Thursday, April 05, 2007

Don't Touch This

Asphalt on a hot summer day, a stainless steel pan right out of the oven, a working wood stove, an Oregon zinfandel. An Oregon zinfandel?

Yup, these are all things that can be too hot to handle. I just had a 2002 Solena Wooldridge Creek Zinfandel with dinner, the first time I've had this particular label. I could tell it was a little hot on the tongue right away, but when I tried some of this wine solo, I wanted to reach for a chaser. It was all angles and spurs and heat.

I reached for the bottle and scanned the label -- there it was. 15.7 percent alcohol. Now, I'm not one of those people who rails against high alcohol in wine. I don't typically check labels for alcohol levels. I do prefer balanced wines, to be sure, but I don't mind a fully extracted, high octane wine in the 14.5 percent range. But I've never had a non-fortified wine this high in alcohol. And, I hope I never have one again.

Frankly, I'm not sure this wine would go well with anything -- maybe steak au pauve. There is some briary red fruit in there, but overall it isn't much fun on its own, either. Now I really know what some of the critics have been complaining about.

I wouldn't have been all that surprised by the octane if this wine came from California or Australia, but Oregon? I just couldn't quite figure that out, at first. Turns out we're not talking about the Willamette Valley here, where so many great pinot noirs are made and where the skies are frequently gray. These zinfandel grapes are sourced from southern Oregon, where it can get quite warm. A very dry autumn allowed great hang time in this case.

But I still can't get over it. I'm going to have start paying closer attention to the labels. Aware of the problem, a number of wineries (almost all California) are turning to new processes such as reverse osmosis to remove some alcohol from the wine. It remains somewhat controversial, since some people believe it also removes evidence of terroir as well. Who would have thought Oregon wines might also face similarly tough choices.


Post a Comment

<< Home