Field Recordings Koligian Vineyard "Chorus Effect" 2008

This is American wine.

Fabulously complex, this wine shows the very best America has to offer while still maintaining a respectful echo of Old World tradition. The nose is cedary (without smelling like a wardrobe), spicy within tasteful bounds, and displays a finely layered, overlapping, intricate mesh of little red fruits. It’s reminiscent of balsamic vinegar in which strawberries have steeped, or perhaps of dried plums and brandy. More intriguingly, there’s a faint hint of cold, wet granite and faded violets: the initial sweetness of the nose is quickly replaced by something more serious, more complex, more interesting.

Texturally, the wine is a marvel, rich and full in the mouth without being sappy or fat. The firm tannins resolve quickly and firmly into a sharp, precise stop; then, the finish then creeps forward ever so slowly with hints of molasses and dried cherries, smoke and fading embers. In the distance, you can feel the cold northern lights fading, wisps of wintergreen and peat in the air.

No two mouthfuls taste exactly the same: it’s much like listening to a La Monte Young drone piece. Imagine a six channel audio setup in which every speaker is playing something different at the same volume; if you can will yourself to cede concentration and lose yourself to the moment, you’ll experience overlapping washes of physical experience. Pretty cool, come to think of it: if some wines bowl you over with sheer power and others with delicate beauty, the joy to be found here seems to exist in the tension between its multiple, unresolved elements. Difficult as hell to pull off, this is an excellent example of the genre.

The best New World wines are like this one: wonderfully ripe, exuberant, and bold – and yet restrained enough to give you time and space to appreciate the subtleties of place. There is absolutely no possible way this could have come from Bordeaux; that is a strength, not a fault. Just as Ridge Geyserville or Hedges Red Mountain are distinct, unique wines that don’t feel like they could have come from anywhere else, this wine only leaves me with one question: Why hasn’t anyone made this before? It just feels right, somehow.

Field Recordings.
Price: $27
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Ridge Dusi Ranch Zinfandel 2006

I’m an unabashed fan of Ridge wines, rarely having experienced a disappointing example. Ridge introduced me to the joys of Zinfandel with its Geyserville label, and continues to provide beautiful Californian wine experiences each time I am lucky enough to taste its wines. Sometimes, one connects with a particular producer’s approach beyond all reason; if I overpraise Ridge wines, understand this is as much an emotional response to context and company as to the wines themselves. 

Be that as it may, I defy anyone not to respond positively to the exuberance of this wine’s aroma. It’s powerfully fruity in a way utterly unfamiliar to me, raised as I have been on Australian red wines. There’s rich fruit cake, spice, and an overwhelming sense of completeness that makes this an envelopingly sensual experience. Forget angularity and enjoy the luxe of this wine’s blanket of aromas. 
The palate is surprisingly elegant considering the range of flavours and 15.8% abv. Yes, I consider this wine an elegant, balanced wine, despite its scale and technical measurements, which makes its achievement simply more remarkable. Masses of flavour immediately on entry, slinking to a middle palate awash with fruit cake flavours. Clearly, this isn’t a chiselled wine style, but nor is it formless. In fact, there’s plenty of structure, and my only criticism is that these elements don’t cohere as well as they might. The acidity in particular stands out a bit from the rest of the wine. This isn’t nearly enough to derail my enjoyment, however, so I prefer to focus on the immense generosity here, as well as the unexpected freshness of the flavour profile. Alcohol becomes most evident on the finish, which is noticeable hot.
An astonishing wine in many ways. Wines like this will never be considered great, but in their own way they exemplify the purity of a certain regional style. 

Price: $NA
Closure: Cork
Source: Gift

Justin Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Lovely inky black in the glass, this wine promises to be a good one, if only by the winery’s reputation and the fact that nearly half of their entire production is this wine. Pouring it into the glass, I was a little bit surprised that it seemed a bit watery, but the label tells me that this is only 13.5% abv, which seems odd given the place it came from – I’ve had a lot of Paso Robles zinfandel that contains a guaranteed hangover in every bottle – but then again the Agent for Change cab I had from Paso was also held to these relatively low alcohol levels.Anyhow! There’s a very fresh, simple smell to this wine, tinged with an edge of coconut-fruity-banana that seems to promise a good time. (I ordered this through the mail, but I almost imagine this being packaged in a plain brown wrapper at a liquor store – there’s just something risqué about it.) The oak on the nose seems a bit raw; it’s more reminiscent of bourbon than Bordeaux.Somewhat voluptuously overwrought at first, my initial impression is of a blowsy, gone-to-seed wine – it’s all very louche in a Plato’s Retreat kind of way. Yes, there’s enough acidity here to stop the wine from being completely flabby, but it strikes me as a little bit harsh and not particularly well integrated. Flavors, such as they are, seem to be stuck in a high-pitched giggle more appropriately found in strawberry fruit leather; that being said, the wine does display some complexity after aeration, but it’s all a lot like listening to the Bee Gees: yes, the singing is good, but it’s all disconcertingly way high up there. I’d ordinarily prefer some bass to counterbalance all the treble, but I’m not getting it much here. Tannins are present, but they seem clunky and somehow flown in from another wine entirely; there’s almost a hard Loire edge to them, but only just.All in all, drinking this wine is rather like Cubist art: all very well and good if you’re in the mood for it, but sometimes you just want to look at something pretty. This is not a bad wine; there is quality here, but I’ll be damned if I can puzzle it all back together right now. Ultimately, this is probably best drunk with steak: it’s got a sort of sweetness that is initially pleasing, but on its own it just doesn’t work.Justin
Price: $25
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

Agent for Change Zinfandel 2006

Lovely, sweet, fruit-cake rich, with warm cocoa notes and candied fruit peel on the nose, this smells very much like a good, standard quality Paso zin; somehow, however, the alcohol has gone missing alone the way, resulting in a hole in the nose where the painful alcohol hit should’ve been, replaced instead by a label declaring this is only 13.5% abv, making me wonder if someone’s hiding a spinning cone around here or what…Still, what a love nose. Very soft and plush, it reminds me of  cru Beaujolais mixed with Angostura bitters, with slight hard earthy edges pushed up against the sweet red fruits. The palate doesn’t disappoint either, with simple, cheery red fruits ‘n berries served up on a nicely toasty background. Still, though, it seems to lack some of the weight I’d normally associate with zinfandel – or, rather, with higher alcohol levels. It all finishes relatively simply, and it seems like there’s something missing there too – either acidity or alcohol – but still: it’s a minor complaint. On the whole, this is good stuff – especially if you’re not a fan of one-glass-and-you’re-blotto California monster zinfandel. Most of what makes them good is still here, but you could actually consider finishing the bottle with your partner on a school night without worrying about the morning after.Bonus marketing spin: a portion of the sales price of every bottle goes to non-profit organizations of some kind. I’m cynical enough not to particularly care about that – I mean, if I honestly cared, I’d just write a check to the Avon Foundation and go buy a cheap bottle of wine – but honestly, why not? You’re probably not going to find a better Zin for this money, so you might as well go for it.Full disclosure: I received this wine as a press sample.Agent for Change
Price: $14
Closure: Cork
Source: Sample

Ridge Dusi Ranch Zinfandel 2002

Honestly, I didn’t mean to keep this bottle for so long – it’s just that Ridge’s wine club sends nearly two cases of wine a year, and I just can’t keep up. This is a members only bottling from a while back that someone got lost in the back of the wine chiller; upon pouring it’s clear that some of the normally dense color has gone missing over the last six years or so.

I’m not making this up – this wine smells almost exactly like gingerbread. At first, a softness of raspberries and then boom, gingerbread just like your Bubbie used to make. It mutates into blueberry at some point, but the spice and ginger hang in there.I’ve had more than my fair share of Zinfandel, and this one really does stand out.

At first threatening to be elegant and medium bodied, the wine quickly fans out in the mouth to a more varietally appropriate stance; it’s fairly rich, somewhat jagged (the acids and the tannins are all jostling for place here), and offers a surprising range of flavors, ranging from something like candied damson to Rainier cherry to Christmas pudding to sage honey and cedar wood. The only fault I can find (if indeed it is one) is a slight tendency for the acidity to surge up on the finish – but of course if you’re raising a wine (as opposed to making a wine) this is entirely to be expected.

Even at its advanced age, I don’t detect any aged notes; the wine is fresh and lovely and quite a pleasure to drink at this stage. Just add meatloaf and roasted veg and you’re good to go.

Price: $30
Closure: Cork