Not too long after the winery was sold to Diageo though, we decided to leave the wine club.  It was a combination of factors, but I mostly chalk it up to our palate’s evolving, and being in the ‘promiscuous” phase of our wine journey.

The Wine

The grapes for this wine were sourced from Rockpile Road Vineyard, an iconic Zinfandel vineyard situated in the Rockpile AVA, and owned by Jack Florence, Jr

The vineyard sits at 1,100 feet above Lake Sonoma, and is situated in a unique microclimate with moderate temperatures, high winds, and lack of fog, all of which present an optimal environment for producing great Zinfandel fruit. .

Here’s what Rosenblum Cellars says about the wine…

A deep, purple hue leads ultra-ripe blackberry, boysenberry, briar and cocoa aromas in our 2007 Rockpile Road Zinfandel. Across the midpalate, a complex layering of rich, dark fruit develops, balanced by complex wood tannins that flank the tongue and pick up bright currant notes through the lengthy finish. “A wine with shoulders…”

Alas, this is my last bottle from the stellar 2007 vintage!

Wine of the Week; Rosenblum Cellars 2007 Rockpile Zinfandel

Rosenblum Cellars 2007 Rockpile Zinfandel

My tasting notes follow:

Nearly opaque violet color with kirsch, vanilla spice, and a hint of violet aromas. On the palate, it’s fruity, but well-balanced and silky smooth with sweet soft tannins, and surprisingly good acidity. It’s medium-bodied with black cherry, blackberry, cassis, vanilla spice and a hint of chocolate flavors Medium-long finish

Rating: Highly Recommended. It’s drinking beautifully now!

Pair with: Carne Asada Tacos, Fajitas, Red bean and rice, burgers, BBQ, grilled pizza  or for a twist smoked Ahi Tuna!

The Wine Geek Stuff:

  • Alcohol: 15.3%
  • Closure: Cork
  • AVA: > CaliforniaSonoma CountySonoma Valley>Rockpile
  • Grape Varieties: 100% Zinfandel
  • Cooperage: 40% French oak; 60% American oak – 40% new for 14 months
  • Retail: Unknown – I purchased for $28
  • Cases produced: Unknown
  • Drink: now – 2015

Related posts you might enjoy:

Petite Sirah Smack-down – Round 2; 8 More Petite Sirahs…1 Winner!

The most recent Pacific Point Wine Tasting Club meeting was a continuation on our exploration of Petite Sirah (“Pets”), more affectionately know as “Round 2 of the Petite Sirah Smack-down” (In case you missed it, the results of the first P.S. Smackdown under “Related Articles” below).

It was warm evening so we decided to do an alfresco tasting.  It was the perfect day for this fantastic 100% Petite Sirah Rosé from Field Stone Winery…

2011 Field Stone Petite Sirah Rosé Heritage Block – Image courtesy of Field Stone Winery

My tasting notes follow:

Lovely pink-red color with cherry, plum. On the palate its full-bodied for a Rosé, and dry, with good acidity and bountiful cherry, raspberry, and mineral flavors. Medium finish. 100% Petite Rosé from old vine (100+ y.o) 13.5% alcohol. – 90pts

After some food, drink and lively conversation it was time to get to down to tasting.  We blind-tasted a diverse selection of  8 Pets.  Paso Robles lead the way with 3 wines, followed by 2 each from Sonoma and Lake County, and  1 from Lodi.  There were 10 tasters, a smaller – but more experienced group than the first P.S. Smackdown, when we had 18 tasters.

I snuck in a ringer for Round 2 – The winner from Round 1 – the 2010 Redtree Petite Sirah – to see how it would do…

The lineup + one more that arrived later!

The wines were blind-tasted in the following order (Click on the link for my detailed Cellar Tracker reviews and ratings):

And the winner was…

Yes, indeed the least expensive wine wins again!  No wonder Kermit Lynch said “Blind tastings are to wine what strip poker is to love”!

The order of finish for the runners-up were as follows:

After we compiled, and announced the scores for the Petites, we tasted this Rhone blend, which one of our wine club member plucked from his cellar…

  • 2001 Patrick & Christophe Bonnefond Côte-Rôtie – France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Côte-Rôtie
    Garnet color with slim meniscus, and earthy dark red fruits aromas. On the palate, it approaches medium-bodied is smooth, and well-balanced with good acidity, and muted earthy cherry, raspberry flavors. Short finish. (88 pts.)

It was a fabulous evening filled with wonderful friends, wine,  and food!

Conclusion:  After 2 rounds of blind-tasting 22 Petite Sirahs (20 dry, 1 Rose, and 1 dessert)  what are my takeaways you ask (OK so you didn’t ask..but it makes for a nice lead in;-)?
  1. It was a very diverse group of Pets from throughout California, that reflected a variety of styles, though I think Petite too, is part of a trend we’re seeing toward lower alcohol, less jammy wines.  About a third of the wines were under 14% alcohol.
  2. If Zinfandel is America’s grape, then Petite Sirah is California’s grape!
  3. and last but not least…

Image courtesy of psIloveyou.org

Wine Of The Week – 2005 Rosenblum Cellars Syrah Reserve Kick Ranch

My wine of the week for April 7-April 13 is the 2005 Rosenblum Cellars Syrah Reserve Kick Ranch.

The Winery

Rosenblum Cellars is an urban winery in Alameda, CA.  It was founded by Kent Rosenblum, a veterinarian in 1978.  In 2008 it was sold to beverage giant Diageo.   Rosenblum made their reputation making premium Zinfandel, but they also make Rhone varietals.  Their 2003  Rockpile Road Zinfandel was the #3 wine in the Wine Spectator Top 100 wines of 2005.

The Wine

Syrah is on the rise.  I think that’s a good thing.  I actually prefer to Syrah to Cabernet Sauvignon because it’s a more versatile food pairing partner.  I’m oversimplifying  a bit, but bear with me. Generally speaking Syrah comes in two styles “cool climate”, and “warm climate”.  Warm climate Syrah tends to be more lush, with higher alcohol, and blackberry, plum flavors.  That style tends to be more popular with the average consumer.  On the other hand cool climate Syrah tends tobe lower in alcohol with more red fruit, mineral, and spicy aromas and flavors.  They tend to be preferred by more serious wine aficionados.  Of course, it’s all about what you as a consumer like.  I point this out because it may help you decide which style you prefer.

This wine comes from a cool climate vineyard.  The Kick Ranch vineyard located in Santa Rosa is located at the western foot of Spring Mountain.  It’s considered “cool climate” because even though it receives plenty of sun, in the evenings the vineyard is cooled by fog and breezes that come in from the Pacific Ocean through the Petaluma Gap.  According to KickRanch.com..“We devote 16 acres to 4 special clones of Syrah brought in from vine cuttings from the Northern Rhone. In the Northern Rhone appellations of Hermitage and Côte-Rotie, syrah produces wines of phenomenal elegance and longevity”

Event though the wine comes from a cool climate vineyard, it straddles the line between a cool climate Syrah and a warm climate Syrah in that it’s significantly north of 15% alcohol. It had just enough lushness of a warm climate Syrah, along with the complexity associated with a cooler climate Syrah for me.

There were 494 cases of this wine produced.  My tasting notes follow:

Opaque purple-red color with dark fruits, including cassis and smoked meat aromas. On the palate full-bodied, balanced, intense, yet refined with black cherry, cassis, and a bit of plum and vanilla spice flavors. Long finish. Drinking quite well! 

Pairing with food

I very much enjoyed this with a marinated rack of lamb for Easter.  Syrah tends to be a versatile food pairing partner.  This would also be wonderful with prime rib, jambalaya, pork or even chili.

Recap of 6th Annual Dark & Delicious – The Petite Sirah Event Of The Year!

I attended the 6th annual Dark & Delicious (“D&D”) last Friday.  D&D is an excellent opportunity to take a walk on the “dark side” for  Petite Sirah (“P.S” – a.k.a. “Pet”.)and food lovers.  The event is put on by an advocacy group of P.S. winegrowers, and producers knowns as P.S. I Love You.  This year’s event featured 58 wineries, and 36 food companies.  Petite Sirah tends not to be top of mind when it comes to red wine (or actually in the case of P.S., mostly inky purple-black wine) but for those of us who love P.S. this is the event of the year.

Here’s a quick 411 on P.S.

  • Created by François Durif, it is the love child of a noble grape, Syrah, and an obscure peasant grape Peloursin in 1880
  • 90% of the world’s P.S. vineyards are in California
  • Produces big, masculine, typically ink-colored wines that tend to be tannic with moderate to high-acidity
  • Sometimes referred to as Durif

P.S. I Love You Does Sound Better Than Durif I Love You!

It was a great night of wine and food.  And for the first time I came across a winery that referred to one of their P.S. as Durif – Berryessa Gap. My favorite wines were Aver Family Vineyards (2008 Blessings), ClayhouseBerryessa Gap (2006 Rocky Ridge Collection Tradition), Robert Biale, Rosenblum, and Stage Left Cellars (2006 Russell Family P.S),  along with Ondonata, and Ridge Vineyards, newcomers to the event.  I attended the event last year, and there seemed to be a bit more diversity of style this year.  I tasted more exemplars of P.S. showing more restraint and balance, than last year.  Petite Sirah can be an overly exuberant, jammy wine.  Perhaps that’s why I saw more chocolate vendors than I have at any other wine event.  And that style has plenty of fans, but I welcomed the change of pace.

Paella Struesel

In addition to the great P.S.  there was plenty of food.  I was impressed by diversity of food.  There were dishes like, Paella strudel, Sous-Vide Pork Belly with Umeboshi Plum Sauce with Micro Greens, and my dish of the night Bhel Puri, an “Indian Street Food” of puffed rice, garbanzo flour noodles, wheat crisps, Russet potatoes, Jazz apples, Sweet onion, Zante currants, mint cilantro chutney, tamarind chutney, and blackberry chutney which was just fabulous with Petite Sirah.

Er…I had one or three too many of these…Amazing!

After tasting sampling the P.S. with a variety of foods, I gave it try with chocolate.  Cabernet, Merlot, and Zinfandel, the varietals most often paired with chocolate has something to worry about.  I generally prefer dessert wines with my chocolate, ,and P.S. with my meal, but for fans of dry red wines P.S. works quite well too.  That lead to my favorite chocolate and P.S. pairing of the night – Bacon Salted Caramel (made with Zoe’s Meats applewood smoked bacon, organic sugar and an English dark cane syrup dipped in 72% E. Guittard chocolate and finished with applewood smoked salt) from Nosh This and two Petite Sirahs from Stage Left Cellars.

It was a great event.  Dark & Delicious will continue to be circled in red on my calendar of “must attend” wine events.  It’s a purple-teeth stained great wine and food event!

BBQ Spaghetti and Zin

After what has been an inordinate amount of rain, and cooler than usual temperatures in sunny California, we finally had nice sunny weather this past weekend.  No rain, sunny, and close to 70 degrees both days!  I’d plan to watch some Championship Sunday football, and wanted some BBQ.  But I wasn’t motivated enough to take the cover off the grill, roll up my sleeves, and get busy cleaning.  In other words, I was in an “Easy like Sunday morning” state of mind.  I was looking for something with BBQ flavor, but easy to prepare.  After a quick review of the God-made database, I decided on BBQ spaghetti courtesy of the Food Network’s Neely’s (after all they are famous for their BBQ!).

As advertised, it was easy to prepare and delicious!  My only quibble is that was too sweet for my tastes based on the recipe.  After a bit of calibration we brought down the sweetness a bit.  Next time, I’ll probably use only half the sugar.  My only other deviation from the recipe as stated, was that I used ground beef rather than cooked, chopped BBQ’d meat (I refer you back to my “Easy like Sunday morning state of mind”;-)

Hmmm…what wine to serve?  What better wine to enjoy with football, the All American sport, than Zinfandel the All-American wine. No brainer there, Zinfandel and BBQ go together like peanut butter and jelly, especially a sweet and spicy BBQ sauce!

I chose the 2006 Rosenblum Cellars Annette’s Reserve Zinfandel (Click here for my review).

As I hungrily dug into my BBQ spaghetti, then took a sip of the Zinfandel, I was reminded of the best description  of wine and food pairing I’ve seen.  It’s from the blog of one of my favorite wineries Ridge Vineyards:

“As far as food & wine pairing goes, … there to be essentially four tiers:

1. The pairing is so bad it actually makes two independently tasty options taste terrible when tasted together.

2. The pairing is essentially neutral; they don’t clash, but neither do they harmonize, they simply co-exist.

3. The pairing is a good one; the two components interact effectively, and complement one another’s respective profiles.

4. The pairing is magic! A pure case of the total being greater than the sum of the parts; what you end up tasting is neither the wine nor the food per se, but rather, some new third taste that doesn’t independently exist without the cojoinment of the components. When, like true love, each independent entity dissolves and disappears into the other, and from this miasma emerges something ever more stronger altogether.”

The  BBQ Spaghetti and Zinfandel didn’t quite make it to #4, but was definitely #3!  The  Annette’s was fruit forward enough to balance out the sweetness of the BBQ sauce, while at the same time playing well with the acidity, and slight piquantness of the sauce.   Each made the other taste better.

While I really enjoyed this pairing, I’m looking to elevate my game for the Super Bowl.  Rather than ground beef, I’m going to braise a pork shoulder, shred it, then pan-fry the pork in olive oil until it’s well browned and a bit crispy.   I’m also thinking of trying it with a Petite Sirah.  I’m feeling a BBQ Spaghetti Zinfandel/Petite Sirah smackdown coming on!

As always, I look forward to your comments….

Sunday Italian Gravy – Wine Pairing Smackdown!

We invited some friends over for dinner and decided to make the classic Italian-American dish Sunday Italian Gravy (Hearty Italian Meat Sauce) from Cook’s Illustrated (click “Watch the video” at this link) .  Its a dish I made earlier this year in February for Open That Bottle Night.  We enjoyed it with a bottle of  2005 Rosenblum Cellars Kick Ranch Reserve Syrah.  It was a fabulous pairing (click  here for my blog post)

Though the Syrah was fabulous with Sunday Italian Gravy, I wondered if an Italian wine might pair even better with this hearty Italian Meat-A-Palooza comprised of six different types of meats simmered slowly in a robust tomato sauce for a few hours.   Ah yes…time for a wine pairing smack-down!

The smack-down contestants were the reigning champ – the 2005 Rosenblum Kick Ranch Reserve Syrah, and two Italian challengers  – the 2004 Pio Cesare Barolo, and 2008 Gabbiano Chianti (a last minute entry courtesy of a friend who doesn’t like to come to a dinner party empty handed – my favorite kind of friend!)

It took me about 3 hours to prepare the dish (about half the time that’s typically spent making the dish), and it turned out wonderfully! We served the hearty meat sauce with spaghetti, an Italian salad, and homemade garlic bread.

Sunday Gravy

The rules for the smack-down were simple:

  1. Get the wines ready to drink (i.e. decant the wines – 7 hours in the case of the Barolo, and 3 hours for the Syrah).
  2. Sip, savor, and tell me which you like best with the dish.

We started with the exalted Italian challenger, Barolo.  Breathing therapy seemed to help sooth the surly tannins of the brooding Italian, as the Barolo wooed the judges with its seductive aromas, complexity, balance, full body, and a staying power.  The judges were duly impressed and several asked for an encore performance all the while commenting about how well it harmonized with the Sunday Italian Gravy, and its remarkable balance.   Next up was the reigning champ hailing from California, the Kick Ranch Syrah.  Unfazed by the impressive showing of the Italian Barolo, and knowing its strengths, it quickly pounced on the judges with more vivid, though overall less complex aromas, gobs of extracted, dark, rich Sonoma fruit, sultry spiciness, and matched the body of the Italian challenger. While it didn’t have the staying power of the Barolo, it too flaunted its pairing proclivity with Sunday Italian Gravy.  Lastly, and sadly least, was the Chianti.  It should have sat out this competition of heavyweights. It was clearly the 98 pound weakling of the bunch, and the judges politely, but swiftly bounced the Chianti from the competition.

The judges conferred, and in a close, but unanimous decision avowed their preference for the… (drum roll please)

Pio Cesare Barolo!! (clickhere for my review).

Related stuff you might find interesting:

Sunday Gravy with Ween (Benito’s Wine Reviews)

Big, Dark, and Delicious

I was headed home Friday after another week of too many hours, and not enough rest. I decided to pick up a pizza on the way home because we’d opened a 2006 Rosenblum Cellars Richard Sauret Zinfandel (88pts) the night before. I decided to get a pizza topped with grilled chicken, sausage, linguica, roma tomatoes, red and green onion topped with a BBQ drizzle, which I thought would pair nicely with the pizza.  I wasn’t disappointed.  The Zinfandel was a good pairing with the pizza.

The next day, to my surprise, I discovered the pizza made it through the night and the next day (we have a 17 y.o. boy at home…enough said).  As fortune would have it, my wife had opened a 2007 Rosenblum Cellars Petite Sirah Pato Vineyards (90pts) the night before so a friend who’d never tried a Petite Sirah (“PS”) before.  While the pizza with the Zinfandel was a good pairing, the PS  with the pizza was a great pairing.  As I savored the PS/pizza pairing, I remarked to my wife “You know, I love a wine with some tannins in it”, which is why I love PS!

PS tend to be “big” wines, meaning generally rich, full-bodied, intensely flavored with a concentrated feel on the palate. It’s known for its dark inky red color, and firm tannins. PS characteristically have effusively fruity, wild berry, or plummy aromas and flavor, along with rustic spiciness that may bring to mind pepper, nutmeg, or cloves. And some would suggest it is the most intense red wine in the world.

For those of you who may not have tried a PS (Peh-TEET Sih-RAH), it’s a wine with an incongruous name because it’s neither petite, nor a Syrah.

In fact PS is the love child of the “noble” Syrah grape, and the little known Peloursin grape.  It was created by a French botanist, Dr. Francois Durif who crossed the flower of a “mother” vine with the pollen of a “father” vine, and named the offspring after himself. So, it’s possible you may come across a wine made with Durif grapes, which is synonymous with PS in the United States.  Ironically, though the grape originated in France, it is virtually extinct there today.

Like Zinfandel, PS has a long history in California, and in fact is the other American Heritage grape (along with Zinfandel) because of its long history here in the States, particularly CA where about 80% of worldwide PS vineyard acreage is planted.  Historically, like Zinfandel, PS was planted as part of a  field blend interspersed with other grapes such as Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Mission and Muscat.   And PS has long been used to add tannins and color to jug wines.  The first stand-alone PS wasn’t released until 1964 by Concannon Vineyards of Livermore Valley.

I was introduced to PS by a mutual friend, Zinfandel.  A few years ago while tasting through Zinfandel at Rosenblum Cellars; I learned that a particularly tasting Zinfandel wasn’t 100% Zinfandel.  Upon further inquiry, I learned that PS is added to Zinfandel to give it color.  But I also noticed that particular Zinfandel seemed “bigger” than the others.  After tasting through Zinfandel I tasted a PS.  I found that I enjoyed the dark fruit, but at the time found the tannins a bit off-putting.  Now, I enjoy and appreciate a wine that is “chewy” (i.e. you sense the tannins without them being overwhelming).

Now that we’re in Fall, with Winter approaching, it’s a great time to give PS a try.  It pairs well with cold weather savory dishes like pot roast and stews.  It’s also pairs well with the same foods that Zinfandel pairs with like burgers, BBQ, mesquite grilled steak, roast duck, and dark or bittersweet chocolate.

For a more detailed profile of PS, click here

Que Syrah Syrah

We went to an Indian restaurant recently.  Indian food can be a challenge to pair with wine, so we asked our food server for a recommendation for the entrees we ordered.  He suggested a couple of wines that he felt would pair well with our meals.  The wines he recommended turned out to be good with our entrees.  But  it got me to thinking about great wine/food pairings. The first such pairing that comes to mind is Hearty Italian Meat Sauce (Sunday Gravy) we had with a 2005 Rosenblum Cellars Reserve Kick Ranch Syrah.

Italian Meat Sauce (Sunday Gravy) is an over the top tomato sauce that typically calls for six different types of meat and a day at the stove.  I took some short cuts, and used 3 types of meats – baby back ribs, meatballs made with ground beef, pork, and veal, Italian sausage, prosciutto, and Pecorino Romano cheese.  It turned out quite well, the ribs were tender, and the meatballs were the best I’ve ever had!

It paired perfectly with the Syrah – meaning the wine and food, each made the other taste better.

I think Syrah is a wonderful varietal for a couple reasons:

  1. Syrah is a pretty versatile wine that can be served with a variety of dishes.  Of course it works well with all kinds of red meat from burgers to roasts, but I’ve found it pairs well with tomato based dishes including jambalaya and pizza.
  2. I think it tends to be a better value than the more prevalent reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon, or Pinot Noir.  Particularly the Syrahs (a.k.a Shiraz) from Australia.

Syrah is made in a variety of style depending on where the grapes are grown, weather, and vinification (turning grapes into wine,  including fermentation, types of barrels used, etc.)  Try a few to see what you like.

In terms of flavor/aroma profile of Syrah  – look for black cherry, blackberry, plum, clove, licorice and smoked meat. Its aroma can range from violets to berries to chocolate and  espresso.  These aren’t all inclusive of course, but they’re a good place to start.

I like to share the flavor/aroma profile of varietals because rather than smelling a wine and trying to think of what it smells like, I like to run list of possibilities through my mind.  I find it easier to hit on the aromas I’m searching for.  For me, it’s the difference between essay vs. multiple choice, if you will.

Wine Tasting Club – Zinfandel Night

This past Friday evening we had our every other monthly meeting of the Pacific Point Wine Tasting Club (“PPWTC”).  The club was started back in January when my wife and I had the idea to start a wine-tasting club in our community.

It’s been easier to get the wine tasting club up and running than I anticipated.  The most challenging decision so far has been whether to have the host buy the wines, then get reimbursed, or for everyone to bring a bottle.  We decided on the later

In a nutshell, the “mission” if you will, of the PPWTC is to learn a bit about the wine while having fun and fellowship with friends and/or neighbors.  Each individual/couple brings a bottle of the designated wine varietal costing between $15-$25).  The varietal for the meeting this past Friday was Zinfandel (prior meetings were e Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay).  The host is charged with serving some appetizers that pair with the varietal.  I usually bring some background information about the grape varietal to hand out.  I think that’s important because if you know what aromas and flavors are typical of a particular grape varietal it helps you identify aromas and flavors of the wine.  More details about that in another post.

There we 12 of us, who tasted 7 different zinfandels.  We do a blind tasting(i.e. the wine label is covered so as not to tip-off the taster) We taste the wines, the score them on a simple 5 point scale (5=best; 1 worse) for 5 attributes – Appearance, Aromas, Body, Taste, and Finish.  Sometimes we talk about the wine, sometimes we don’t.  We always have something to eat while trying the wines though.  While that would be considered a no-no at a more formal tasting, it’s a wine tasting club, and we’re there to have fun!  After we finish scoring the wines, we finish the bottles, and if available have a bonus bottle or two;-)  I must say,  it seems to be more fun after the scoring, when the wine, and conversation are flowing!

This months winners (we had a tie) were a 2006 Rosenblum Annette’s Reserve, and a 2007 Lake Sonoma Zinfandel (though from a value perspective I consider the Lake Sonoma to be the winner because the retail price is less).  The average score for both was 88pts ( I converted the aforementioned 25 point scale to a 100 point scale as follows – Took the average score from the 12 tasters of 18.33, multiplied it by 2 to get 37.66, the added 50 to get 87.66 or 88 rounded up – you might not want to try this at home kids, I’m a CPA;-)  Kidding aside, you just need to find a consistent scale to score the wines.

We had a  blast, and there’s been some talk of having the meetings monthly instead of every other month!  I don’t know if that will happen, but it tells me the PPWTC is moving in the right direction as we learn about wine, build friendships, and have fun doing it!