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A Pre-ZAP Zinfandel Face-off

In honor of the Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (ZAP) show, taking place next weekend, January 28th – 31st, I thought I would do a quick wine review face-off between two producers who will be pouring at ZAP.

Clos LaChance

This is a winery with many irons in the fire and an eye on growth.  I ran across them for the first time while in California recently and then subsequently found them in my local market.

They have taken the traditional route to growth by segmenting their wines with a “Special Selections” series representing six wines, an “Estate” series encompassing 13 wines and a “Hummingbird” series with nine wines.  It is the “Hummingbird” wines that are in distribution, and they tend to be priced for everyday consumption - $14 - $25, with most in the $18 range.  I would not be surprised to see these wines drop below that $15 retail level, which seems to be the magic spot for many wine enthusiasts, and where the less hardcore enthusiast is doing most of her purchasing if she is buying a nicer bottle.

The greatest compliment I can give the Clos LaChance wines I have tasted and the 2005 Clos LaChance Central Coast Zin (Buff Bellied Hummingbird) that I am reviewing here is these are not “dumb” wines, all fruit and oak in a pretty package. 

These are well-crafted, quality wines that are expressive of earth and seemingly diametrically opposed to the flavor du jour (hello, 13.5% alcohol in a Zinfandel – what a nice surprise!). They beg for food. At 60,000 cases of production across their line-up of all wines, if they can maintain quality with the growth, this will be a player to watch.  I would not be surprised to see a Wine Business Monthly “Hot Brands” award shortly, either. 

Next up on my Clos LaChance “try” list – Nebbiolo and Grenache, two varietals that should be elegant representations in the hands of Stephen Tebb, the Clos LaChance winemaker. 

Here is my review of the ’05 Clos LaChance Central Coast Zinfandel (Buff Bellied Hummingbird).

Klinker Brick

I have to admit that I am predisposed to OVZ.  Give me an “Old Vine” Zinfandel and chances are I will enjoy it. 

For years, Rabbit Ridge has made an estate “OVZ” that is a fabulous price performer, even if I am still peeved at them for pulling out of the Indiana market.

I have noticed that over the last vintage or so, another unfortunate benefit of not having enough choice at the shelf in Indiana, Klinker Brick has been moving up market past the $15 threshold.  What used to be a $14 bottle with this reviewed ’05 vintage is now an $18 bottle with new packaging for the ’06 vintage.

I am guessing, like Clos LaChance, they will be making a retreat in channel distribution back below $15 a bottle, however.

Cost aside, the truly astounding thing with this vintage of the Klinker Brick is it clocks in at 15.8% alcohol AND IT’S BALANCED.  Really, it is.  Not a bit of heat.

To be frank, this is the sort of wine that drives Old World wine lovers bonkers because it is fruit-forward, expressive, high quality and has massive alcohol.  Klinker Brick is the exact type of wine that drives people nuts because it represents wine that can merit a Scarlet Letter, but is also undeniably good.

Klinker Brick notes, sidestepping what can be a butchered promotional term in the wine biz, that OVZ wines are typically from vines that are at least 50 years old.  Their ’06 Zinfandel is made from vines ranging in age from 37 to 112 years old.  The ’05 likely has a similar make-up.

I would urge anybody that favors Old World to try this with an open mind, you will come away impressed that a Lodi Zin at 15.8% alcohol is not a pox on the wine industry. 

Here is my review of the ’05 Klinker Brick Lodi “Old Vine” Zinfandel



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Comments

On 01/25, Greg wrote:

Great point about the Old World vs. Old Vine Zin paradox.  I was really skeptical of high alc Zins until I tasted a bunch of old vine Zin in Dry Creek.  No doubt, they were big, burly, jammy wines.  But the structure was in place to support all that huge fruit.

Old vine Zin should be considered a legitimate expression of terroir.  It may not be the style everyone prefers, but it is awesome from an objective standpoint.  The problem is that too many folks are trying to copy the style with grapes or vines that can’t provide the needed backbone.

On 01/25, Marty wrote:

Good article.  I agree with you about Clos la Chance, really nice, somewhat atypical style.  I have always enjoyed their wines.  Klinker Brick, though, I have mixed feelings. 

I have had two bottles of the KB OV Zin lately and it is a very yummy wine, and 100% in the new world sweet fruit bomb sort of style. (And such a classy label.)  Its one of the more “honest” New World-style bombastic, gobtastic wines.  Probably some RS on it and some strange manipulations.  I’ll agree that it isn’t at all “hot” tasting, which is so refreshing, but after two small glasses, I was done for the night.  I bet 99% of people will love it.  But it tastes too much.  It’s like chocolate cherry candy dipped in bacon fat.  It’s good but a little too much.  (And lacks majorly in the aroma department, but I won’t dwell on that.)

This Zin is just one of those wines that gets me all crazy.  It is a fantastic wine, but I hope people who enjoy this as much as I did also appreciate the light-bodied, high-acid reds.  And whites!  Too many times, the consumers who prefer these port-like dry reds judge wines only based on their intensity, not appreciating wine for its variety, which is key. 

Get on to some Old World wines, Jeff!  (Even though we don’t get Louis/Dressner wines here in the Hoosier, we still have some little gems.)

Keep up the good work!

On 01/26, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

The 05 Klinker Brick OVZ is a blockbuster Zin.  I agree with Marty “a sweet fruit bomb,good but a little too much”.  This is a well crafted Lodi Zin.  I have several bottles stashed for those times when I feel like an extreme Zin.  Old world wine lovers should probably look elsewhere.  BTW the 05 has been sold out for months and the 06 that is currently available is a letdown.

On 01/26, Jeff wrote:

Great comments, thanks guys.

Greg- yup.  totally agree, especially about the burly wines with structure, which is what the Klinker Brick is, in my mind.

Marty, you had me until chocolate cherry candy dipped in bacon fat ... now, if it wasbacon dipped in chocolate cherry candy we’d be having a different conversation. 

AJ—good head’s up on the ‘06.  I bought the ‘05 early in ‘08 and never opened it up until a week ago.

Generally speaking, it’s interesting to get people’s impression of jammy and over the top because to my palate the Klinker Brick is not an audacious example of Parkerization.  The Aussie Marquis Phillips, ugh—syrupy swill. 

Thanks for reading and engaging, gents!

Jeff

On 01/28, jason wrote:

Jeff,

Every had any of Sausal’s offerings?  They are in Dry Creek.  100 year old vines for about $30 a bottle.  Real nice!  I am a TJ’s wine guy so if I am enjoying something at that price, my take, is that it must be worth it…

On 01/28, Jeff wrote:

Hey Jason,

Thanks for the comment.  I haven’t tried Sausal, but I will seek it out.

All the best and thanks for reading!

Jeff
http://www.goodgrape.com


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