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Dry Creek Valley moves up the zinfandel ladder

California is the pinnacle of American wine. It produces 90 percent of all wine produced in the United States, and its best rival those of any wines in the world. Yet in global terms, California is still a young wine region — evolving in style, influenced by changing preferences of consumers and winemakers.

Case in point: Dry Creek Valley, one of my favorite wine regions to visit, in person or in bottle. It extends northwest from Healdsburg in northern Sonoma County to the dam at Lake Sonoma and beyond into a mountainous, almost primal region known appropriately as Rockpile. The area makes great sauvignon blanc and lots of cabernet sauvignon (though most cab disappears anonymously into Sonoma County blends).

Recommended zinfandels 

Dry Creek really is prime country for zinfandel. The climate is hot enough to ripen zin, yet cool enough that the grape — which can produce wines of 16 percent alcohol in hotter regions such as Lodi or Amador — can be moderated in the hands of a careful winemaker.......

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Michael Dashe, who has made zinfandel in Dry Creek since 1989 with Ridge Vineyards and since 1996 under his own label, has seen the region’s style move toward higher-alcohol wines and back toward more moderate levels.

“Global warming has had an effect on grape ripening, and in Dry Creek the sugars were getting higher without the flavors getting ripe,” Dashe says. “In my years, there had been a shift to higher- alcohol wines partly because people haven’t been sure how to handle that issue of the grapes getting riper later. Now I think people are dealing with it better and are able to get grapes riper at lower sugar levels. Of course, it helps that the last few years have been cooler, too.”

Dashe’s zinfandels, produced from various vineyard sites in Dry Creek Valley, tend to be more earthy than fruit-forward. This may reflect a European sensibility. Dashe’s wife, Anne, is French and determines the blend of each bottling.

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How to pair wine

This week: Meat with sweet

1:02 p.m. CSTMarch 7, 2012

 

We don't realize how much salt we eat in everyday foods. Bread and rolls, for example, are America's saltiest foods, twice saltier than potato chips, says theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention. Likewise, we eat a lot of sugars even while we believe otherwise. This isn't a hunk of pork dish; it's meat with sweet. Consider those figs, even the cooked onion.

Always pair sweet foods with wines that are either as sweet by the same measure, or that give the impression of sweetness, as do rich, fruity reds. A bit of tannin helps here, too, as a foil for fat....

...2010 Dashe Cellars Grenache Les Enfants Terribles, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma: A specialty of this winery is wines from grapes that usually sport high alcohol but do not under its care; a beautiful and aromatic red here with gobs of "sweet" red fruit flavors and dusting tannin...

 

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It would be a sin to ignore high-quality California zins

by Dave DeSimone, FOR THE PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE REVIEW

Ruesday, March 12, 2012

To glimpse California winegrowing at its purest, turn to Dry Creek Valley zinfandels. The best wines embody the pioneering spirit of unpretentious, flavorful wines meant for hearty enjoyment with food rather than prestige.

European settlers arrived in Dry Creek Valley in 1849 and produced the first documented commercial zinfandel in 1872. It was followed by 140 years of uninterrupted, yet eventful production. Today, Dry Creek Valley zinfandel production thrives with more than 60 wineries....


...Talented winemaker Michael Dashe purchased fruit to make the 2009 Dashe Cellars Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, California, a terrific blend from several family-owned sites. To highlight the balanced character of grapes picked at optimal maturity, Dashe uses native yeasts for fermentation followed by aging the wines in large-format, neutral oak tanks.

Additions of small amounts of petite sirah (4 percent) and carignane (3 percent) create a classic Dry Creek Valley blend. Enticing dark-cherry and spice aromas open to velvety flavors. Bright acidity and smooth tannins balance an elegant finish. Highly recommended.

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And the Oscar for Best Wine Goes To...

With GrapeFriend's suggestions, choose your Oscar night wine based on your favorite Best Picture nominee.
By Alyssa Vitrano

Oscar parties: We're mostly there to gossip about what everyone's wearing and tear up the winners' speeches, but there's food too and — even better — drinks! If you're hosting or heading to an Oscar soirée, grapefriend suggests pouring a wine based on your favorite Best Picture nominee.

The Artist:
In black and white, silent films, people always seem to be drinking bubbly. I don't blame the filmmakers — a glass does look better with bubbles in it, in any shade. Why not kick off Oscar
night with some sparkle?
Indie film budget: Prosecco's gives the perfect for a celebratory feel without shilling out major Champagne coin. Caposaldo Prosecco, $13, is light, a little green apply — let the games begin.
Blockbuster budget: Mumm Napa 2003 DVX, $55, is almond-y and honeyed. It's made from 50 percent Pinot Noir (a "black" grape) and 50 percent Chardonnay (a "white" grape) — perfect for this black and white movie! It also deserves some cute points for the little champagne glass hanging off the neck.

The Descendants: This one's kind of a tortured story — a guy has to take over as the main parent to his two distant kids after his wife has a boating accident, and then he finds out that she was cheating on him. Upsides are that the film is set in Hawaii, and Clooney looks amazing as always. But, the wine pairing only came to me when I realized that its director, Alexander Payne, also did Sideways. So, you could totally honor that movie's favorite grape variety, Pinot Noir.
Indie film budget: I'm obsessed with Pinot Noir from Oregon, especially the yummy Cloudline, $17, with its ripe dark cherries.
Blockbuster budget: But, to keep it more California (where Sideways was shot), go for Sanford Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills 2009 or Sea Smoke Southing Pinot Noir, $52, both of which were featured in the movie. One scene was even filmed at Sanford Winery’s tasting room, when Miles teaches Jack the nuances of tasting wine. Maybe in the sequel, they can bring Clooney along.

Hugo: Between the orphan Hugo secretly living in a Parisian train station and Méliès' fantasy movies, you need something French magical to drink. 
Indie film budget: M. Chapoutier Luberon La Ciboise 2009 (Rouge), $16, is a Grenache/Syrah blend that's produced biodynamically, meaning that the farming's attuned to the spiritual forces of the cosmos, phases of the moon, or positions of the planets — all very mystical-magical.
Blockbuster budget: I love the name Les Enfants Terribles for a wine and it's perfect for this movie — Hugo's well-meaning, but he does mischievously steal croissants and mechanical parts. Try the spicy 2010 Dashe Cellars Les Enfants Terribles Grenache, $24. Or if you loved Dante Ferretti's amazing train station set, go for the 2009 Lasseter Chemin de Fer ("railroad"), $40. It's a Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre blend made by John Lasseter, who has also made some magical movies like Toy Story and Cars....

GDP kicks off 2012


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By Gregory Dal Piaz