What happens when Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde don’t get along? Well, a bit of WWW (world war wine) leaves plenty of bottle casualties behind on the dinner table, as the dump buckets fill to the brim w/ inky purple blood spewed from the wounded. Dr. Jekyll, the ambitious vigneron that he is, has an obvious penchant for hang-time induced sugar surges, beefing up Mr. Hyde’s profile to stratospheric proportions. Considering Mr. Hyde, our beloved Zinfandel, is already of the wild and wooly sort, toying w/ him in such haphazard fashion is bound to yield some erratic results. Erratic indeed….
During our last Zin-fest I became deliriously enthralled w/ the rambunctious complexities of the grape, as it put on a display, bottle after bottle, which showcased how compelling the grape can perform when its untamed natures are channeled into a supreme focus. In spite of my excitement, the notion that these wines were ‘playing with fire’ (almost literally, if one lit a match amongst these alcoholic gas bombs I can only image the carnage that would follow) and it would be a matter of time until we all got burned. Last night was tantamount to a sequel of the movie Backdraft, complete w/ a set of 2nd degree scabs as party favors for the road.
I scored a handful of amorphous blobs in the 70s and low 80s (Crauford NPA Kilt Lifter ’04, Hartford Highwire Vineyard ’04, Turley Hayne ’97, Martinelli Jackass ’97) as they were not only disappointing to taste, but tiresome in their malignancy. Stickly sweet and mildly interesting attacks would devolve into attenuated, angular flames that finished without verve, spirit or a pulse. The ’97 Hayne was particularly disappointing considering the press and clout of the producer, vineyard and vintage. The aromatics suggested that the wine was still in a youthful, energetic shell, but it quickly fell apart and degraded in the mouth, finishing with a skeletal, meager stamp. The Martinelli, equally dissatisfying, was all show and no action, as a quick disappearing act in the palate nullified its dazzling entry. Schrader’s Vieux-OS Ira Carter Vineyard ’03 transposed things a bit, showing structure and depth in the mouth, but the nose presented an awful array of dried fruits left on the burner too long, the proverbial death Nell for us ‘cooked-zin-aphobes.’
A relative success came in the form of Mark Squires ‘mystery meat theater,’ a Dalton ’05 Zinfandel from Israel, which only was looked at w/ a relatively positive eye due its competition (or lack there of). A dusty, cigar tobacco and white pepper kissed nose paved the way for bright, figgy fruit, enshrouded with enough earthy elements to keep things interesting. The biggest apprehension Mark had w/ this wine, other than its banality, was that of its maturity, seeming to evolve at a Steve Prefontaine pace over the past 6 months.
The silver linings to the overblown cloud cover came in a couple varied forms. A Rosenblum Richard Sauret Vineyard 2002 that actually got a bit better w/ air-time, showing more lift and precision to carry along its ganache-coated fruits in a bit more honest fashion. The Elyse Korte Ranch 2002 showed a bit more allure w/ its heady perfumes of date bread and Turkish coffee, following things up wondrously w/ a sense of finesse and poise that belied its alcoholic constitution. The youthful ’04 Turley Presenti Vineyard had an honest craftsmanship in its rose petal, sweet cherry preserve flavors as the thickness of the wine was much more framed than that of its wandering peers.
The star of the evening, relative as it may be, was a ’96 Turley Tofanelli Vineyard, as it managed to maintain its intensity of fruit while gaining a bit of additional nuance and depth in the bottle. Doing what ‘it’s supposed to’ is hardly praiseworthy, but meeting our expectations was rare yesterday, as the virtues of such a vulture can certainly sting, as well as sing, on any given evening.
In spite of the sting, the alcoholic bliss tickled us all by evening's end...here's to the hopes that she didn't bite back too harshly at y'all this morning!
'Sometimes you eat the bar, and sometimes, well, he eats you,' -Big Lebowski