The Winos’ Tasting Series: the unending fight for good wine, featuring Guerrilla Zin and Cafe du Vin

By Jesse on May 12, 2010

The LA Winos recently gathered at Erik’s place to taste a few new samples: three bottles of Zinfandel, followed by some wine-infused coffee.  “The unending fight for good wine” was written by Julie, with photos by Erik.

Wine Guerilla claims to make wines “worth fighting for” and encourages drinkers to “join the insurrection”. Well, Saturday night’s alright for fighting, but it was Friday and the Young Winos of LA decided to call a truce, sit comfortably and drink copiously.

We had three bottles of 2007 Zinfandel (by reputation, California’s native grape, but I wouldn’t want to get into a pissing contest with a Croatian over that one). Wine Guerilla sources grapes from multiple vineyards, so our plan of attack was to move from the broadest to most specific area of harvest, beginning with a Sonoma County, moving on to a Dry Creek Valley, and finishing with a Forchini Vineyards harvest.

With a screw of the cap, all three bottles were opened and the 2007 Sonoma County was poured. The phrases that this wine evoked were “like eating unripe fruit in a dark study” and “cruise ship wine.” Jordan called it a “bin zin,” which I particularly liked. On the nose, the group noticed a pattern of “fruity industrial” notes – a blend of raspberries and rubber cement, blueberries and Styrofoam coolers, leather and tart blueberries. Ultimately, we found this was a hard wine to pin down and that the complex bouquet was always changing. On the palate, Sasha found it to be “aggressive, but lacking a velvety, soft finish.” And like the nose, we were tasting notes of cranberries and tart fruits, with the addition of licorice. Andrew, a self-proclaimed Zinfandel critic, shunned this bottle for being “too obvious,” meaning heavy on the fruit, but lacking structural elements. When it came down to how much we would pay for a glass in a restaurant, we settled on a $4 – $6 range and thought it very suitable as a house wine at a mid-priced restaurant.

Three pairs of besties.

Moving on to the 2007 Dry Creek, both price point and alcohol volume went up. Jordan’s first impression of this zin’s bouquet was that of a “prune tapenade,” which Andrea countered with “prune jam,” and there ensued a debate on the distinction between the two spreads. The bouquet descriptor that got everyone nodding their heads was that of “fig” — but “not just a fig,” Jesse said, “a Fig Newton!” I also agreed with Jesse’s assertion of “fruit-flavored hookah tobacco.” We were much more pleased with the well-rounded, smooth flavor profile of this bottle, which wasn’t as fruit-forward as the other, and offered a longer finish. We noted the complete lack of tannins and also found ourselves salivating due to its acidity. There were notes of black pepper, but the takeaway phrase from this bottle was “sour blood metal with cherries, but in a good way.” We were feeling generally positive about this wine until we were informed that were we to pick it up at the store, we would be asked for twenty bucks. We all thought that $12 might be a more appropriate price point for this bottle.

Finally, the 2007 “old vine” Forchini Vineyards (Dry Creek) was poured. While all of our bottles were blends, this Forchini Vineyards was 95% Zinfandel. (In most of California, a varietal wine can be named after a single grape as long as at least 75% of it is composed of that grape.) Wine Enthusiast gave this one 91 points. On the nose, it yielded crème brûlée, caramel, incense, mulling spices, cinnamon and spice cake. To me, the bouquet evoked images of gypsies; to Erik, an old fence with flaking paint after heavy rains. We tasted musty cellars and creamy talc. Jesse detected a dusting of tannins, which Jessica found functioned as an incubator against what she perceived as a sourness. This wine received an all around thumbs up for its long, elegant finish and lighter fruit notes, such as pear and strawberry.

Hey Emily, over here… wine spurs conversation… puppy is ready for coffee.

To combat our wine-induced drowsiness and prep for a post-tasting karaoke gig, we brewed a couple pots of Café d’Vine wine-infused coffee. The packaging claimed that this was not mere flavored coffee, but actual infused coffee, the result of to a special process that infuses the wine into the coffee bean while removing all of the alcohol content. (Kind of a bummer, but one can’t have everything.)

We started out with the Merlot coffee.  It featured a gingerbread nose, with ample notes of nutmeg and cinnamon, but nothing really Merlot-ish about it.  Andrea picked up some basil character on the palate, and called it “hearty but refreshing.”  Most people agreed — it was good coffee, but the wine influences were hard to pickup.  Next, we moved on to the Cabernet Sauvignon, and we were intrigued by the subtle tartness of the brew. Again, however, no one was going to be blind-tasting varietals in this coffee.  We did observe that as the coffee cooled (even slightly), a sourness began to take hold. We resisted adding creamer in order to get a pure sense of the beverage, but after about five minutes the tasters were wishing there was something to mask the emerging acidity. Our advice to anyone wishing to try themselves some Café d’Vine is that you make sure you drink it plenty hot.

Whatcha doin?  Brewin?… several coffee cups, and a few complimentary Café d’Vin shooters… some cheese and extras for the stragglers.

After segueing into topics such as whether or not Guerilla Wine was successfully branding themselves and if there is a stigma attached to “leftover” grapes, the Young Winos went gently into the night, peaceful warriors in the unending fight for good wine.

The Young Winos of LA — edutoxicating Los Angeles since 2005.

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