For many months since COVID-19 shelter-in-place rules and guidelines have prevented us wine industry folk from gathering live and in-person, we’ve been mixing it up by tasting samples simultaneously and meeting virtually via Zoom. In the case of the event that stars as the topic of today’s entry, however, we were literally mixing it up – as in, mixing up cocktails.
Ostensibly, this particular gathering – organized by top-notch wine PR firm Wine Spoken Here – was to taste through a handful of interesting wines from some of their clients (more on that, of course, below). But with a gathering of like-minded friends/colleagues such as we had on that Zoom call, it was equal parts professional tasting, and equal parts opportunity to be our slightly-irreverent selves. And maybe get a little inebriated (it’s an occupational hazard in this line of business).
Guiding us through these selecitons was the talented and knowledgable Katy Long, a Certified Specialist of Wine and Brand Advocate for Vintage Wine Estates (who provided the libations). So we were technically working, and did happen to learn quite a bit thanks to Long's increidble knowedge of both winemaking and craft spirit cocktail mixing. Having said that, with suck tasty wares on hand, it was impossible to spit (as one would normally do dduring a professional in-person tasting) some of these concoctions. Especially after we used both the boisterously fragrant No. 209 Gin (California) and the eminently smooth Straight Edge Bourbon Whiskey (California) to fix-up some tasty Paper Plane cocktails (hey, nobody ever said that my job wasn’t awesome… by the way, both of those craft spirits are highly recommended).
Anyway… here’s my take on the professional part of said virtual gathering, which put the spotlight on three interesting California wines…
2018 Girard Mixed Blacks Red (Napa Valley)
A single-vineyard release, from vines planted 100+ years ago, and then later replanted with the same varieties as the original, in order to recreate its unique makeup after it had fell into neglect. This now-popular red is a true field blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Grenache, & Mourvedre, in which the Zin and Petite Sirah in particular stand out in the tangy red fruit flavors, jammy, plummy mouthfeel, and ample spice notes. This is big, a tad burly, but also supple and not at all tiring to imbibe. Vanilla, tobacco, leather, and anise round it all out. A guilty pleasure for when the hedonist bug bites.
2019 Girard Mixed Whites (North Coast)
This sister to the Mixed Blacks is a Rhone-style “field blend” only in spirit (several vineyards are actually used for the source material), but includes a Spanish flair with a smattering of Albarino included to brighten things up on the palate. The Viognier portion is dominant: this is heady/perfumed, and tropical, with hints of minerality, more than a hint of honey blossom , and a viscosity that goes down dangerously easy. A touch of residual sugar is kept in check by the buoyant acidity. This has appeal, for sure. At four or so vintages in, this blend used to be heavier on aromatic varieties, and is now moving more towards being mineral and broad, and is all the better for it.
2017 Kunde Family Estate Century Vines Reserve Zinfandel (Sonoma Valley)
From dry farmed, head trained 1882 plantings comes this deep, dark, muscular Zin. Concentrated black raspberry fruit, cedar, leather, baking spices, cherry liqueur, vanilla… this one makes no bones about being old vine Zin all the way. It’s chewy, with toast and tobacco really coming on strong in a long finish, with delightful tinges of nutmeg spice. A bit of history that still has muscle, power, and force.