All my wine blogs

The art of Zinfandel

I know, I am often talking about wines that have too much oak, too much tannins – wines that can overpower the food. You guessed it, my personal preference leans towards wines with more finesse, maybe even less body, more acidity and complexity.

Wines, that may not appeal to you at all. But maybe you would fell for such wines if they were served to you the way they were meant to be served – with food.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate a glass of nice, huge Cabernet Sauvignon from California, Brunello or Amarone from Italy, famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape from French Rhône or some spectacular and impressive Garnacha from Spain. Absolutely!

But can you drink it every day? Besides the negative effect on your wallet, trust me – you can get tired of these wines. And it’s not because they are not good enough. Just the opposite.

Lined up at any wine tasting, these wines are always the winners! They stand out. The tannins, the full body, the aroma. Totally impressive! But put the same wine next to your food…. not so much anymore.

When I go through my tiny wine cellar, I noticed that these big wines are always left there, waiting. Sure, the price is the factor as well, and we tend to leave wines like that “for a special occasions”.

But I know one thing for sure: when deciding what to have with my dinner, I am always looking for more acidic, light or medium body wines (mainly from European production). The famous “table wines” from Europe. There is a reason why Italian, Spanish or French wine lovers could have a glass of wine with their lunch. Their table wines are light, fruity, with low alcohol – that are meant to just complement the meal.

When I want to entertain and share a “big bottle” of wine with my wine enthusiastic friends, I plan to prepare a richer meals like steak, beef stew, barbecue, grill meats and sausages – something that can stand to wines I intend to drink. (Note: if your friends drink anything, don’t waste your really special bottle. It’s not being cheap. The chances are they wouldn’t appreciate the flavor of it anyway.)

When talking about these big, special wines, I realized that I completely forgot about the traditional American grape, Zinfandel. Yes, the sometimes unjustly neglected Zinfandel.

Experts say that this grape is genetically similar to Croatian grape called Crljenak Kaštelanski and to Primitivo, traditionally grown in Italy since 18th century.

Zinfandel, as we know it in California, perhaps got its bad name among wine drinkers thanks to its “White Zinfandel” cousin. I am talking about the almost best selling variety of wine in United States of America that outsells the red six times!

Today I have picked three Zinfandel wines that have nothing to do with their “white friend” but everything to do with the original, noble red grape, proudly grown in California. These are wines that I repeatedly tasted over several vintages, and always appreciated the quality and complexity that they offer.

The art of Zinfandel – just right for our autumn mood for something comforting, impressive and big. There are many great Zinfandels on the market that I know of, but today I have picked some of my personal favorites.

I hope you like my selection:

Artezin – wine produced by Hess Collection Winery in Napa, is blended with a tiny bit of Petite Sirah to add character and complexity to the wine. Winemaker Randle Johnson, prior his work at Hess Collection, was a big passionate lover of this traditional American grape and produced some great wines in Mount Veeder.



Cline Ancient vines Zinfandel – one of many Zinfandel wines produced by Cline cellars in Carneros. Fred Cline restored many ancient vines, originally planted in California by Italian and Portuguese immigrants more than 100 years ago.


Mara Reserve Zinfandel Dolinsek Ranch The art of Zinfandel

one of his two excellent examples of wine created from old vines Zinfandel in the heart of Napa Valley. Charles Mara is not only producing these outstanding Zinfandels, he is also a wine merchant, wine judge, Professor of Oenology, a member of the Society of Wine Educators (bot don’t worry, there is nothing “professor” about him and his wines). He use his knowledge and passion to produce best possible Zinfandel. And he does a great job…

Please, let me know your favorites. I would like to taste them next!

All recipes paired with wine, Beef

Beef brisket with roasted grapes

Beef brisket with roasted grapes

I have had this meal at my friends house – so the credit for this presentation got to go to my friend Teresa. It may seem like a lot of work, but the result was worth the effort. Note: for the most tender brisket, you need a little patience. Slow-braise the meat ahead of time, then refrigerate overnight to blend the flavors.

Beef brisket with roasted grapes

1 5-6 lb beef brisket
2 tbsp cooking oil
1 lb onions, chopped (about 33/4 cup)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbs ground ginger
Salt and ground black pepper
2 cups red wine, such as Shiraz or Zinfandel
1 14oz. can beef or chicken broth
1 lb each carrots and pearl onions, peeled
4 cups seedless red grapes
2 or 3 sprigs fresh thyme or 2 tsp dried thyme, crushed
¼ cup cooking oil
¼ cup all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 F. Trim excess fat from brisket, set brisket aside. In roasting pan with cover, cook chopped onions and garlic in hot oil until onions are tender, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add ginger, cook and stir 1 minute more. Remove from heat. Season brisket with salt and pepper, place brisket on onion mixture. Add wine and broth. Cover, roast for 2 hours. If you don’t have a covered roasting pan, tightly cover pan with heavy foil.

Remove cover, add carrots. Roast, uncovered for 45 to 60 minutes more until carrots are just tender.

Remove brisket from oven, stir in pearl onions. Cover, let stand for 30 minutes. Transfer meat and vegetables to storage container. Cover and refrigerate meat and vegetables in one container and pan juices in another. Refrigerate all overnight (12 to 24 hours).

Before serving, preheat oven to 375 F. Remove fat from pan juices, discard fat. Transfer juices to saucepan, boil gently, uncovered, about 20 minutes until reduced to 2 ¼ cups. While brisket is cold, slice of any excess fat. Slice meat against the grain, slice carrots diagonally in 2 inch pieces. Return brisket and vegetables to roasting pan. Add grapes, herbs, and reduced juices. Cover and reheat in oven for 45 minutes. Transfer brisket, grapes, onion and carrots to platter. Discard herb sprigs.

For a gravy, combine oil and flour in a small sauce pan and stir in pan juices. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir 1 more minute. Serve with brisket. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

To peel pearl onions, place whole onions in boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water. Cut off end of each onion and squeeze gently to remove skin.

Wine pairing suggestion:
To complement the fruitiness of grapes and richness of the beef and gravy, I looked for fruity, robust wine to pair with this meal. My long time favorite Cline Ancient vines Zinfandel was a great choice.