Monday, June 25, 2012

Dead Or Alive? Old Zinfandel

One of the great arguments in wine centers around zinfandel.  Most view the grape as a boisterous, flash-in-the-pan, meant to be consumed immediately, if not sooner.  Certainly these styles of zinfandel exist but some producers made versions that could stand the test of time.  Ridge Vineyards, with Paul Draper at the helm, perhaps served as official poster-child for the age-worthiness of zinfandel.  They also produce some of my favorite zinfandels...and there are many of them.
I prefer a zin about five years after vintage, as long as it's a more serious bottle.  The extra time allows some of the baby fat to fade but with no significant loss of the exuberant style that makes zin fun.  It also provides more depth and character, things we all should achieve with time.  Confidence abounds at five years but what about doubling that?  Would the wine survive?  Would I regret what it became?
Enter Ridge Zinfandel Paso Robles 2002.  I must admit to a bit of skepticism, but fortunately, the wine seemed not to notice.  Dark berry fruit slowly escaped the glass, reminiscent of blackberry, but not so sweet or intense.  My favorite zinfandel note permeated the wine.  The slightly wild, slightly sauvage note many call brambly.  The easiest way to describe the term is to consider the raspberries of blackberries available at your grocery store.  Now, imagine the same fruit but plucking it off a vine growing wild in a field or on the edge of the woods.  The latter version is brambly.  It means to me, unkempt, untamed and altogether alluring at the same time.  An almost animalistic edge can be there too, as it was with this wine, gently repelling but more strongly beckoning and drawing you in.
The alcohol kept making a stronger statement than I desired but the bottle was a bit too warm which encouraged the hotness on the nose.  The barest edge of orange existed at the edge of the wine and no brown entered the picture at all - amazing for a ten year old wine.  The palate was tactile, almost sappy - not syrupy with implied sweetness - but thick and persistent with great acidity.  A brief, hollow moment occurred in the mid-palate but then everything came together again.  It was more of a comfortable lull in conversation than the premature end of a party.
This wine reminds me of fun friends.  The time you get with them is never enough.  I wish I had access to another bottle.  Salty, aged Reggiano beckons.

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