It was several years ago that a wine buyer for a market told me I could not go wrong with zinfandel if I stuck to the Three R’s: Ridge, Ravenswood and Rosenblum. I think there might be a 4th R and there are many excellent zinfandels that don’t start with R — but it was a handy, quick guide.
I thought of that a couple of weeks ago at the wine tasting at Marche Bacchus. We were tasting wines from Hahn Winery in the Santa Lucia Highlands. The Santa Lucia AVA is on the backside of the mountains that face Monterey Bay. I’ve been there several times and loved the Hahn tasting room and always ended up buying a couple of bottles. In fact, just the night before I had opened a Hahn Syrah with my friend Susan.
So at Marche Bacchus, we were listening to the merits of the various wines when Tex sidled up to me and said, “you’re a zin fan, aren’t you?” “You bet!” I’d been to several wine tastings with that group and I guess I’d made my love for zinfandel pretty well-known.
“Look at this,” Tex continued in a soft voice — the tone suggesting he had found a hidden treasure and was trying to keep it under wraps. “Jeff [the owner of Marche Bacchus] just got it in.” A small stack of boxes was standing to one side. They all said Rosenblum.
“This” turned out to be a case of Rosenblum Zinfandel from Sonoma Valley — Maggie’s Reserve.
“It’s a 2006,” Tex went on. “Needs to be drunk right now.”
“So do I!” I replied — an old and terribly corny joke.
“There’s more,” Tex continued, giving me a pass on my feeble attempt to be witty. “Look.” He pointed to one of the other Rosenblum boxes: “2006 Alexander Valley. Harris Kratka Vineyard. Jeff’s selling them for $13. I’m going to get some of this and some of the Hahn. There’s a discount on 12 bottles or more.”
Tom had sidled up, glass of Hahn Chenin Blanc in hand, his IPhone in the other. “You gonna order some?” he asked Tex.
“Yeah. I was just showing Robin this Rosenblum Zinfandel. Jeff’s selling it at $13 a bottle.”
Tom fiddled with his IPhone a couple of minutes then said, “That’s a bargain. Everyplace else has it listed for $30.”
“I want four bottles,” I said quickly, “two of each.” Tex scribbled on the back of his tasting sheet.
“Yeah, I want some, too. And some of this Hahn,” Tom told him. Everyone loved the Hahn, and it didn’t hurt that the prices were all less than $20. In spite of that, I resisted the Hahn. Outside of the Cabernet, the others were whites or Pinot Noirs. Perfect for summer, but I was a lot more interested in getting in on the bargain zinfandel.
The next week I went back with cash in my purse I’d no sooner walked into the restaurant when Tex spotted me, “Got your stuff in the car,” he said. “Don’t worry, It’s in a cooler.”
I happily took my wine home and checked the on-line reviews. Some were less than enthusiastic citing that the wine was 8 years old, which is a lot for a zin, and saying it was mostly spice, having lost its fruit. Others said it was a wonderful wine with a perfect balance of fruit and spice. But being a zinfandel, I really couldn’t judge without a nice juicy steak to pair it with. So I’ll do that this weekend and letcha know.
All I can say is that it’s rare for me to meet a zinfandel I don’t like. And I’m pretty darn sure this one isn’t going to be the exception.