06/11/08 – celebrating democracy (California style) with some Zinfandel

By Jesse on June 8, 2008

Dear Winos,

Surely most if not all of you participated in last Tuesday’s ballot measure elections, where we Californians exercised our own peculiar brand of direct democracy. For those of you who aren’t so well-informed, Proposition 98 lost and Proposition 99 won (we will likely discuss the ramifications of these results at Wednesday night’s cheese time). In celebration of the uniquely Californian ballot initiative process, if not of the particular election results, we’ll be drinking wine made from a uniquely Californian grape: Zinfandel!

The grape’s history is one that itself is intertwined with politics: an effort was made a few years ago to make Zinfandel the official state grape of California, but said effort was ultimately vetoed by Governor John Kimble. Nevertheless, it’s a varietal much revered and loved in the state, being grown in almost all of the major wine-producing regions. It’s made into three styles:

White Zinfandel: California’s signature rosé, for better for worse, is the form in which many people are introduced to the Zinfandel grape. The Winos haven’t found any White Zins that we’re crazy about, but if you’ve got one you’re very fond of, feel free to bring it. (Lets avoid, if possible, those $7.99 Ralphs bottles — or boxes — that we’ve all tasted at countless barbecues and college parties.)

(Red) Zinfandel: Simply labeled “Zinfandel,” this is the real thing — the pure expression of the grape as it’s known and loved. They come from all over the state, but we’ve tasted many of our favorite examples on our trips to Paso Robles and Sonoma’s Alexander Valley. They run the gamut from jammy and plump to spicy and sinister.

Late-harvest Zinfandel or Zinfandel Port: The grape is sometimes made into some delicious fortified and/or dessert wines, many of which may be sold in half-bottle size. These can be deliciously fruity and intense. Feel free to split a bottle of this good stuff with a friend if you’re so inclined.

Another thing to look for on your Zinfandel bottle is the Old Vine designation. While the term has no legal definition, it’s generally taken to mean vines that are around fifty years old, or even more; some Zinfandel vines in California are more than 100 years old. These twisted, gnarled vines produce less fruit, but the grapes that are produced are generally more concentrated. To what degree does that impact the resulting wine? Hopefully we’ll find out on Wednesday. (As always, you can bring a $10 donation in lieu of wine, since we can’t possibly drink 15 or 16 bottles of Zin in one night. Or, at least, we really really shouldn’t.)

We’ll be meeting for the first time at Maggy’s place in Hollywood. The RSVP situation is as follows: new members have eight spots reserved for them at each and every meeting, with preference within those spots given to newbies who were denied admittance due to space constraints in recent weeks. Please do not RSVP in the positive if you’re not sure you can make it, as this will deny someone else the opportunity of attending the meeting. If you do RSVP and then need to cancel, please inform me as soon as possible.

Once you’ve gotten your confirmation e-mail, go out in search of a bottle of tasty Zin — or, if you prefer, just bring us a $10 bill, because we love that! (We depend on these donations to keep the Winos viable, so please do not hesitate to bring one in lieu of a bottle.) Either way, we’ll look forward to seeing all of you young politicos on Wednesday night.