Ravens Wood 2010 Zinfandel

Ears congested, noses clogged and sinuses whistling with changing pressures: this was our our last week. The mighty cold has ripped through this little apartment, leaving in its wake an odor or vegetable soup, a pile of shoulder high used tissues and eyes rife with red irritation. As a result we held off the usual wine night for a few more days than we would have liked to. Our wine, cheese, and Star Trek night is a gracious God, and thus allows us to worship whenever, not just on Sundays; so long as we do it weekly we’re cool. If we do not take on this weekly ritual there is a distinct lilt in our walks, a sour tenor in our voices, a deep urge and raucous beckoning in our heads pleading us to knead dough, by cheese, slap a wine in the fridge for or half and hour and fire up the DVD player. A close friend of mine called this an obvious sign of alcohol dependance. I countered with our wine-god theory. He wasn’t convinced.

 

What may have come and past is often remembered as better than the present. Perhaps it’s the mind glorifying what once was instead of treasuring, understanding, the present. Benedict de Spinoza mused about this in his philosophical writings, I paraphrase: our memories are our imaginations, a contorted recollection, and thus remembered as an interpretation, making the memory not at all how it once truly was. Good as all that may be, it doesn’t negate the fact that you easily recognize a past vintage of a wine being better, whether by means of your scribbled drunken notes or plain (but possibly adulterated) memory, was much better than a current vintage year. Many of us have been here before. Perpetuity…it’s perpetual. This is the case for the Ravens Wood 2010 Zinfandel. It has some very likeable tinges to it, but when you stack it up to your memory of their last released vintage, it doesn’t quite live up to its prestige.

Ravens Wood 2010 Old Vine Zinfandel – $17

– A rich and vibrant violet, crimson on the edges.

– A nondescript nose, but there is a faint whiff of oak and some sort of redolence of wet earth once exposed to oxygen for a good deal of time.

– The first sip is a thin, hardly noticeable gulp. Once exposed and and warmed you get a sense of what the wine is all about: a silky, low tannin, fruit-forward murmur. There’s nothing exactly specific to what isn’t working here, but there is a distinct lack of vivacity in the mid-range followed by an anti-climatic linger. The usual suspects of plum, oak and must are present.

Overall: Skip it. There’s not too much going on to warrant such a price that they ask for. For, even at a few dollars less, there are many other wines in the price range that runs laps around this easy-going, “yeah, I’m a wine” attitude of a zinfandel–a supposed old vine, at that.

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Kiler Grove 2007 “Zinergy”

Kiler Grove, the little Salt Lake City winery that could. Michael and Elva Knight began their winery in the year 2000 in California. They focus on making Rhone style wines from grapes they grown near Paso Robles, California. They moved their business HQ to Salt Lake in late 2010 and opened up soon after that. Here in Salt Lake they ferment and bottle the wine on site, all of which has been very impressive to us. It could have easily been the other way around. But “Utah’s first urban winery” makes deliciously dark, highly structured, and easily quaffable wines that tell a tale of finesse and extravagance at less than half the price of an equivalent (quality) bottle from the Rhone valley.

 

The 2007 “Zinergy” is 75% Zinfandel, 20% Petite Sirah, and 5% Grenache. We found that the zinfandel gave this wine a mellow glow, the petite sirah lent the infallible spice and and tannic tenacity, while the grenache gave that little extra something, not unlike the overall sensation of umami, to the entire blend. During a talk I had with Michael Knight at the winery, he briefly discussed the grenache percentage. He experimented with the mix greatly, finding that any more than 5% lent a distinct lack of palatability to the wine (like a rusticity, I gathered) while striping the grenache away entirely left the wine feeling cold and lacking a rounded finish.

 

Grenache (or, Tinto Aragonés, having originally come from Aragon, Spain) is the most widely planted wine grape in the world. It has a reputation for being a sweet and mild grape au lieu of being acidic or tannic. Many wines in the Rhone region use a grenache as their prominent grape, often leading to 80% and above mixes while enlisting smaller reinforcements such as syrah, carignan, cinesaut and cabernet to calm the otherwise sweet and mildly colored grape. Another fact about grenache is that it often ripens late, leading to what could be the mysterious appeal, the haunting linger of this unique grape.

 

Kiler Grove 2007 “Zinergy” – $19

– Burgundy color, looking very promising with just the right amount of translucence as it nears the brim.

– There’s a powerful alcohol fume when your nose first comes close to the brim. Once you let that exhaust and envelope you, it will acclimate and you should be able to notice its more elegant nuances such as blackberry and earth. There’s a whiff of earl grey tea in there, too.

– There’s an effervescence that lightly teases your senses before any flavor can come through, and once you do you can’t help but be delighted by this bold wine. The tannins are large and in charge without being a burden. The sweet is constrained, leaving an easy gulping, and it will evolve while warming, and you could easily drink it all night long. There’s a certain weight to the wine that makes you feel as if sipping the viscous liquidity of a lava lamp.

Overall: Worthy. This wine is easily among our favorite. We wish there was more in our stubby wine rack. If you are a local from Utah, go to Kiler Grove and see if they have any more remaining and buy some. The recently tasted 2009 vintage was also quite promising, but a whole other specimen entirely.

Valle Perdido 2008 Malbec

Argentinian malbec, when has it ever done us wrong? Never. We’ve yet to encounter the mal bottle. Malbecs are considered to be spicy, inky, robust, full and exhibit haunting redolence of lavender, fall leaves, and juniper trees. The taste, while normally consistent throughout Argentina, can vary from filling, coating and strutting a dark berry linger, to lighter, silkier iterations that still pronounce that impossible fringe of blackberry and a veneer of what can only be described as barking mad sugars suppressed tightly between a clump of dirt and tobacco leaves.

The back of the bottle talks of the winery’s estate being wedded with the Valle Perdido (The lost valley) of a once great city where lost souls could congregate and be inspired. The Valle Perdido is still a cherished region, the vintners convey this message through their Perdido malbec. And there must be something special about the conditions of the soil (clay based and porous) and the adept growing and fermenting tactics that the developers employ. They’ve got it right, both the quality of the wine and its stunning price. It’s unclear whether or not this wine is 100% malbec, or a mixture of other modestly grown grapes in the region near the Neuquén River – I would suspect it’s not all malbec; there is this uncharacteristic easiness to the wine as a whole. Ultimately, a good decision whatever method they employed.

Valle Perdido 2008 Malbec – $17

– A solid color base. Some red, with a promising brown tint and a strong color diffusion stretching to the edges.

– There’s a smoky and high octane give at the first inhale. What follows is a earthy, vanilla power play that has a fisticuffs over your attention.

– A full and very bright wine. There’s not a lot of sweetness present, it’s simply spot on. There’s a great sense of true balance and harmony with this wine. The balance may not reach for grandeur, or to be the créme de la créme of finesse, but it knows that it is a elegant, filling and inky malbec with illicit intent of showing you a good night. Yet, there may have been a tad too much oak. But you have to forgive it, for it’s not off by much.

Overall: Worthy. Pick it up and drink it quickly, now’s the time for drinking this ’08. It will balance a robust and filling meal of pasta and tart tomato sauce, or a vinegar drenched salad, or cheese prominent aperitifs.

Quote Of The Week:

“A bad wine? No… that’s a concept only for the world outside of me and my fifth glass.”