October 2008


On the plate: A rib-eye steak from a grass-fed, pasture-raised all-organic bovine. I marinated the steak in red wine and garlic for an hour and grilled it outside over hardwood charcoal, about five minutes on the first side and four minutes on the second, so it came out a rosy medium-rare. Wow, it was scrumptious, with that perfect balance that great steaks have of ripe, fleshy meatiness (or beefness) with succulent texture and earthy minerality. Hey, sounds like a great cabernet!

In the glass: Five cabernet sauvignon wines and one cabernet franc that had been waiting for me to open and try on the right occasion. It’s much better to sample wines like these at the dining table with the appropriate food than standing up in the kitchen going through them as if in a laboratory, though sometimes that situation has to prevail, too, as in, “O.K., guess I better do these 12 pinot grigios under $12.”

Mainly, these cabernet-based (and cabernet franc-based) wines do not display the over-ripe, over-extracted, over-oaked character that has turned California’s cabernet wines into parodies of cabernet and into a sea of sameness from producer to producer and year to year. Mainly, these are wines of vigor and rigor that allow structure and fruit and acid to speak both for themselves and in harmony. One is a bargain; the others are expensive, though with the way prices have risen, does $30 still count as an expensive wine? Now $90, yes, that’s a kick in the wallet.

Here are the wines in the order of tasting.
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Spellbound is a label from Folio Fine Wine Partners, a company launched by Robert Mondavi Jr. and his wife Lydia after the sale of Robert Mondavi Winery to Constellation late in 2004. The Spellbound Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, California, offers lots of personality for the price. Composed of 76 percent cabernet sauvignon, 9.5 percent petite sirah and 14.5 percent “other proprietary reds,” the wine, a dark ruby color with a deep purple center, immediately delivers a snootful of dusty plums and black currents permeated by lavender and licorice, cloves and sandalwood. It’s ripe, meaty and fleshy in the mouth, quite dense and chewy, fit for rolling around on the tongue, and the oak comes up from mid-palate back, contributing serious touches of walnut shell and underbrush. Drink now through 2011 or ’12. We were immensely impressed with the quality of this wine. Very Good+, and at about $15 it represents Great Value.
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One of the problems with being around for 30 years is that you disappear into the background, a circumstance that has lately befallen the venerable Markham Vineyards. To sample what this winery is doing right, however, try the Markham Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, Napa Valley. The color is dark ruby shading to a purple-black center; aromas of woody spice and spicy wood, like old church altars permeated by centuries of smoke and incense, testify to oak aging, but the wine also smells of mint and minerals, and intense, concentrated roasted plums and black currants. The wine tastes ripe and fleshy, but neither too ripe nor too fleshy; black fruit flavors are infused with licorice and lavender, while the structure of dense, chewy tannins is bolstered by lively acid. The wine reveals lovely poise and balance but power too, while on the finish a few minutes bring out its underbrush and brambly character, leading to a bit of austerity from mid-palate back. Try from 2010 to 2015 or ’16. Excellent. About $30.
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Lord have mercy, the Tom Eddy Wines Elodian Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, Napa Valley, teems with iodine and granite; it’s as savory as rare beef strewn with sea salt and as winsome as spiced, roasted and macerated black currants, cherries and plums can be, with their keen mineral edge and vibrant acid. The wine gets “darker” in the glass, more intense, rootier, earthier, yet it offers beguiling and impressive class and character. This is 100 percent cabernet sauvignon, aged 28 months in French oak, 70 percent new, yet one does not smell, taste or feel the oak as anything but an essential, supporting role. A cabernet wine for grown-ups. Drink 2009 or ’10 through 2014 or ’15. Production was 400 cases. Excellent. About $40.
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The Oakville Ranch “Robert’s Blend” 2004, Napa Valley, is composed of 83 percent cabernet franc and 17 percent cabernet sauvignon. This is truly a serious wine; it’s dark and deep, profoundly spicy, indubitably tannic and minerally, bursting with the untamed wild blueberry, mulberry and dusty leather notes, the bitter chocolate and walnut shell of the best cabernet franc. Lots of gravity, broad dimension and detail — the wine feels fathomless, inexhaustible. In the practical sense, this should be consumed from 2010 to 2018 or ’19; in the world of my fevered imagination, it feels ageless. The wine spends 25 months in French oak, 80 percent new barrels. Production was 122 cases (244 six-packs). Excellent. About $90.
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The highly publicized first release of Rockaway Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, Alexander Valley, a project of Rodney Strong Vineyard, rockawayedited.jpg speaks of its pedigree in every aspect, from the tall, etched Bordeaux-style bottle with its deep punt and broad shoulders, to its team of winemakers and consultants and vineyard managers; did it really take all these people to make this wine? The price tag confirms that pedigree, or at least its delusions of grandeur. The wine is 92 percent cabernet sauvignon and four percent each malbec and petit verdot; it ages 24 months in new French oak. I wanted there to be more “here” here; certainly the wine has many of the contemporary virtues going for it, but it feels as if it had been designed by a committee, a trait that many California “cult” cabernets share. Of course the wine is dense and intense, concentrated and minerally; of course the tannins and oak feel packed in, polished, sleek. We would expect no less. And I’ll admit that the next day, the Rockaway 2005 offered tremendous vigor and resonance; 12 or 14 hours added detail and complexity to the wine. I still sensed something missing, however, call it heart and soul, call it character and individuality; Rockaway 2005 is typical of the best that Sonoma County can produce, but it doesn’t go beyond that common standard. Drink now through 2015 or ’16. Still, I have to rate it Excellent. About $75.
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The Tom Eddy Cabernet Sauvignon 2002, Napa Valley, the current release of this wine, is 100 percent cabernet sauvignon, one-third of the grapes drawn from high in the Diamond Mountain District and two-thirds from the loamy soil of the valley floor in St. Helena and Oakville. The point is that the wine is not an expression of a particular vineyard or designation but of the Napa Valley itself, and that’s certainly how it feels, as deep, as rocky, as alluvial as its historic origins. This is a cool, clean and powerfully minerally cabernet, effortless in its confidence, eloquence and elegance but with foundations that rest on bulwarks of polished oak — 28 months in French barrels, 85 percent new — and grainy tannins. And let’s not forget the vibrant acidity that keeps the wine lively and resonant and courses through structure and ripe black fruit flavors like dark electricity. Yeah, damnit, I love this wine, though I could never afford to buy it. 544 cases (1088 six-packs). Drink from 2010 through 2018 or ’20. Exceptional. About $90.

“This is my favorite chardonnay,” said LL. “Of all time.”

High praise from a woman who is very critical of chardonnays, having lived in California long enough to become palate-fatigued and spiritually-wearied by over-rich, over-oaken and over-blown models.

We were having a pasta of grilled salmon with a bit of sauteed kale and leeks, and I had opened a bottle of Louis Jadot’s ljj023.jpg Saint-Véran Domaine de la Chapelle aux Loups 2006. This is — especially for the price — a remarkably pure and flavorful chardonnay, almost crystalline in intensity.

Saint-Véran is a small all-chardonnay region in the Mâconnais, south of Burgundy proper. The 10-acre property surrounds an actual Chapel of the Wolves, dating from the 13th century.

The wine offers beautiful aromas of green apple, pear and quince, with hints of camellia. It would be tempting just to smell this wine, but fortunately in the mouth it delivers a winsome combination of roasted lemon and lemon balm, with touches of baking spice and apple tart, and a damp stone mineral element — stony but not steely — enlivened by scintillating acid. The texture is seductively silky without sacrificing spareness and a slight muscular character. Overall, a wonderfully balanced and integrated chardonnay that would make a great house wine, whether at your house or in a restaurant. Excellent. I paid $19 for the wine; prices around the country range from $15.50 to $22.50.

Imported by Kobrand, Inc.

Well, I haven’t written a Chronicle entry since August 23, and the reason is that I lost the notebook! But I finally found it, and guess where? In the last place that I looked, and of course had no real intention of looking there! agassac.jpg

So, on September 17 and 18, 1983, we drank a bottle of Chateau d’Agassac 1975, a red wine from the Haut-Medoc, a region on the Left Bank of Bordeaux that is considered higher than the plain Medoc classification but lower than the individually named communes, such as St.-Estephe and Pauillac. I love this old-fashioned, picturesque label; the castle is genuine, dating from the 13th century and one of the oldest buildings in Medoc. The designation “Grand Bourgeois Exceptionnel” no longer exists, and, in fact, the entire Cru Bourgeois classification has recently been legally called into question, leaving many small chateaux in limbo.

In 1983, though, we enjoyed the hell out of this wine. It took a few minutes to open but then displayed lovely generosity and expansive merlot and cabernet sauvignon flavors, but with plenty of tannin (that distinctive walnut shell element) for support and structure. Notice, if you can read these notes, that I thought the price — $12.69 — high for a Cru Bourgeois wine. Boy, have things changed in 25 years!

Other wines we tried between the last entry in this notebook and the present wine:

*Guenoc Cabernet Sauvignon 1980, Lake County 70%, Napa County 30%. $7.45.
*Friexenet Cordon Negro. $4.99.
*Parducci Petite Sirah 1979, Mendocino County. $5.89.
*Fetzer Sundial Chardonnay 1982, Mendocino. $6.85.
*Ridge Zinfandel 1978, Paso Robles. (with 5 percent petite sirah) This had, remarkably for the era, 14.6 percent alcohol. It was a fascinating wine but marred, to my fledgling palate, by “harshness in the finish.” $10.69
*The Monterey Vineyard Classic California Red, Central Coast Counties. $5.99.
*Chateau Coufran 1979, Haut-Medoc. $8.49.
*Paul Masson French Colombard 1982, California. $4.99. Hey, we drank everything, given the chance. And, you know, we drank gallons of this wine; it was pretty good, or at least usually fresh, clean and crisp.

Notice that I didn’t say “a great pizza wine.” The concept of a great pizza wine, I think, embodies a tasty and fairly nino_negri_quadrio_04.jpg straightforward quaff, rather rugged and rustic, that goes well with the hearty flavors of a pizza, full-bodied pasta dishes, burgers and so on. Not a damned thing wrong with that. This wine, however, the Nino Negri Quadrio 2004, Valtellina Superiore, was great with our pizza Saturday night but is essentially a versatile red wine that would shine and perhaps even ennoble many dishes, particularly small game, such as rabbit and squab.

Valtellina Superiore is a DOCG region (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) in Lombardia, in northern Italy, lying along the right bank of the Adda (a name beloved by crossword puzzle makers) River within sight of the Alps. DOCG is supposed to indicate the highest level of Italian wine classes and regions, but — surprise! — since the system was first used in 1980, it has become highly politicized. The principal grape in Valtellina Superiore is chiavennasca, the local name for the nebbiolo grape that is put to such felicitous use in Piedmont, to the west. Wines from Valtellina Superiore must contain 90 percent chiavennasca grapes.

The Nino Negri Quadrio 2004 ages 18 months in 80-hectoliter Slavonian oak vats. How big are they? Eighty hectoliters equals about 2,112 U.S. gallons; by comparison, the standard French oak barrel holds about 59 gallons. The point is that such large casks impart very little wood flavor to the wine; instead they lend some spice and gentle shading and shaping to the wine’s structure. Quadrio 2004 contains 10 percent merlot grapes in addition to the nebbiolo.

The wine felt truly classic, like a cadet version of Barolo. The color is moderate ruby-garnet, not too dark or overly extracted. The bouquet offers notes of dried cherries, cloves and sandalwood, mulberry, leather and moss, with hints of fresh and dried flowers. In the mouth, flavors of spiced and slightly macerated black and red currants and raspberries lie over leathery and earthy elements bolstered by gentle tannins and a streak of vibrant acid. Drink now through 2011 or ’12. Very Good+, and at about $21 a Good Value.

I think this wine, which would be so appropriate, as I said, with roasts and game, went well with last Saturday’s pizza because I have been working on getting my pizzas more simple and pure. No caramelized radicchio on this one; just tomato and green pepper and red onion, a bit of guanciale, fresh mozzarella and parmesan. I sliced the tomatoes and bell pepper as thinly as possible, so during the 12 minutes in the oven they would get a little roasted. Perhaps it was the simplicity of the pizza, its spareness, that matched so nicely with the Nino Negri Quadrio 2004.
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This was my fault. For a snack on Sunday, I made open-face sandwiches by taking two ciabatta rolls, slicing them in half and spreading Dijon mustard on them. Then I layered a few pieces of baby arugula, sliced tomato and pieces of roasted ham, all this topped with grated Parmesan cheese, a dribble of olive oil, ground salt and pepper. I ran these under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese and the edges of the bread got nice and toasted, and then I served them to me and LL with a glass of the Simi Roseto 2007, Sonoma County. EEEERRRRNNNNGGGG! Didn’t work. The mustard tromped all over the wine. It would have been better if I just spread olive oil on the bread, or perhaps used some tapenade as the condiment, but the mustard was too powerful, too spicy.

There’s not a damned thing wrong with the wine, though. It’s a winsome rosé, a blend of 97 percent syrah and three percent viognier. It features bright cherry-berry flavors with touches of melon and rhubarb, subtle notes of dried herbs and flowers, hints of Bazooka Bubble Gum, and a mineral element that dominates the finish. Quite tasty and rated Very Good. About $11, more than fair.
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This is not a big deal or anything, but we were having Chinese take-out last night, and I reached in the fridge, grabbing a bottle of, um, let’s see, what is this? August Kesseler, well it’s from 2004, an excellent year in Germany that produced nervy and dynamic wines, it’s from the Rheingau and it’s a Qualitätswein Trocken. No mention of a grape; in fact, the back label says, succinctly, “White Grape Wine.” There’s riesling here certainly, but it feels like a blend; perhaps some sylvaner? “Qualitätswein” (“quality wine”) is about as reassuring in a German wine as “premier” is in California, though Qualitätswein is an official government designation. So, I guess my point is that this rather anonymous wine, finished with a screw-cap, is, at four years old, clean and fresh and zesty, possessed of lovely ripe yellow and stone fruit scents and flavors and vivid acidity. No, it doesn’t offer much depth and structure, and, yes, it dries out along the circumference, flattened the spicy and floral qualities, but gosh, it’s really delicious. The problem is that I have no idea how much it costs or even where I got it or who gave it to me. If you have a notion — I mean about the price — or if you have tried this wine, let me know.

It’s officially Fall in our house. Last night LL made one of our favorite, simple cold weather dishes, the cod stew with leeks, maximo_viura_06.jpg potatoes, chorizo and tomatoes. I have mentioned this dish many times and probably will continue to do so, because we never tire of it. Not that it’s actually cold yet. We were able to eat dinner on the screened porch, but it was a tad chilly.

We’ve tried all sorts of wines with the cod stew, but last night I opened a bottle of the Maximo Viura 2007, from Tierra de Castille, in Central Spain. This is a new label from Grupo Baron de Ley, which produces the well-known inexpensive El Coto de Rioja wines.

Maximo Viura 2007, made completely from viura grapes in stainless steel, is bright, clean, fresh and spicy. It features aromas and flavors of stone fruit like peaches and yellow plums, with hints of quince and pear. Orange blossom makes an appearance, along with a hint, underneath, of some astringent floral element. It takes a few minutes for tangy lime and earthy limestone qualities to emerge, and touches of grass and dried herbs, all of this set in a lovely texture that nicely balances lushness with crisp acid. An immensely satisfying wine, and terrific with the cod stew on a brisk autumn evening. Very Good and at about $10, the wine represents Great Value.

Imported by Frederick Wildman & Sons, New York

French culture has always been a charming and annoying nexus of elegance, arrogance and paranoia, but now the country has reached its nadir, and not all the other nadirs that came before but a new, even more significant one. In the nation that serves flag of distress as a model for excellence in wine-making, many of whose wines are honored as exemplars for the rest of the world, where the integration of wine and food into daily life seems rational and essential, in this nation, I say, articles about wine in newspapers and magazines must carry health warnings. Notice that I didn’t say “advertisements about wine in newspapers and magazines,” but articles, journalism, in other words, stories that review wines or provide overviews of wines or wine regions and so on. The purpose of advertising is, of course, to sell wine, while the purpose of journalism is to inform and educate; the line between those functions, as far as a court in Paris is concerned, no longer exists. All public utterances about wine, apparently, may corrupt the young.

To further the sense of prohibition, the French government has proposed a law limiting advertising for wine, beer and spirits on the Internet to certain sites at limited hours, and the advertising could not be by a third-party, i.e., a public relations or marketing firm. Makes alcohol sounds like pornography, doesn’t it? One result of these measures is that Microsoft Adcenter removed all wine merchants from its client list in France. Google Adsense and Yahoo are expected to follow Microsoft’s lead.

Oh, and a proposal has been made by the government to raise taxes on wine as much as 16 percent.

Most of this news goes back to the summer or first of the year, but I mention it here because (as Eric Asimov pointed out in his blog The Pour), the General Association of Wine Production in France is calling for boycotts on October 30 to call attention to the situation. No mention has been made about what form this boycott would take, but the association represents 500,000 people in the wine business, according to decanter.com.

Sacre bleu, what a state the world is in when France, long the symbol of the sensible indulgence in the pleasures of the body and mind, becomes more puritanical and politically correct than America.

On the plate: A medium-rare hamburger that holds three pieces of crisp bacon and a slab of melted Swiss cheese, a slice of onion, a slice of tomato and a leaf of lettuce. Yes, I was hungry, and I ran with it. The burger was a take out order from a favorite local place, The Belmont Grill, an establishment that defines “dive” and has occupied its corner for decades. Oh, and an order of onion rings, not scooped from a large sack of frozen onion rings, but the actual handmade and dipped in batter variety. stumpjump.jpg

In the glass: The d’Arenberg “The Stump Jump” Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdre 2006, McLaren Vale. This is a great, authentic, highly individual winery, one of my favorites in Australia. The blend for this vintage is 46 percent grenache, 34 percent shiraz and 20 percent mourvèdre. The bouquet is wild and funky and earthy, delivering a snootful of blackberry and black currant highlighted by plums and a hint of blueberry. Give this one a few minutes, and the dried spice and dried flower elements smolder forth, as if you had emptied the spice box into the potpourri, stirred it together and set it ablaze; those minutes also impart a touch of wet dog and rooty mossiness. In the mouth, lushness is balanced by vibrant acid, while soft, mellow tannins lend a firm but supple texture. Drink now through 2010 or ’11 with barbecue brisket or fajitas or hamburgers. I rate this Very Good+. The 2007 version of this wine is in some markets now, but there’s plenty of the ’06 available. I paid $16, but that’s definitely the high end; a quick search reveals prices as low as $8, though the median is $12.

Imported by Old Bridge Cellars, Napa, Ca.

Antoine Favero, winemaker for Mazzocco, the zinfandel specialist in Sonoma County, doesn’t do things by halves. These four mazzocco_logo2.gif reserve wines from 2005, all from designated vineyards, plus a proprietary label, feature alcohol levels of more than 16 percent, and they come on like fruit-basket gangbusters. Their primary characteristic, though, is staggering purity and intensity.

Mazzocco was founded in 1984 by prominent eye surgeon Thomas Mazzocco, who developed the first folding implant, the “Mazzocco taco lens.” The winery was purchased in 2005 by Diane and Ken Wilson, who in 1993 has started the Wilson Winery, where Diane Wilson makes the wines.
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The Mazzocco Smith Orchard Reserve Zinfandel 2005, Dry Creek Valley, comes in at 16.1 percent alcohol. The bouquet seethes with aromas of blueberry, boysenberry and red and black currant wreathed with smoke, potpourri, lavender, bittersweet chocolate, slate and lead pencil; I mean it just freakin’ shivers yer timbers. The wine is very ripe and spicy but quite dry, huge and solid in structure yet vibrant and resonant, confident and poised. It’s a serious wine, drawing on 18 months of aging in French oak and the power of packed-in tannin, yet in its rollicking blackberry and blueberry flavors flecked with rhubarb, its flagrant spiciness and wild berry aspects, it’s downright delicious. Production was 200 cases. Drink now through 2011 or ’12 with the heartiest of foods. Excellent. About $40.
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Going up one-tenth of a degree in alcohol to 16.2 percent, the Mazzocco Pony Reserve Zinfandel 2005, Dry Creek Valley, bursts with notes of blackberry and boysenberry tart, lavender and licorice with a touch of sandalwood. Everything is big about this wine, its mass and volume, its quality of burgeoning spice, its substantial presence in the mouth. A core of minerals etched with earth, smoke and ash dominates the mid-palate of this very dry, fairly austere zinfandel which, for whatever reason involving its ultimate balance, feels more alcoholic then the others reviewed here. Production was 70 cases. Drink now through 2011 or ’12. Very Good+ About $50.
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The Mazzocco West Dry Creek Reserve Zinfandel 2005, Dry Creek Valley, displays remarkable equilibrium despite its rocket-propelled 16.5 percent alcohol. Oh, it’s a huge wine, all right, brawny and broad-shouldered, but also absolutely seductive with scents and flavors of ripe, spiced and macerated black cherries, blackberries and plums that feel sun-baked and summery. These qualities are deepened with notes of mocha, pepper and blueberry (but not boysenberry) and an earthy-mineral element that grows more rigorous as the moments pass. The dry, austere finish brings in briers and brambles, smoke and ash, and a final fillip of dried spice. The wine contains six percent petite sirah. 75 cases were made. Drink now through 2011 to ’13. Excellent. About $40.
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Super-ripe, super-juicy, super-big, the Mazzocco Maple Reserve Zinfandel 2005, Dry Creek Valley, comes on with 16.8 percent alcohol, yet feels smooth, integrated and balanced, though I suppose we ought to say “balanced in its own way”; this is not a model of elegance and finesse, but that’s not what we’re looking for here. If you ask, “So, F.K., what are we looking for?” I would answer: We’re looking for dynamism, intensity and concentration and a generous and essential expression of a grape variety — there is 3 percent petite sirah — that implies something about the idea of the wine as well. Fruit is supremely black, roasted and fleshy (there’s a hint of espresso), permeated by dried spice and potpourri with touches of violets and lavender; the texture would be plush and velvety except that masses of polished oak and tannins, layers of minerals and a keen acid edge keep it honest and slightly at arm’s-length. The power and size of this wine are undeniable, yet also unassailable is its pleasure quotient and sheer drinkability. Product was 75 cases. Drink now through 2011 or ’12. Excellent. About $60
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On the other hand, “elegance” is a by-word for the Mazzocco Matrix Zinfandel 2005, Dry Creek Valley, a 100 percent varietal wine that edges up to 16.1 percent alcohol. In its solid structure and its balance and harmony, the Matrix Zinfandel 2005 does no denigration to the term “Bordeaux-like.” Black currants and black plums with a flush of blueberry (but not blueberry tart) are slightly roasted and stewed — I mean, this is Dry Creek Valley zinfandel — yet that fleshy (and delicious) character is subdued to aspects of wheatmeal and walnut shell, briers and brambles in a structure and finish that feel close to dignified. 200 cases. Drink now through 2011 or ’12. Excellent. About $45.

About once a week I get an email with a link to a new “wine social network” designed to be an outlet where people can chat about wine and their wine experiences and share opinions.

Well, it’s not that I’m misanthropic, antisocial or stand-offish (here LL would chime in with “Well, you’re a little stand-offish”), but I don’t have time for it. Sure, I joined Open Wine Consortium “The Misanthrope” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder when it was launched. How many times have I been on the site? Um, maybe once. Twitter wine tastings? The monthly wine book review? All worthy endeavors, I’m sure, but I don’t have time for them.

I mean, how do people carve the temporal and psychic space to chat about wine and exchange opinions, all quite helpful, I warrant, when I can barely find time to taste wine and make notes and keep up with this blog? I mean, I’m trying to do 15 to 18 posts a month, and my job as a full-time journalist at my newspaper and keep up with our five dogs and two cats and the puppies we foster for rescue groups and practice the piano, because I’m taking lessons again for the first time since I was in college (and this is a whole other story) and all the various other jobs, chores, duties and pleasures of what we call life. Yard work. Reading and sleeping. Keeping up with some favorite blogs. Which, I’m sure, everybody else does too. I wouldn’t deny it.

But I sit at a computer at work five days a week and then I sit at a computer at home doing research and writing this blog, and I’ll tell you the truth, if the choice is between eating a dinner that LL or I cooked (or we cooked together) and drinking a really good (or great) bottle of wine or maybe trying a couple of wines, and the candles are lit and music is filtering through the air and the dogs lie about us on the floor in various attitudes of slumber, I say, if the choice is between that or sitting at the keyboard in the lurid light of the computer screen social networkiing about a bottle of wine with someone I don’t know — well, do I even have to say what my choice would be?

So, I’m not trying to be a jerk or a snob. Go ahead and social network about wine all you want. If that’s a valuable use of time for you, have at it.

But count me out. I have too much work to do.

Casting about for a bottle to open with Saturday night’s pizza, I came across the Windsor Sonoma Zinfandel 2006 from Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley and thought, “O.K., why not?”

The pizza was pretty simple: a layer of fresh basil leaves, shredded; thinly sliced rings of bell pepper and then also very thin windsor.jpg slices of tomato, so thin that it was all right to let them over-lap; a scattering of chopped green onion; a sprinkling of smoked bacon diced; fresh mozzarella cheese, some feta and a final grating of Parmesan. I cooked the pizza in a 475-degree oven for 10 minutes and then slid it out on the paddle and took it outside where a bank of glowing hardwood charcoal was waiting in the grill. Two minutes on the grate with the lid closed gives the pizza a wonderful charred bottom and an intriguing smoky aspect. Yum!

At about 14.9 percent alcohol, the Windsor Somona Zinfandel 2006 is not outrageously heady. In fact, let’s begin with what the wine is not; it’s not super-rich, super-ripe, flamboyant or opulent; it doesn’t smell and taste like boysenberry tart; it doesn’t feel heavy or sweet with alcohol. In other words, this is a lovely expression of zinfandel (with 11 percent carignan) that feels old-fashioned in its poise and balance from beginning to end. The wine is quite dry but warm and spicy and inviting; fruit is mulberry, dried blueberries and dried cherries infused with dried baking spices and potpourri. There are hints of smoke and oolong tea, a touch of violet. Tannins are polished and well-rounded; 18 months in French and American oak (40 percent new) gives this wine a firm and supple structure. The finish is lingering and fairly austere as tannins congregate at the end. Drink this classic zinfandel from now through 2012 or ’13 with hearty fare: big pizzas and pasta ragus; grilled red meat; barbecue brisket and chili. Excellent. About $24.

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