Posts Tagged ‘Lodi


In Pursuit of the Juiciest Wine: Day 122 – Van Ruiten Old Vine Zinfandel 2008 Lodi Appellation

Van Ruiten Old Vine Zinfandel 2008 Lodi AppellationWork. Work. Work. Fantasy football. Work. Write. Grade papers. Grade papers. Grade papers. Work. Work. Work. What’s wrong with that list? It doesn’t have wine in it. Well, I gotta fix that, and so I will with a bottle of Van Ruiten Old Vine Zinfandel 2008 Lodi Appellation.

I only picked up this bottle because it’s an old vine Zin  . . . and because I could afford it. Transitioning to poor college student again is going to be challenging. I hope I can do it. Be poor that is.

When I poured this, it looked really thin. It appeared almost as thin as Pinot Noir. A Zin should be deep and juicy looking. It should almost be black. It should not be  this  60% opaque, rosé colored wine. Oh boy.

The nose is better than the color with a floral bouquet and some light cherries and some wood. (I usually can’t pick out wood, like cedar or oak or whatever woods wine drinkers pick up, but this time I do, but I don’t know what type of wood. Oak I guess.) And lots of spicy vanilla. Real vanilla. Not that imitation vanilla. And maybe some rum, too. Wow. Rum and wine. If you had that on you alcoholic daily double, then you hit the jackpot tonight. I think there’s a hint of tarragon in there, too. (Isn’t there an upset stomach remedy that includes soaking a vanilla bean and some tarragon in rum . . . or is that just something that sounds tasty?)

Wow. It finishes really hot. This must be loaded with alcohol. It’s making my eyes blink. Maybe there is rum in it afterall.

When drinking it, I can catch a bit of lovely jamminess that usually accompanies a red Zinfandel, but it last only for 2/10 of a fraking second.

There’s not much body with this.

I usually think Zins go well with pizza or pasta in red sauce, but I don’t think this one will. However, it seem like a hard sausage would be a good complement.

The more it opens, the more the jamminess appears and the longer it remains in the happy zone of taste buds, but then the hot finish takes it away. This means I have to keep drinking and drinking and drinking to maintain the jamminess. Drink. Drink. Drink. Ah. I just had a hot flash. Wait, can men have hot flashes?

This wine seems like it might lead to heart burn in the morning.

The more this opens, the better it gets, but the finish is a party pooper. Without the finish, this would be a thin 88, and maybe an 89. With the finish, it’s a thin 87. Meh. There are better wines and Zins for the same price.//


In Pursuit of the Juiciest Wine: day 107 – 337 Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

337 Cabernet Sauvignon 2009Tonight’s wine is 337 Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 from Lodi. I had this the other night, and I remember liking it, but I can’t remember what I liked. So it’s time to explore again.

First, here’s what the back of the bottle says:

BORN IN FRANCE … RAISED IN AMERICA. Not all wines are created equal. 337 is the most coveted Cabernet Sauvignon vine stock in Bordeaux, France. These rare vines are prized for their concentrated flavor and thrive in the red soils and cobblestones of our Lodi vineyard. The resulting wine exudes seductive aromas of mocha and dark cherry followed by intense flavors of ripe blackberry and spice. Enjoy with savory pasta, pot roast, thick steaks, and creamy cheeses.

The color is a dark purple that’s about 90% opaque.

The nose is fruity, dry, and spicy. There is also some chocolate and cherries and a woody coffee, like Costa Rican Tarrazu, and like a Costa Rican Tarrazu, there’s a hint of creaminess.

The taste has some black cherries and chocolate. I also pick up a bell pepper.

The finish is a bit tart but juicy with a spicy fruit. Maybe it’s a chocolate covered strawberry with whisp of pepper and cinnamon. The juicy finish makes my front, top gums drool with pleasure.

This would go good with chicken in some sort of red sauce. I keep picturing chicken picante whenever I sip it.

This is not your typical Cabernet Sauvignon, but it’s sure delicious. And for $10 – wow.

90 points, though it’s probably technically 89, but wuteffer.

To download the Noble Vines tasting notes, click 337 Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 Tasting Notes.//


In Pursuit of the Juiciest Wine: Day 103 – The Battle of the Lodi Zins: Plungerhead vs 7 Deadly Zins

All right. My first semester teaching Introduction to Creative Writing at SUNY Brockport has concluded. All the portfolios have been read, and I’ve turned in final grades. As a result, it’s time to celebrate.

As you may know, I love the Plungerhead Zinfandel. I wrote about it on day thirty-one of the juiciest wine tour. (Click here to read about it.) It’s my favorite, or was. Then I tried the 7 Deadly Zins. The foundation of both is remarkably quite identical, but the 7 Deadly Zins has a little extra going. There’s like a side show to it. So just to be sure and to fully enter that side-show, I will explore it with more detail by pitting Plungerhead Zinfandel 2009 against the 7 Deadly Zins 2008. In the end, there will be no losers because both are excellent.

Plungerhead vs 7 Deadly Zins

Normally, my competitions between wines starts by comparing the colors, because that’s where the wine begins. That’s the first thing you notice. But in this competition, there will be a comparison of corks. Let’s call it the weigh-in before the boxing match.

The Plungerhead has a rubber stopper for a cork. It’s tightly sealed in by some winding plastic. It opens easy, and there’s a slight pop to it when you pull out the stopper. I really enjoy these stoppers because they are simple, they don’t affect the taste of the wine, and they never break. They will be a great replacement for cork in this world with limited cork supplies. Plus, most important, you can save and reuse the rubber stoppers for a number of things, including capping other wine bottles after opening them. I like this because sometimes the corks just don’t fit in again, especially those solid hard plastic corks that pretend to look like they are made out of cork but are not, or those other corks with the sponge-like center and the hard plastic casing which never fit in the bottle again. So this cork is a bonus for sure.

The 7 Deadly Zins cork is your standard cork, which is perfectly admirable. Once you pull out a standard cork, you can tell you certain things about the wine, especially from the cork’s stained bottom. How dark is that stain? How far up the cork does it go? Can you stamp the back of your hand with the wet, stained bottom and leave a mark? Does the stain have an odor? These are all useful and fun. This cork, however, broke in half, with one half floating in the bottle. Hopefully, this won’t affect the taste or the contest.

The Plungerhead wins the cork weigh-in stage, but I won’t let this affect the outcome of the wines. So there is no winner at this weigh-in as cork preference is purely subjective.

All right guys. Clink glasses and come out drinking.

The glasses of wine come out slowly and present their colors and menisci

The colors are somewhere between dark scarlet and Bulgarian rose, and the 7 Deadly Zins is darker or more opaque. Both menisci have an angelic glow about them. The color of the menisci is like red with a blue tinge. If robots turned into angels after they expired, this would be the color of their halos.

I give no advantage to either in color or menisci, but I am looking over my shoulder waiting for an oenophile Terminator to arrive.

Round Two. The Nose.

Round Nose

We’ll start with the 7 Deadly Zins. It smells jammy with plums, cherry, black licorice, black pepper, and some cola. The girlfriend picks up anise and sour cherries and some muskiness.

The Plungerhead nose is very similar but without the black pepper and less black licorice. It smells livelier and younger. It smells like it has bounce.

As I go back and forth, I pick up the muskiness in the 7 Deadly Zins, too. The other day, I tweeted that the 7 Deadly Zins smells like an old book at Christmas time.  I get less Christmas this time.

Ding ding.

This round goes to both. I like the youthful vibrancy in the Plungerhead and it does smell juicy, but the 7 Deadly Zins smells older like its got some stories to tell. The girlfriend like both noses equally.

Round Three. The Tasting.

Round Drink

I’ll start with the Plungerhead this time. The finish is sour, but in a good way. There’s some chalkiness to the texture, too, but it’s a mild chalkiness, which is easily made up for by the jamminess. A jamminess of a flat cola, strawberries, plums, and raspberries. And there’s a pepper to it, too. Maybe a white pepper, but I don’t pick up on that until after the finish. I think get some cloves, too. Man, it’s so yummy. The girlfriend gets strong blackberries especially on the aftertaste. To her it is thinner than expected. I think I agree. The 2008 had a fuller body. (By the way, a flat cola taste isn’t a bad thing unless it’s actually a cola.)

Wow, the finish on the 7 Deadly Zins is really quick. It just disappears on the taste. I really enjoy the lingering finish of the Plungerhead. I like to dwell on it, but the 7 Deadly Zins just fades away. The pepper really comes out in the taste and the anise is there, too, but it’s not annoying. This also has a hint of chalkiness to it. I also get raspberries, for sure, and blackberries or blueberries. It’s also drier than the Plungerhead. The taste of the 7 Deadly Zins, like the nose, is more mature than the Plungerhead. The 7 Deadly Zins is more serious. It reminds me of the library in Meet Joe Black.

In fact, I think I just figured this out. Plungerhead is the Brad Pitt of Zinfandels and 7 Deadly Zins is the Anthony Hopkins of Zins. On the taste, the girlfirend gets blackberries, some anise, spices, and it’s very smooth.

Ding ding ding. That’s the end of the battle. Who wins.

The girlfriend scores 10-9, 10-9, 10-9 in favor of the 7 Deadly Zins.

This judge, that’s me, scores it 10-10, 10-10, 10-9 in favor of the 7 Deadly Zins. For me, the 7 Deadly Zins is just fuller, and as it opens up it gets much better and smoother. (This may explain why the girlfriend thought both noses were equal at the beginning of the match but in the end she chose the 7 Deadly Zins.) The Plungerhead is awesome, but like a young man it comes out full force but then doesn’t go anywhere. It presents everything it has at the beginning. It doesn’t change as the air interacts with it.

Yes, as time goes by, the 7 Deadly Zins just gets more and more awesome, and the Plungerhead just stays at really good. You can’t go wrong with either. And the price isn’t a factor either. The Plungerhead is $12 and the 7 Deadly Zins is $13.

The 7 Deadly Zins and Plungerhead both started at like an 89 or 90 for me, but now the 7 Deadly Zins is like 92.

In the age old question “is better to burn out or fade away?” the Plungerhead is the burnout and the 7 Deadly Zins is the fade away. I wonder which is Stevie Wonder. In fact, comparing these wines is much like this scene:



in pursuit of the juiciest wine: day thirty-nine – now with more cheese

Oh, this will be a fun post because it will have a wine tasting and a cheese tasting.

Cabot Seriously Sharp CheddarThe reason for the cheese tasting began with my girlfriend’s father saying Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar Cheese was the best cheddar cheese. You know, the one from Cabot, VT, with the plaid packaging. It’s actually Tartan packaging, which is probably the reason he likes it since he has Scottish blood in him.

Heluva Good! Special Reserve Extra Sharp Cheddar CheeseI immediately thought Heluva Good!, from Sodus, NY, made a some good sharp cheddar cheese. So then the challenge was instigated in my mind. When I arrived back in my hometown, I went to Wegmans to get Heluva Good! Special Reserve Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese to enter into the contest.

Yancey's Fancy XXX Sharp Cheddar CheeseThen when I was at Wegmans I thought to broaden the contest to another fine northeast cheese maker, Yancey’s Fancy, from Corfu, NY. The cheese representing Yancey’s Fancy is the XXX Sharp Cheddar Cheese. This one is currently favored to win the contest.

Let’s do some odds for the contest.

Yancey’s Fancy is even money, 1:1.

Heluva Good! is 2:1.

Cabot is 3:2.

Though I think Cabot will have the best texture because it will have a creamy edge to it as well.

Those are my odds. My girlfriend thinks Yancey’s Fancy will win and Cabot and Heluva Good! will tie.

But before we get to that, we have a wine tasting to attend to. We need to do that before we get fromage interference.

Brazin Lodi Old Vine Zin 2007This wine is the Brazin Lodi Old Vine Zin 2007. (For more information about Lodi Old Vine Zinfandels from California, see day thirty-one’s post.) We also had this Zinfandel when visiting my girlfriend’s father and his wife. Everyone enjoyed this wine, but what do you expect from an old vine wine. I was a little skeptical of its texture, though, since it seemed slightly like an oil slick. Alas, I now have a reason to drink this wine. For verification reasons!

But first, a zinful lesson.

Research has now shown that the Zinfandel grape originated in Croatia, and then made famous in the early days of Italy and the Roman Empire. The original wine is now known as “primitivo”. The original Croatian name for this grape is Crljenak. Zinfandel first came to California in the early 1800s. (See


I held up this zin to the light and could see through it. This is thin for a zin.

Well, there’s definitely a peppery nose with a faint hint of plums and cherries. I also get leather. There’s also something like a roast on the nose. My girlfriend gets olives, but I get olive oil.

I still get the oily texture, but it’s less oily this time. There are plums and pepper on the palate. (Listen to that alliteration.)

The Zin finishes tart, but also with mint and a hint of pepper that lingers. (Listen to all those in sounds.)

This could be a real good wine if it had a bigger body. Because it’s so thin, the tart finish dominates and distracts. (Listen to all those tees, esses, and in sounds.)

So what it comes down to is price. For $13, I’m iffy. If it had that bigger body, then $13 would be a good price. For now, I might pay $9 to drink this wine again.

But you know what?! There’s cheese to come. I think that will help this wine a lot.

This cheese tasting will be blind. First my girlfriend will go, and then I will.

Here are my girlfriend’s tastings:

  • Helluva Good! – She says it’s medium. On a scale of 1-10 it is a 6.
  • Cabot – This one she likes better. It’s sharper. It is a 9.
  • Yancey’s Fancy – “This one is a little weird tasting.” It’s bitter. It’s a 3.

My tastings:

  • Helluva Good! – This one is okay, a bit dry, and it has a semi-sharp but creamy finish. I’ll give this a 7.
  • Cabot – This one is better. Sharper. I’ll give it an 8.5.
  • Yancey’s Fancy – This one is unique. It’s neither here nor there, but I like the bizarre and bitter finish. I’ll give it 6.

If you chose Cabot, you won some money. My predictions were backwards. Cabot wins. Helluva Good! comes in second. And Yancey’s Fancy comes in third, which is a surprise because they usually have wonderful cheeses.

These testing will need to be repeated again, you know, for verification reasons.

Oh, and now the wine has a mushroom taste to it.

Until next time – day forty.//


in pursuit of the juiciest wine: day thirty-one

Right now I’m trying to design a cover for William Heyen’s next volume of journals, volume 2. He is so prolific. He writes more than Joyce Carol Oates or Stephen King. He’s got like 50 or more collections of poems, a whole bunch of other stuff that I’m not going to list, and his journal. 600+ pages per volume, and the first one was about a 9-point type size. He’s got about 20 of these. Anyway. I’m designing a possibly cool cover for volume 2, but I need a break. Actually, I need a drink.

Plungerhead Lodi Zinfandel Old Vine 2008So tonight it is Plungerhead Lodi Zinfandel Old Vine 2008. I’ve heard this is  jammy. I heard the vines are 100 years old. I’ve heard the grapes have been purposely stressed out, which is a good thing. It makes the grapes taste better. The vineyard also, as I understand it, uses a wild yeast. If this wild yeast behaves as it should and the wine maker knows what he or she is doing, then you will get very good results.

Let’s talk about yeast for a second. There are two yeast than can be used: wild and cultured. When a using a cultured yeast in the wine making process, the  cultured yeast ferments the grapes without much trouble – it begins fermenting right away and finishes fermenting. It works from beginning to end. Fermentation is what turns grape juice into wine. With a cultured yeast, the wine will be 12% to 13% alcohol. With the cultured yeast, the fermentation process is more controlled, and it won’t get sticky.  There will be little hassle with the cultured yeast.

With wild yeast, the fermentation process does not begin right away, as it does with cultured yeast. With wild yeast, the fermentation process begins whenever it finds sugar, and then the wild yeast might act as it should. If it does, it will turn grape juice into wine. However, sometimes wild yeast can end up being sticky. If it does, then there is a lot of work to save the wine. When the wild yeast does act correctly, then you will get a wine with more depth and dimensions that could be had with cultured yeast. Oh, and most important, more alcohol. Up to 16%. The Plungerhead Lodi Zinfandel Old Vine 2008 has 14.9% alcohol. So, yay!

What does Lodi mean? It’s a region.

Zinfandel is California’s favorite son. Unlike the classic French and Italian varietals, whose history in the New World is well charted, the origins and history of Zinfandel remain mysterious to this day. Research at the University of California, Davis, has uncovered clear genetic links to two European grapes: Italy’s ‘Primitivo’ and Croatia’s ‘Plavac Mali’; but wines produced from these grapes bear only a passing resemblance to California Zinfandel. It seems that Zinfandel, regardless of its origins, is truly a California phenomenon.

Unlike Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and dozens of other European varietals which first entered California at the port of San Francisco in the mid-nineteenth century, Zinfandel appears to have come to us by way of a New York nursery in the early part of the nineteenth century. It’s virtues were immediately apparent: prolific producer of large clusters, up to three flowering cycles per season, and juice capable of reliably producing very good wine. It is no wonder that this varietal was esteemed above all others in California for red table wine in the nineteenth century. Zinfandel vineyards sprang up in Sonoma and Napa Counties, in the Sierra Foothills, in the Central Coast, throughout the Central Valley . . . and in Lodi.

There are more old, head pruned Zinfandel vineyards in Lodi today than in any other region of California. Since Lodi had been upstaged by other regions until late in the 1990s, few consumers had even heard of Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel. Worse, the distinguished fruit of most of these fine, old vineyards was sold to large wineries, to be blended with fruit of lesser quality.

Today, Lodi is undergoing a Renaissance. . . .




That seems a good description to me.


Is Plungerhead a superwine hero?

So we got stressed out old-vine grapes from Lodi, a fermentation process using wild yeast, and a dude with wine barrels for thighs and a plunger on his head. This has to be delicious and fun.

Alright, so lets get to it. Allons-y.

It’s bright and deep purple with lots of legs, because of the wild yeast yielding 14.9% alcohol! It has a thin meniscus, particularly thin for such a young wine.

It has a jammy and spicy nose. A big nose. Vanilla. Cherries, like cherries from a farmers market. Like those cherries that are closer to ruby in color than red, and with a seed in the middle.

Oh my, I love this texture. It is really jammy. Like raspberry jam, but without the seeds. Oh, it’s so fun to swirl in the mouth. There might be some plum in there, too.

I think there is bacon on the finish.

I can’t stop tasting this wine. And oddly, I think I can taste the terroir of Lodi. I have some Lodi Zinfandels before, and when I drink this, I recall them. It’s in the back of the mouth right before I swallow, a second or two after I swallow, and in the nose as I hold the wine in my mouth.

This wine is so fun to drink. There’s a juiciness to it like the juiciness from biting into a mushroom.

It’s delicious.

Oh wild yeast, how I love you.

I’m glad “Zork Dork is back!”

Get a bottle, and you will understand that reference.//

The Cave (Winner of The Bitter Oleander Press Library of Poetry Book Award for 2013.)

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