Monday, April 07, 2008

Not So Big Zinfandel

Quivira Vineyards in the Dry Creek Valley is a representative of what I recently called the Not So Big Wine Life. First they are champions of sustainability, receiving their Demeter Certification in 2005 which recognized their use of biodynamic viticultural protocols. They also received the 2008 Sonoma County Business Environmental Alliance's Best Practices Award for their organic agriculture, use of solar energy (you can see all the panels on the roof), and their efforts to make Wine Creek a safe habitat for fish once again.

Second, they also make a not so big Zinfandel: one that is slightly above 14% alcohol, has a good core of acidity, and reminds me of the reds that I drank when I was in my first job and didn't have much money to spend. Then you could get a very drinkable, food friendly Zin for under $10. To be completely fair, it was more than a decade ago. While those prices are getting harder to find, I'm happy to report that it is still possible to find a Zinfandel that doesn't taste like licking a spoon coated with jam, or hit you over the head with its power. The Quivira Dry Creek Zinfandel is not a small wine, but it is a wine that manages to retain a "human scale."

Quivira calls their Dry Creek Zinfandel a "melting pot" since it is made from fruit produced throughout the appellation. I think it's more like drinking history. The grapes that go into this wine represent a complete lesson in the Dry Creek Valley AVA. Some of the grapes come from the Standley Ranch's pre-Prohibition zinfandel vines. More come from Quivira's Wine Creek Ranch which has been producing fruit since the 1960s and is now certified organic and biodynamic. Remaining grapes come from Walt Dieden's Ranch and from Quivira's own Anderson Ranch vines, which are Heritage clones.

I really liked the 2004 Quivira Zinfandel. I bought this for $20 direct from the winery, which is now sold out of the wine. But it is still available for $18-23. The wine had enticing aromas of black cherry, allspice, and a cedary smell that reminded me of my mother's cedar chest. I liked the way the cherry aromas hung around and turned into the dominant flavor, accented by a rich and bitter taste of baker's chocolate and a shake of pepper. If you get a bottle, expect it to become smoother as it ages and to show more spicy notes of clove and cinnamon and a little less pepper. I think that the wine will continue to drink well over the next 12-18 months if not a bit longer. And, because this wine is very food-friendly and will go with everything from pizza to BBQ to a spicy chili without making a fuss, you won't have any trouble finding something to serve with it, whenever you choose to pop the cork.

This very good QPR Zinfandel feels and tastes old fashioned--maybe even historic--and restrained, just the way I like them now and and remember them way back when. Back when Zinfandels were not so big, but every bit as delicious.


Anonymous said...

It sounds delightful, and as a "greenie" myself I admire the efforts they've made to be environmentally friendly. I've been collecting zinfandels lately and unfortunately I haven't seen this one in my area. I'll need to do some more digging.

Taster A said...

How cool, this sounds like the Zinfandels of my graduate student days. Not quite so big, back when a Zinfandel complemented a meal, not domiminated it. How lucky you are to find such a wine.

Dr. Debs said...

Tim, I like all of Quivira's wines, so if you see one of their other bottlings, give that a go. They're great people, too--stop by if you ever find yourself in Dry Creek. Taster A, I hear you on the grad school wine front. That's what I was drinking in grad school. I was a Zin fiend, and then just got tired of being disappointed when they got bigger. I've now found a few I like (Quivira, and also Dry Creek Vineyard Heritage Clones) that are smaller and more "old-fashioned." What I've been doing lately is just looking at the alcohol content. If the wine comes in at under 14.3% I tend to like it more.