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"Bargain Barbecue Reds"

July 8, 2002 • Koobation Estate

Mixing up the varietals in a blind tasting is one sure way to guarantee some variety and to put our palates through their paces. Jon hosted us at his house and prepared a great mixed grill to match our mixed wines. Wines made from Zinfandel came out on top. Whether that demonstrates the grape's superiority or our group's taste preferences, we're not certain. We prefer simply to enjoy, rather than be forced to make this judgment.

Brand Varietal / "Type"
Appellation, Vineyard

TASTING NOTES: Color; aroma; flavor; body;
balance; finish. Alcohol. Varietal composition
(if known). Summary. ($ paid)

Wines are considered Equal Quality
Within Categories of Recommendation
(Listed Alphabetically by Brand)

consensus terms appear in bold
(possible flaws? are in brackets)
* indicates a second or third party


Marietta "Ole Vines Red" label.Marietta "Old Vines Red"
California, "Lot 28"

Dark maroon, very appealing color; big, deep, rich, jammy, ripe, berry, black cherry fruit aroma with some spearmint, root beer, vanilla and chocolate in the background; very ripe, slightly sweet, ripe, fruity, plum, blackberry, black cherry and cherry cola with spicy, green peppercorn and earthy flavors; buttery smooth, rich, round, medium to full body, firm tannins; excellent balance (too sweet?); pleasant finish, lingers long and well, slightly warm. 13.5% alcohol. Varietal composition varies, but is usually based on Zinfandel with Carignane, Grenache, Gamay and sometimes other red grapes. Winemaker Chris Bilbro never seems to make enough and the style can change slightly from lot to lot; it is nevertheless a perennial Critic's Darling. This wine is just plain yummy and fun to drink. ($11) WEBSITE


Fresno State Primativo label.Fresno State
Duarte-Linden Hills Vineyard

Raspberry red color; light, ripe, fruity, strawberry, red cherry, dried cherry, blackberry, vanilla, pencil shavings and oak aromas; young, fresh, fruity, strawberry, sour cherry and oak flavors; medium body; good balance, mouthwatering acidity, slightly tart; drying, astringent, slightly bitter, short finish. 13.1% alcohol. Quite controversial, with many of the fans remarking of its "Beaujolais-like" style, while detractors found it "vinous and nondescript" and objected to the astringent finish. ($14) WEBSITE

Rancho Zabaco Zinfandel "Heritage Vines" label.Rancho Zabaco
Zinfandel "Heritage Vines"
Sonoma County

Dark color; big, young, fresh, rich, ripe, fruity, berry, black cherry, currant, raspberry, strawberry, cotton candy, weedy, menthol and slightly alcoholic aromas; clean, complex, concentrated, ripe, fruity, blackberry, dark cherry, grapey, spicy, sappy (medicinal?), raisiny flavors, with very little oak; medium to full body, dry and tannic; good balance; finishes somewhat short. 14.3% alcohol. Varietal composition is 76% Zinfandel, 14% Petite Sirah, 8% Syrah. Clean, balanced and generally well-liked wine, with mostly 2nd and 3rd-place votes. ($12) WEBSITE

Wild Horse Zinfandel label.Wild Horse Zinfandel
Paso Robles

Medium-light red color with a garnet edge, slightly cloudy; fruity, sweet, young, fresh plum, cranberry, blackberry, grapey, dried berry and raisin aromas with smoke, Graham cracker, coffee bean, celery, grassy, leafy, and floral undertones; appealing, very fruity, distinctly Zinfandel, almost sweet berry, nectarine flavors; smooth, silky texture, medium body, firm, soft tannins; good balance, slightly tart, snappy with a faint coffee bitterness; long, clean, pleasant, warm finish. 14.8% alcohol. Varietal composition (if known). Tastes very much like Zinfandel at its best, rendered in an "elegant" and "polished" style that a couple of tasters wished had more depth of fruit. ($12) WEBSITE


Delicato Shiraz label.Delicato Shiraz

Dark color; Dense, complex, sweet, young, grapey, tutti-frutti, black fruit, blackberry, raisin, gamey, oak, tar, dill and mint (onion?, bleach?) aromas; clean, ripe, juicy, black currant, blackberry, mincemeat, mineral and slightly musty flavors; smooth, light, thin body (diluted?); good balance, slightly sweet, slightly tart; flavorful, drying, slightly hard, slightly tannic finish. 13.5% alcohol. Although this wine has a slightly tannic finish, it has good flavors and is fairly easy to drink. It is neither exciting, nor offensive, which are much better stats than most wines in the price range. ($5) BEST BUY WEBSITE


Belford Springs Zinfandel label.Belford Springs

Medium red color; complex, dark fruit, black licorice, cedar, mint, basil, charcoal (burnt rubber?), mahogany, dill and American oak aroma with hints of cherry, raspberry, spice, caramelized sugar, smoke; clean, spicy, herbal, dill, fennel, grass, pine, earth and vanilla flavors dominate extracted black cherry fruit; medium body, tingly (effervescent?) and soft, but substantial tannins; fair to good balance; drying, somewhat anesthetizing finish. 13.5% alcohol. Grapes gown in Reedley, Fresno County. Somewhat oaky at present, but with evident underlying fruit; in a few months, this wine should settle down and become more enjoyable. ($9) WEBSITE n/a

Bonny Doon "Il Circo" label.Bonny Doon
"Il Circo" Uva di Troia
Puglia, "La Violetta"

Medium ruby-raspberry red color; light, fresh, complex, somewhat Rhone-ish, dusty, fruit, cherry, cola, bubblegum, slightly spicy, alcohol, pepper, cedar, new wood and smoke aromas (faintly medicinal? filter pad?); clean, astringent, very dry, minerally, slightly green flavors of unripe fruit, cherry (stemmy?); bright, tight texture, medium body, very tannic; tart balance, acidic; long, very astringent finish (metallic?). 13% alcohol. Uva di Troia is, according to winemaker Randall Grahm, "perhaps the most complex indigenous grape of Puglia." All but one panelist remarked on the excessive tartness of this wine. ($15) WEBSITE

Fat Bastard Shiraz label.Fat Bastard Shiraz
Vin de Pays d'Oc (Languedoc)

Medium-dark garnet color; closed, nondescript, grapey, pruney, woody, faintly blackberry, blueberry, green, celery, perfumey-minerally aroma (stemmy?); vinous, spicy, green, dead, simple, flat flavors lack fruit; smooth entry, thin body, somewhat dusty tannins give a bad mouthfeel; balance is overly acidic, sour; short, harsh finish. 12.5% alcohol. True to its namesake, this is not very pleasant stuff. ($10) WEBSITE

La Famiglia Barbera label.La Famiglia Barbera

Medium-dark ruby color; aggressive, heavy, stinky (Brettanomyces? SO2?), smoky-oaky, toasty, charcoal, coffee, burnt popcorn aroma dominates light cherry fruit; dry, oaky, charcoal, minerally, barnyard flavors kill any fruit; lean body, slightly bitter tannins; tart balance (acetic?); slight burn in the long, dry finish. 13.5% alcohol. One taster (let's just call him "Woody") liked this wine very much. ($18) WEBSITE

Sequoia View Cabernet Sauvignon label.Sequoia View Cabernet Sauvignon
California (Barrel Sample)

Red raspberry color with a garnet edge; cherry, blackberry, pomegranate, plum, dried fruit, prune, spice, green chili pepper, dill, green bean, briary, yeasty, earthy aromas with a hint of oak; clean, dry, simple, vinous, briary (stemmy?) flavors; smooth, light-to-medium body; good balance (flat?, low acid?); moderate finish. 13.5% alcohol. Varietal composition: 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12.5 % Merlot, 12.5% Alicante Bouschet. While seemingly middling, this wine has some pleasant elements and only minor flaws; judging barrel samples is always a guessing game that can go either way after bottling. ($14) WEBSITE

This Panel included Regulars Mark, Bob, Marlene, Jon, Ray, Tammy, Jim L. and Betsy and Guests Debbie and Jim

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