By: Linda Kissam, CityRoom Contributor
Literally meaning “gold country” the name Terra d’Oro pays homage to the Italian immigrants who helped build California and its wine industry partner, Amador County. To be honest, it was the bottle that had me at first sight. Four of the six wines we tasted came in the most lovely vine covered bottles. Classy, a bit of reserved bling, affordable, and oh so ready to be presented as the perfect hostess or holiday gift. It’s a good thing the wines were as good as the bottle design.
So what would the council of six women – 4 writers and 2 savvy consumers – have to say about an all red tasting, specifically five Zins and a Barbera, and how would they rank them? We’re use to mixing it up with reds, whites and bubbly’s. There was a bit of eye rolling and muttering under the breath from our staunch oaky Chardonnay lover and less intense tasting wine gurus, but in the end… I think the Terra d’Oro lineup turned everyone to the dark, intense side of wine tasting. Welcome to Zin Land.
Try these wines with complementary dishes as we did, or pick up a box of Cookies & Corks for red wine ($9 @ Bev Mo). Nicknamed Cookie Zen, they make a quick and easy way to provide delicious appropriate munchies for any red wine tasting. Enjoy shortbread, white cheddar rosemary, and espresso chocolate peanut butter flavours.
The tasting began with a 2008 Barbera ($18). I enjoyed the bright blackberry, blueberry and black cherry fruit, hint of spice, snappy acidity and this wine’s open door policy of getting along with most everything on our table: Rosemary shortbread cookie, chicken sausage, beef with asparagus, ribs, flaming cupcakes and pumpkin truffle cake. Very versatile it could also go with lighter styles of salmon, assorted steaks, any sort of pasta or pizza. It ranked second.
We moved on to the 2007 SHR Field Blend Zin ($15). This is not a sipping wine. It needs food to make it approachable and memorable. Nice deep colour in the glass. The first swirl and smell can be a bit overwhelming barnyard, but keep swirling – it gets much much better. Aromas are packed with the blackberry and raspberry fruit and some clove spiciness I expect out of an Amador Zin. My guess is it could benefit from an additional three years of ageing. Don’t see a lot of field blends in the tasting room or in the marketplace as they can produce an unexpected taste profile. Still, give this one a try with a big pepper crusted prime rib, dark rich spicy cupcakes, and kick-butt ribs. It ranked last.
Our third tasting was a 2007 Home Vineyard Zin (($15). This was a big rich wine that stood up to the big rich foods. Loved it with Judee Smith’s ribs, the spicy sausage and intense cheddar cheese brought in by Sue Richter, and the flaming cupcakes by Corie Maue. Carmen Micheli’s pumpkin spiced truffle cake also did a great job mixing it up with this big boy; however Debbie Wien’s asparagus and beef wraps were no match to the hearty monster wine. I think you’ll enjoy the aromas and flavours of cranberry, raspberry, spicy cinnamon, Mexican chocolate and candied orange peel. The group ranked it third.
Next up was the Deaver Vineyard Zinfandel ($15). Planted in 1881 this is the grandfather of all Zins. Expect that traditional Amador blend of allspice, cardamom and clove to shout loudly – but in harmony. I liked the ripe plum flavours and recommend that you try it with all kinds of hearty cheese. In fact, Debbie Wiens crowned this beauty as the Cheese King. I also think a Mexican spiced flank steak and salsa would be delicious. This wine ranked fourth.
Number five was the 2007 Forte Super Tuscan ($14). Winner! I think this one had the best nose of the bunch. A yummy blend of premium Sangiovese and Cab, you can expect nutmeg, cherries and current aromas with soft tannins making this a perfect “muscle” fit with our spicier food selections. Spice crusted steak, big BBQ ribs, and spicy sausage are good matches. Ranked first. Buy it and try it!
Last up was the Montevina Zinfandel Port ($15). I thought it was quite restrained for a Zin Port. I enjoyed the lush but refined cocoa, coffee and caramel notes. Several members thought it evoked a raisin flavour, but I didn’t get that so much as a smooth sipping after dinner treat that would go well with apricot Stilton cheese, toasted walnuts, bittersweet chocolate, rosemary White Cheddar Rosemary cookies, and yummy decadent dark chocolate Piroulines. The group gave it a ranking of five. My ranking for this fortified wine was much higher.
Take note that our consumer member Carmen Micheli said she would definitely purchase the Forte Super Tuscan and the Deaver Zin. Judee Smith was headed to the store to share the Home Vineyard and Barbera with her family.
All wine prices are approximate. Wines can be purchased in the SoCal area at Beverages and More and Stater Brothers.
NOW WATCH: Executive Life videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.