FINDING THE HEART OF ZINFANDEL
BY ERIC ASIMOV
The comment from Preston G. of San Francisco seemed dismissive and definitive. Over the last month, as this column has been exploring zinfandels that were a step back from the popular over-the-top blockbuster style, he wrote: “Restrained is not authentic to the variety.”
Here at Wine School, expressions of historical certainty about wine generally arouse suspicions, as do assertions of authenticity. They are almost always wrong, yet nonetheless valuable in provoking discussions.
Determining the authenticity of any product is never an easy task. It’s particularly difficult with wine. Its production is largely specialized, with few accessible records to testify to the techniques and goals of long-ago vignerons.
The question of authenticity is especially perplexing in the New World, where decisions about which grapes to plant and what style of wine to make were often entrepreneurial or commercial rather than cultural.
The Dashe, at 14.5 percent alcohol, was rounder and richer, yet pretty, with bright, spicy, floral flavors. It was extremely well-balanced and reminded me of an excellent Southern Rhône blend, although the producers, Mike and Anne Dashe, say only that they were aiming for a “bistro wine,” a bottle made to go well with food.
REVISITING ZINFANDEL FROM A LESS BRAWNY ANGLE
BY ERIC ASIMOV
Some people might wonder why we are examining zinfandel at the height of summer. Shouldn’t we save the reds, particularly possibly brawny bottles, for the colder weather?
Not necessarily. Will you not be grilling burgers or spareribs? No chili or tri-tip steaks? How about orange beef that you either make yourself or order for takeout? These zinfandels could be excellent matches for those dishes, regardless of the season.
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Many (if not most) of you use social media such as FaceBook and Instagram. We would like you to “LIKE US” on social media, and also to go a small step farther. Just take a photo of one of your favorite Dashe wines and post it along with a hashtag #drinkdashe, AND tag us in the photo using @dashecellars. If you include the link https://shop.dashecellars.com/Shop to encourage people to shop, you get extra admiration from us!
Here’s what we have in mind:
- First of all, start out by liking or following us on your favorite social media platform.
- Then, post a photo of your favorite Dashe wine and tag us @dashecellars and use the hashtag #drinkdashe in your caption. You can post photos of yourselves Sheltering in Place with our wine—anything you might be doing, from a dinner, to a living room game, to a picture of your pet with a strategically placed bottle. Anything at all, you'll find some inspiration below.
- If you do all of these, we will direct message you with a code for 30% off your next non-wine club purchase of Dashe Cellars wines, and you’ll earn our eternal thanks, as well.
FINALLY HERE—IT'S CABERNET, IT'S BEAUTIFUL, AND IT'S FROM DASHE!
Yes, you heard that right: Dashe Cellars has released, for the first time, a mindboggling Cabernet Franc! Yes, it’s the wine that our Tasting Room team has been hinting (and occasionally giggling) about, for months.
Cabernet Franc that is! Yes, the wine that our Tasting Room team has been hinting about is finally here. Not only is it a house favorite, but it's our newest addition to our line of lighter reds, our 'Les Enfants Terribles' Wild Children. Made from grapes grown in Clarksburg on the Heringer Vineyard, this is the first Cabernet Franc we’ve created at Dashe. Made in a Loire Valley style, it shows fresh, vibrant fruit that is complex and mouthfilling. We love how this wine goes with a wide range of foods and is also ideal wine for sipping on its own. The unusual combination of flavors–cassis, blueberry, pomegranate and spice–make this one of the most compelling Dashe wines ever.
Click Here to buy the 2017 Cabernet Franc
Our Wine Club members have been enjoying our pairings for years, now that we are at home and cooking more we wanted to share Anne's perfectly picked pairings with our friends too.
GRILLED CHICKEN BREASTS WITH GREEN-OLIVE RELISH
BY ESTHER MOBLEY
Dashe Cellars, a 23-year fixture of the East Bay winemaking scene, was turning out restrained, light-bodied, ethereal versions of grape varieties like Zinfandel long before that style was in vogue.
That’s simply the sort of wine that Mike and Anne Dashe like to drink. Their preferences are informed by their love of French wines: Anne grew up in France, and Mike trained there as a young winemaker. He fell in love with Zin while working as the assistant winemaker at Ridge Vineyards. When he and Anne launched their own wine in 1996, they made Zinfandel the focus – but their minimalist approach made for a very different sort of wine than other California wineries were producing at the time.
The Dashe Cellars lineup is split into two tiers: the signature wines, which are typically vineyard designates; and Les Enfants Terribles, which are lighter and more youthful, often fermented by carbonic maceration, which imbues juicy, fruit-candy flavors. Zinfandel appears at both ends of the portfolio, so you can taste ageworthy, structured Zinfandel from sites like the Florence Vineyard and the Bedrock Vineyard, but you can also taste crushable, translucent Les Enfants Terribles Zinfandels (many of them still single-vineyard wines). Mike Dashe remains the director of winemaking, working with winemaker Rene Calderon.
THE 52 CALIFORNIA WINERIES YOU NEED TO VISIT IN 2020
BY ESTHER MOBLEY
In summer 2019, Dashe Cellars moved out of its longtime home in an Oakland warehouse, relocating to Alameda. It joins a concentrated neighborhood of wine, beer and spirits producers such as Rock Wall Wine Co., St. George Spirits and Almanac Beer Co. in hangars owned by the former Naval Air Station Alameda. Although the setting is different, the quality of a Dashe Cellars wine tasting hasn’t changed at all: You’ll still be able to taste the light, ethereal renditions of Zinfandel and Carignan that co-owners Mike and Anne Dashe sell under their Les Enfants Terribles line, alongside the more structured single-vineyard wines, with the same attentive staff as before. Tours of the cellar and guided tastings at the bar are available, but you can also opt to order a glass and relax outside, overlooking the adjacent bird sanctuary and the Bay Bridge.
From Santa Barbara to the Sierras, Humboldt to Temecula, California has wineries – and tasting rooms – at seemingly every turn. Now more than ever, you can count on finding solid, well-made wine at almost all of them. But with wine prices and tasting fees creeping ever higher, it can be hard to know which ones are actually worth the money.
What’s more, it can be hard to know what you’re getting yourself into: Is this an appointment-only palace with exhaustive, guided tastings (and an expectation that you’ll buy a few cases at the end)? Is this an overcrowded tasting bar where you’ll have to jostle your way to the front of the hordes every time you want another sip?
It’s a lot to consider before you set out for a drive to wine country. That’s where we come in at The Press and The San Francisco Chronicle. Together, our team of wine experts has visited hundreds of wineries and evaluated the tasting experiences – not only the quality of the wine (though that’s key, of course), but also the vibe of the tasting itself and the value for the money.
The 52 wineries on this list represent the best of a dynamic landscape. Now in its third year, this list is more expansive than ever before, thanks to the hard work of our team: During the past 12 months, on The Press, we explored Santa Barbara County, Paso Robles, Lodi and Amador County, which added to our database of tasting room reviews from Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Mendocino County, the Santa Cruz Mountains, Monterey County and the East Bay. From all of those regions, we’ve culled a collection of wineries that achieve some mysterious nexus of quality, value and fun. Whether you’re a geeky wine collector or you’re just planning your friend’s bachelorette party, we believe there’s truly something for everyone here.
The Press’ team of wine experts is led by me, Esther Mobley, and includes Mike Dunne, Virginie Boone, Matt Kettmann, Chris Macias, Sara Schneider, Tim Teichgraeber and Bryce Wiatrak. All of our work contributed to this feature.
We wish you a wonderful Holiday Season!
Our winery tasting room is open Thursday-Sunday from 1-7:00, please stop by for a tasting and to celebrate the holiday season with us. Please be mindful that we will be closed on Thursday, December 26th.
Thursday-Sunday December 19th-22nd - OPEN
Thursday, December 26th - CLOSED
Friday-Sunday December 27th-29th - OPEN
Thursday-Sunday January 2nd-5th - OPEN
We have something for each one of your wine-loving friends and family. From stocking stuffers to the complete feast, let us help with your holiday gifting.
- are wrapped in festive tissue and secured with a Dashe Cellars flourish
- include a handwritten gift card
- for orders over $99, Ground Shipping is complimentary
What a year! We moved our winery in June, so our winemaking team (headed up by Director of Winemaking Mike Dashe and Winemaker Rene Calderon) worked tirelessly to get our new cellar up and running just in time for harvest. Their hard work paid off when our first vineyard, the Evanghelo Vineyard, was harvested in August and kicked off an epic vintage.
The vintage of 2019 was picture-perfect, weather-wise, with warm days and cool nights for the majority of the harvest season. In fact, for Dashe Cellars, it was one of the smoothest harvests in our history, with grapes ripening slowly and evenly in such a way that we could harvest just when we wanted (as opposed to hot weather harvests when all of the grapes ripen at once and the winery must harvest frantically all at once). The colors, aromatics, and flavors of the fermenting grapes were superb from the moment they started fermenting, making this one of the top vintages in memory. Compared to many other wineries, Dashe Cellars was extremely lucky in 2019, since virtually all of our grapes were harvested before the fires and the power outages that characterized the vintage for many wineries in the state. We had a single vineyard—our Cabernet Sauvignon—that was still on the vine when the fires began, and that vineyard was far away from the smoke and flames, and therefore was able to be harvested without problems. For Dashe, the vintage of 2019 should be one of the best quality years on record.
6 SOMMELIER-APPROVED BUDGET WINES FOR THANKSGIVING-AND 2 TO SPLURGE ON
BY ISADORA BAUM
“Les Enfants Terribles”
“I’m a huge fan of Gamay from the crus of Beaujolais for Thanksgiving, but those have been on every magazine list for years now (but still: drink them). If you want to do something new and cool, find indie producers utilizing carbonic maceration and making lighter-style, aromatic reds, akin to the classics from Beaujolais. This wine is light, pretty, juicy, and incredibly elegant; very unlike the usual version of Grenache you might be used to, but perfect high-acid, perfumed, lightweight reds for your turkey.” — Torrence O’Haire
The Bay Area has seen a number of new winery tasting rooms open within the past year, and they’re not all located in what you’d traditionally define as Wine Country. The urban winery scene in the East Bay continues to grow stronger, with newcomers in Berkeley, Oakland and Alameda, all offering small-lot wines in industrial-chic settings that are easily accessible by public transportation. Many of the new tasting rooms belong to established wineries, a testament to the growing importance of direct-to-consumer wine sales for these businesses.
Give a gift that will make a lasting impression! Dashe Cellars is helping to make your holiday shopping fast and easy. Beautiful gift boxes; superb pre-selected wine sets…..and this year we’re offering
Complimentary Ground Shipping
Complimentary Black Satin Finish Gift Packaging
on all sets in our Holiday Shop.