We'll be drinking a wide variety of things, but, as in past years, Zinfandel (that is, hearty red zin, not sweetish white zin) will be prominent on the table. Why? Because Zinfandel has traditionally been thought of as a uniquely "American" grape. Genetic testing now indicates that it's actually a clone of a little-known Croatian varietal called Crljenak Kastelanski, but it still exemplifies a truly American story -- the lowly immigrant who changes her name and rises to greatness in her adopted homeland.
I recently attended a tasting hosted by the local ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) chapter at the Wine C.A.R.T. in West Chester, and I tried a couple of delicious zins that deserve a place at your holiday table this year.
(See my interview with Chris Waugh, owner of C.A.R.T., on the opposite page.)
The 2004 Spann Vineyards "Mo Zin" ($19) is a blend that includes a sizeable percentage of a Rhone grape, Mourvedre and a lesser amount of Petite Sirah (another interesting immigrant story). It's big and burly and could stand a little time in a decanter to soften up, but it has more than enough flavor (think raspberries and blackberries and a touch of earthy, roasted character) to stand up to anything you throw at it, from sage-roasted turkey to candied yams to sausage stuffing.
Alternatively, the 2005 JRE Wines "Cavedale Vineyards" Zinfandel ($40) made by Sonoma's John Eppler is wonderfully elegant with a terrific streak of acidity, wonderful high-toned red fruit (think raspberries and cherries) and hints of mint and oak spice. A meager 56 cases of this wine were produced, but it's a sophisticated and hedonistic treasure to share with guests.
As I've mentioned before, surprisingly few people plan ahead for their holiday drinking, even though it's the one thing you can check off your "to do" list far ahead of time. (You can't do that with the turkey, veggies or home-baked desserts, anyway.)
So reduce your holiday stress level and get out to your local wine shop early this year. And pick up a few bottles of champagne while you're there -- after all, New Year's Eve is just around the corner!
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