Two treats to kick off 2012 – Zinfandel with a top pedigree and a rare merlot with none

8 Jan

No travels for The Wine Wanderers for a record two months, but we have drunk a couple of stupendous wines in situ.  One is made of our favourite grape -the Zinfandel which is uniquely Californian, in spite of originating in Croatia.    Zinfandel is also closely related to the Italian primitivo which never seems to remotely emulate it in richness or consistency.   For more than 30 years, dating back to our years of living in California, Zinfandel has been our red wine of choice for a celebration dinner, much as we appreciate a good Rhone, Bordeaux, Barolo or super-Tuscan – however fine, none of them are as essentially joyous as a great Zin.

Last night’s treat was the highly rated Ridge Geyserville 2008, from a grower who has specialised in Zinfandel for nearly 50 years, starting with old 19th-century vines.   We found it at The Secret Cellar near our home in East Sussex – one of the most inspired wine-sellers in the country.   Credit to them for listing Zinfandel at all, given their self-confessed disllike of the grape(they find it too high in alcohol and too redolent of blueberries ), and for also listing more affordable bottles of Zin from other growers.  You’ll pay more than £30 for a bottle of Ridge, but can find very drinkable bottles for less than £10 at Secret Cellar,  and occasionally for half that price in a supermarket half-price offer.    Don’t touch ghastly white Zinfandel, however – it’s not remotely the same animal, and gives the whole varietal a bad name.

Another treat, strictly for diners at London’s  HIgh Timber restaurant, a great favourite of city gents, is Nachmani Merlot 2008 Reserve.  This is the defining grape of Pomerol and St. Emilion, and although Nachmani is grown in Israel’s Galilee Hills, it’s made in that spirit of rich, opulent Bordeaux absolutely perfect as an accompaniment for beef.  In this case, High Timber’s fine cut of Cumbrian rib eye, served rare with a Bordelaise sauce incorporating marrowbone and great chips on the side, was a perfect accompaniment to the wine.   But before you rush out to buy some, be aware there may be none left – Nachmani is a hobby wine made by a family content to produce only 1200 bottles a year.   The £50 per bottle ex-winery price does include the shipping on a case of six,  but at High Timber, even if you have to pay nearly double, you do get a view of the Thames and Tate Modern thrown in

The Nachmani is not the only home-made wine in Israel which drinks stupendously – we drank a fine Bordeaux-style blend made by dairy farmers at Goats With The Wind, high in the Galilee, which was the highlight of a magical trip around Israel’s gastronomic north for the next issue of Food And Travel Magazine.   The issue will be out in late January, and we’ll add a link to the online version when it becomes available.

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2 Responses to “Two treats to kick off 2012 – Zinfandel with a top pedigree and a rare merlot with none”

  1. Jessie January 15, 2012 at 5:22 pm #

    I like how you brought up the white zinfandel thing. Whenever people order it I think of 16 year olds trying a drink for the first time 🙂 . I’d be interested in trying the Ridge Zinfandel!

    • thewinewanderers April 22, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

      Did you get to try any Ridge yet? It’s really special, but a Zin also worth looking out for is Frog’s Leap – top of the tree – and the more
      affordable Ravenswood.

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