Friday, April 27, 2012

12th Annual Zinfandel Blind Tasting

Here we go again, is it that time so quickly?

When we pay our taxes, & then get a bit tipsy.

So dust off the cookbooks for a healthy dish that's Zin-friendly,

To pair to nine wines we'll provide for tasting blindly.

Who could refuse an Evite that started this way?

A couple of weeks ago our friends Leslie (of Wine Dine Design) and Richard put on their 12th Annual Zinfandel Blind Tasting.  This was their largest blind tasting yet - with 50 people attending this private party to taste a dozen  Zinfandel wines on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Santa Barbara. All the guests brought Zin-friendly dishes to start the Zinfandel blind tasting party.

Leslie poured a 2008 Tobin James "Ballistic" Zin (Paso Robles $18) as the starter wine to enjoy with the great food.  All sorts of spicy sausage, chili, beans, breads, veggies, and pasta were contributed by the gourmet guests.  I found a Zin-friendly Italian sausage cheeseburger recipe from Zinfandel Advocates ‏on Twitter (@TheZinfandelOrg). And in keeping with Leslie's suggestion for a "healthy" dish I used turkey Italian sausages (half mild & half hot) to make slider-sized cheeseburgers.

Leslie and Richard started with 10 clear bottles of anonymous  Zinfandel wines.  When I arrived they were lined up and ready to go with a couple of last minute additions.  That brought it up to  an even dozen, or a case of Zin.  I calculate that 12 bottles poured for about 25 people works out to roughly 12 ounces per person (or a 1 ounce taste of each bottle).  And a few bottles weren't completely empty at the end, so I'm guessing only about 20 (virtual) people were actually tasting.

The clear wine bottles (with only an ID number) and the original wines bottles with related tasting notes were placed randomly around a table.  Then the guests were challenged to match the names and descriptions with the numbered bottles.  I focused on tasting and ranking the Zins because I figured odds were pretty low that I would guess any correctly. A couple of lucky winners accurately matched 5 of the mystery wines to their labels and they got bragging rights for their prizes.

We learned at the end of the blind tasting that the 12 Zinfandel wines were:

1) 2008 Quivira Zin, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma $20   

2) 2009 The Other Guys "Plungerhead" Old Vine Zin, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma  $17

3) 2008 Cordon Zin, French Camp Vineyard, Paso Robles $22.50  

4) 2007 Stacked Stone "Zin Stone," Paso Robles $30  

5) 2009 Crooked Path Zin, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma $20

6) 2009 Dashe Zin, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma $24 

7) 2007 Kenneth Volk Zin Enz Vineyard, Lime Kiln Valley $36 

8) 2008 Oso Libre "Nativo" Primitivo, Paso Robles, $45 

9) 2007 Mantra, Old Vines Reserve Zin, Alexander Valley, Sonoma $30

10) 2009 Los Cinco Locos Zinfandel, Paso Robles

(Not sold in stores)

11) 2010 Los Cinco Locos Zinfandel, Paso Robles

(Not sold in stores)

12) 2009 Bogle Old Vines Zinfandel, Probably from the Amador Zinfandel grapes $7.99

A fun blind tasting time was had by all!  It was interesting to see that the three I liked best (#1, #2 and #5) were were all from Dry Creek Valley. I thought #6, another Dry Creek wine, was OK as well, but I wasn't as impressed with it. So I learned that I really like Zins from Dry Creek the best (at least in comparison with this grouping).  I found that #8 2008 Oso Libre "Nativo" Primitivo and #10 2009 Los Cinco Locos Zinfandel were too sweet for me.  And it was interesting to taste the difference between the 2009 and 2010 Los Cinco Locos Zinfandel vintages.  The 2010 wasn't quite as sweet as the 2009, although I thought it was a little too grapey for my taste.

I contributed the 12th Zin and the label (which I removed) described it as "intense blackberry, black cherry, and raspberry flavors, wrapped in a smooth blanket of vanilla and oak."  I thought it was a  reasonably good (although a bit young), low-priced alternative to the other wines.

As if the huge amount of Zin-friendly food consumed with the wine wasn't enough, there were plenty of chocolate and berry desserts served with a couple of Zin dessert wines and a tawny port.

Leslie and Richard sure have great food and wine tasting events and I enjoyed meeting many new Zin friends at this one.  Can't wait for the 13th Annual Zinfandel Blind Tasting next year!