Thursday, July 12, 2007

Forchini’s 2004 Zinfandel Proprietor’s Reserve: Zin-fully Delicious

Frank’s back from his road trip and it was an undisputed success. In fact, he’s still raving about the wineries, the people, and the climate. Now I just need to get him to apply fingers to keyboard… not that I’m hinting you understand.

Meanwhile, though, there’s one story that already has a sequel, hopefully the first of many – that’s many stories about the trip and many sequels to this particular story.

The winery was Forchini Vineyards (their Petit Verdot vines shown left). Frank had stumbled on it by accident while he was looking for a spot to take pictures of the Dry Creek Valley. This particular winery is located at the top of the steepest driveway, so naturally that was where he pointed the truck. When he arrived at the peak, he spotted a father and son hanging out – well, not just hanging out. Jim and Michael were actually watching their power meter run backwards. Seems they’d just installed solar panels and were now feeding power back into California’s power grid.

At first they were a trifle suspicious. Later Michael confided he and his dad had been trying to figure out whether this guy at the end of their drive was a grower hoping to sell them grapes. It was a theme that would be repeated often – apparently the combination of truck, Daytons, and jeans spells “Grower” to most vineyard owners.

But they soon warmed up when Frank explained he was working toward his WSET Diploma and genuinely only wanted to snap a few photos of the valley. One thing led to another – again, a recurring theme of the trip. Jim left early, but seemingly in no time, Frank and Michael were ensconced on the patio sipping wines under the adoring gaze of two golden labs made famous on the pages of Wine Dogs: The Original Winery Dog Book.

Now you have to appreciate that Frank tasted hundreds of wine during his all too brief, five-day sojourn. But the Forchini 2004 Zinfandel Proprietor’s Reserve was one of the wines he chose to fulfill his meager allotment of two bottles – the maximum the Canadian government will allow you to bring back after even an extended visit outside the country without paying almost 150% in duties and taxes.

One, the Potter’s Viognier, never made it home. He drank it – yes, the whole bottle – enroute. But the Forchini 2004 Zinfandel Proprietor’s Reserve did arrive safe and sound in Vancouver. And he’s been telling me about it ever since he put it on the wine rack – not like any Zin I’ve ever tried, it’s going to change the way I think of Zins, I’ll love this one.

Finally I couldn’t stand it, I called his bluff. Open the bottle and let me taste for myself.

Thing is, it was no bluff. This is one amazing wine and truly is unlike any other Zinfandel we’ve ever tasted. The aromatics are lush – bordering on contemplative – and filled with spice plus something that seems elusively like licorice but isn’t. Over the evening, the spices intensified but never overwhelmed.

There’s no disappointment on the palate either. Tons of big, bold berry with an undertone of spice and still that unknown licorice or perhaps anise. Frank got just a hint of vanilla too – most likely from the 35% new American oak – but I was too infatuated to really care about the oak. This was, quite simply, everything he’d said and more.

Definitely created in a traditional Italian style, the finish is long, lingering, and smooth. As Frank put it, you can swish it around in your mouth all you like and you won’t get any tannins or harshness. It covers the entire tongue from front to back with no hot spots anywhere. Yet surprisingly, this wine packs 15.2% alcohol – very uncharacteristically, Frank was off by 2% pegging it at 13%.

As we were savouring the last glass, Frank finally confessed. “I’m really glad this was as good as I remember it being. I’ve been talking it up to you for so long now I was starting to wonder if it was actually more to do with the time and the place – you know, the dogs flopped out in the tasting room, the sunshine, the conversation. But it really is just as wonderful as I remembered.” And although this wine is sold out far in advance, sometime in the future we agreed a return visit with Jim and Michael is now high up on our “must make time for” list.


- The Wine: 2004 Zinfandel Proprietor’s Reserve
- Cost: $25.00 (US)
- The Forchini Vineyard produces a total of only 3,000 cases of wine per year. They own 24 acres along the Russian River and 67 acres in Dry Creek.
- Only 350 cases of the 2004 Zinfandel Proprietor’s Reserve were produced. This vintage is made from 100 year old, dry farmed vines grown on the eastern Dry Creek Valley benchland.
- The Forchini wine labels are portraits painted by the Italian artist Caravaggio. Born in 1571,Caravaggio lived a controversial, passionate life and was renown for his impressionistic work with its still life realism and dramatic contrasts between light and dark.

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