Red wine recommendations for this winter.
By Louis Marmon
Gazette Newspapers February 21, 2007
A glass of red wine may be the best antidote for the winter blues. Even the coldest night is made more comfortable by a full- to medium-bodied wine served either with a hearty meal or sipped by the fire. And these long evenings are a perfect time to check out the bottles guests brought you during the holiday season.
Zinfandel’s spiciness make it a great accompaniment to lamb and roasts. The excellent Zins produced by Sonoma’s family-owned Mazzocco Winery are highly extracted with rich flavors associated with higher than average alcohol levels. Winemaker Antoine Favero strives to keep the elements in balance and sometimes adds a bit of petite sirah to the final blend. The Mazzocco Home Ranch Estate Zinfandel 2004 ($26) is first-rate, with red and black berry flavors, spicy oak and a lush finish. The more peppery Mazzocco Stone Ranch Zinfandel 2004 ($24) has smoky chocolate and black fruit flavors. Also enjoyable are the Mazzocco Cuneo and Saini Vineyard Zinfandel 2004 ($24), which is a bit denser with spicy red fruit, carob and plum notes, as well as the Mazzocco Quinn Vineyard Zinfandel 2004 ($24) that has roasted chocolate, blackberry and red cherry flavors.
The O’Brien Family unabashedly claims that its Seduction ‘‘O” 2004 ($35) is expressly marketed toward women. Dressed in a red lacey wrap, the dark bottle doesn’t even mention that it is a Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. The O’Briens assert that women’s more sensitive palates make them more interested in the wine’s physical characteristics rather than the score the wine receives. Clearly that is winemaker David Yorgense’s goal. The wine is blended for mouth-feel as well as taste with the result being lush plum and blackberry flavors along with vanilla oakiness and a long finish. Think roast lamb or cuddling by the fire.
Bill Davies and Tom Gamble, who became friends in nursery school, teamed up 30 years later to establish their own winery. Made from grapes harvested from where Gamble grew up, the Source-Napa ‘‘Family Home” Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 ($60) is full-bodied with deep cassis and red berry flavors accented with oak and a lengthy finish. The Source-Napa ‘‘Heritage Sites” 2003 ($38) is a blend of 74 percent Merlot, 24 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 2 percent Cabernet Franc from four different locations in the Napa Valley. With well-integrated dark and red fruit notes along with eucalyptus in the finish, it is a perfect accompaniment to short ribs or stew.
The Rodney Strong Winery produces a wide range of quality wines across the price spectrum. The Rodney Strong Symmetry 2001 ($55) is wonderfully rich with earthy, spicy plum and black fruit flavors along with cedar and dark chocolate notes. The value-priced Rodney Strong Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 ($15) is an easy-drinking medium-bodied wine with blackberry and currant notes along with a bit of vanilla at the end. Sourced from very old vines that the late owner had the sense not to pull up, the delightful Rodney Strong Estate Knotty Vines Zinfandel 2004 ($20) is a bit softer than other 2004 Zins with ripe spicy red fruit flavors and a toasty finish.
The Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 ($27) is another notable effort from this Sonoma winery; it has lovely raspberry and cherry flavors and spicy oak at the end. Also worth trying is the medium-bodied Raymond Napa Valley Reserve Merlot 2002 ($22) that has smoky plum and cherry notes with some sweet spice in the finish.