Does anyone remember this? Years ago, long before I had started writing about wine but had definitely developed a passion for it, I recall reading something disturbing in a leading wine magazine. The author of the article wrote something to the effect that Zinfandel would never be capable of producing a wine that would elicit “classic” scores, just due to its inferior quality. I wish I had saved the article and the response I wrote to the editor about it, but they are long gone. All I have is my memory.
What I do remember more clearly is a more recent incident, although still more than 10 years ago, when the owner of a soon-to-be-open boutique wine shop tried to impress me with his coming selection of high-end Napa Cabs and Chardonnays, but totally lost interest and walked away with his nose in the air when I inquired about his possible inventory of Zinfandels.
Flash forward to the June 30, 2013 issue of the Wine Spectator, with a cover story entitled “Zinfandel Roars Back”, and the cover picture being Larry Turley, widely considered to be the father of modern Zinfandel.
The cover story about Turley Wine Cellars is fascinating, and I encourage you all to read it. It was great to see, along with the winemakers, Larry’s daughter Christina being given credit for helping to take the winery to the level it is at today. [I met with Christina a couple of years ago: http://evewine101.com/2011/12/31/michael-perlis-discovers-turley-wine-cellars-in-st-helena-and-a-robust-discussion-of-sirah-vs-syrah].
Even more gratifying was seeing the long list of Turley wines receiving WS scores from 88 to 95, with the top score going to the 2011 Zinfandel from the Dusi Vineyard in Paso Robles. Not only is the Dusi bottling typically my favorite Turley Zinfandel, but the Dusi Vineyard might be my favorite Zin vineyard, period. [Third generation grower Janell Dusi now makes great wine under her own J Dusi label (http://www.jdusiwines.com), although they still sell off the majority of the grapes to other wineries.]
Paso Robles is one of my favorite areas for Zinfandel, along with Sonoma and Napa. Recently, it has seemed that Paso Robles’ success with Zinfandel has been somewhat overshadowed by the well-deserved accolades being given to the outstanding Rhone varietals being produced in the area, and more recently to Cabernet Sauvignon. And, while I am glad for the success of the other grapes, to me Paso Robles will always be first about Zinfandel.
Other articles in the issue highlight some of the other great Zinfandel producers, including two that I consider very important – Carlisle (http://www.carlislewinery.com) and Bedrock (http://bedrockwineco.com). Mike Officer of Carlisle and Morgan Twain-Peterson of Bedrock have been very active in preserving the historic Zin and Rhone vineyards in California. Mike’s first vintage was in 1998 – I had the foresight to sign up with him early. [The last time I checked with him, he said the waiting list was 8-years, but I expect this has shortened as he has increased production somewhat and added more vineyard sources.] Morgan started his winery more recently, although he grew up in the wine business, being the son of Joel Peterson, founder of Ravenswood, so you know he has the chops.
Other favorite producers of mine mentioned in the issue were: Robert Biale [Napa}, Epoch [Paso Robles], and Outpost [Napa].
I drink a lot of different wines, mainly Californian. I’m a big fan of the Rhones [Syrahs Grenache, etc], although I do enjoy other wines as well, including Bordeaux varietals, Spanish and Italian wines, and even an occasional Pinot Noir. But, I always go back to Zinfandel.
Michael Perlis has been pursuing his passion for wine for more than 25 years. He has had the good fortune of having numerous mentors to show him the way, as well as a wonderful wife who encourages him and shares his interest. After a couple of decades of learning about wine, attending events, visiting wineries and vineyards, and tasting as much wine as he possibly could, he had the amazing luck to meet Eve Bushman. Now, as Contributing Editor for Eve’s Wine 101, he does his best to bring as much information as possible about wine to Eve’s Wine 101 faithful readers. Michael can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.(2013 Update: Eve and Michael announced Eve Wine 101 Consulting. Info is here: http://evewine101.com/press-releases/)