Tue 25 Aug 2009
Smoking Loon is among the most familiar of inexpensive wine labels in the U.S.A. Produced by Three Loose Screws division of Don Sebastiani & Sons — no connection to Sebastiani Vineyards, but that’s a different story — Smoking Loon offers 10 varietal wines with a California designation at a bargain level $10, often discounted to $8.
Now Smoking Loon has a more serious cousin in the form of Flock, a just debuted label. Each of the five wines in the roster carries a different appellation — Napa Valley, Mendocino, Paso Robles and so on — and at half-again the price as Smoking Loon, they’re at least twice as good.
My current favorite of these wines is the Flock Old Vines Zinfandel 2007, Dry Creek Valley. DCV is well-known for its venerable zinfandel vineyards, many planted around the turn of the 20th Century by Italian immigrants, but nothing on this label informs us about how old these “old vines” are. (I think that there ought to be regulations defining what “old vines” are; that would be helpful to consumers and would promote confidence in wineries.)
Anyway, the Flock O.V. Zinfandel ’07 is lively and spicy out of the starting gate; spiced and macerated black currant, blueberry and plum flavors are permeated by briers and brambles, a hint of freshly ground black pepper and a penetrating yet almost creamy mineral quality. The texture is plush and cushiony but given an edge by vibrant acidity and dusty, chewy tannins with a slight charcoal edge. The finish picks up more earth and minerality, leading to some dry austerity from mid-palate back, though that aspect balances the wine’s lushness. We had this with duck “two ways” — roasted and confit — at Sole restaurant in Memphis, a fruitful match, and then tried another bottle at home. Other good pairings would be steak, pork chops, chili and such. Lots of personality for the price. Very Good+. About $15.