May Domestic Wine: 2010 Ancient Peaks Zinfandel, Paso Robles, CALIFORNIA

Ancient Peaks wines hail from their estate Margarita Vineyard, which stands alone as the southernmost vineyard in the Paso Robles region. Here, amid the rugged Santa Lucia Mountain range just 14 miles from the Pacific Ocean, they maximize the remarkable diversity of their soils to craft wines of depth and dimension.

Their Zinfandel has emerged as one of the Paso Robles region’s most acclaimed Zinfandels in recent vintages, including “Steal of The Year” honors in Sunset Magazine, 93 points in Wine Spectator and a Top 100 Wine of The Year designation by the San Francisco Chronicle. This acclaim is rooted in their estate Margarita Vineyard, which yields an intense yet finely balanced expression of the Zinfandel grape.

History of Zinfandel and its Relation to Ancient Peaks: A man named Joseph W. Osborne may have made the first wine from Zinfandel in California. He planted Zinfandel from Macondray at his Oak Knoll vineyard just north of Napa, and his wine was much praised in 1857. Planting of Zinfandel boomed soon after, and by the end of the 19th century it was the most widespread variety in California.

Zinfandel old vines are now treasured for the production of premium red wine, but many were ripped up in the 1920s, during the Prohibition years (1920–1933), but not for the obvious reason. Even during the Prohibition, home winemaking remained effectively legal, and some vineyards embraced the sale of grapes for making wine at home. While Zinfandel grapes proved popular among home winemakers living near the vineyards, it was vulnerable to rot on the long journey to East Coast markets. The thick-skinned Alicante Bouschet was less susceptible to rot, so this and similar varieties were widely planted for the home winemaking market. Three thousand cars (about 38000 t) of Zinfandel grapes were shipped in 1931, compared to 6000 cars of Alicante Bouschet.

The 2010 Zinfandel is composed of fruit from five separate blocks spanning three different soil types at their estate Margarita Vineyard–shale, sedimentary and volcanic. Collectively, these different soils and exposures bring natural complexity and dimension to the wine. Additionally, the vineyard’s marine-cooled climate and long growing season enable the Zinfandel fruit to achieve inherent structure and restraint

while delivering ample varietal richness and spic e.

Varietals: 100% Zinfandel

Alcohol: 15.0% by volume

Tasting Notes: The 2010 Zinfandel offers vibrant aromas of crushed raspberry and blueberry with a dash of sweet oak. Bright, juicy flavors of raspberry, boysenberry and black cherry anticipate notes of cola and spice. A smoky vanilla note joins luscious acidity on a rich, jammy finish.

Food Pairings: The wine pairs well with grilled lamb chops, wood-fired sausage pizza, Santa Maria tri-tip and chicken fajitas.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Really an old school interpretation of Zinfandel. As spicy as it is rich, with great balance and weight. A wine with tremendous flavor and intensity, but also elegance. I am excited to share it with you!”-JL

May Imported Wine: 2011 Couly-Dutheil “Les Gravières” Chinon, Loire, FRANCE

Established in 1921 by Baptiste Dutheil, then developped by René Couly who married Madeleine Dutheil, the House of Couly-Dutheil has become the great name for Chinon. Today, Couly-Dutheil remains a family house owned by the third and fouth generation.

The Chinon region has all the qualities of the greatest soils. Its semi-oceanic climate is exceptionally mild and benefits of long sunny periods. The variety of soils and their particular qualities allows the Cabernet-Franc (98% of the vineyard) to express all its finesse and its celebrated “taffetas” within a range of strong personalities.

The sandy and gravelly plains along the Vienne river provide a great back drop for thirst quenching, light and fruity wines. The clay and flinty slopes, and flat-lands produce fine and subtle wines, while the clay and chalky hills bare sumptuous wines meant for ageing.

History of Chinon (Cabernet Franc) and its Relation to Couly-Dutheil: Cabernet Franc is one of the major black grape varieties worldwide. It is principally grown for blending with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the Bordeaux style, but can also be vinified alone – as in the Loire‘s Chinon. It can be bottled as a single varietal, or used in blends as well. It can also be made into ice wine in both the United States and Canada.

Cabernet Franc is lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon, making a bright pale red wineand contributing finesse and a peppery perfume to blends with more robust grapes. Depending on growing region and style of wine, additional aromas can include tobacco, raspberry, bell pepper, and cassis, sometimes even violets.

Records of Cabernet Franc in Bordeaux go back to the end of the 18th century; it was planted in Loire long before that. DNA analysis indicates Cabernet Franc is one of two parents of Cabernet Sauvignon, a cross between it and Sauvignon Blanc.

Varietals: 100% Cabernet Franc

Alcohol: 13.5% by volume

Tasting Notes: Beautiful purple color, with very pleasant aromatics of green pepper and small red fruits. Fruity on the palate, making it easy to drink and very charming.

Food Pairings: A wonderful pairing with chicken, veal, and ham.

Jim Lutfy’s thoughts: “Loaded with an abundance of flavor! Gobs of fruit jumping out of the glass. The Chinon here is uninhibited and seamless. Layered with spicy and earthy tones; this is a great wine!”-JL