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Star-Bulletin Features

Wednesday, February 23, 2000

Values on the Vine


‘America’s grape’ offers
Zinzational values

ZINFANDEL, California's pride and joy, is the focus of both this column and the upcoming Hawaii Public Radio 14th Annual Wine Auction and Tasting.

The KHPR fund-raiser will feature a Grand Tasting and Silent Auction from 1 to 3 p.m.. Sunday, March 5, at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Tapa Ballroom. While Zinfandels will be the focus of the event, a wide variety of wines will be offered. Food will be provided by Chef Jean-Luc Voegeli of Bali-by-the-Sea and Raphael Lunetta, chef/owner of JiRaffe in Santa Monica, Calif. Auctioneer Dennis Foley will conduct a live auction from 3 to 5 p.m. of rare wines, as well as travel packages and other non-wine items.

Two special breakout tastings are limited to 50 participants each. One will focus on rare Zinfandels, the other on the 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon/Meritage vintage from California. Tickets to the breakout sessions are $20 each. Tickets to the tasting are $45 for KHPR members, $55 for others. Call 955-8821.

Richard Field

Owner of R. Field Wine Co.

The fastest growing wine type by far in America is Zinfandel. Zin now accounts for 23 percent of California's red wine grape acreage.

Bullet The best value for a delicious bottle of Zinfandel comes consistently from a legendary producer. Ravenswood opts for high ripeness and more acidity to balance the sweet qualities of its wines. The Ravenswood Vintners Blend, $9.99, is a medium-bodied and balanced wine with a touch of oak seasoning. This is perfect with steak, burgers and grilled chicken.

Bullet For the collector looking for a rare wine to age comes Rabbit Ridge Vineyards 1997 Winemaker's Grand Reserve, $45.64. It garnered the top score from Connoisseurs' Guide magazine: "Rich oak and concentrated blackberry fruit are equal partners in this deep, beautifully crafted Zinfandel, and, while among the more extracted wines under review, this one comes with none of the toughness or excessive ragged edges that often follow with wines of this density." Limited production.

Lyle Fujioka

Owner of Fujioka's Wine Merchants

Bullet 1996 Brown Estate Zinfandel, Napa, $16.95: This wine is Ferrari smooth and sleek. Packed with ripe berry, it defines the balance between fruit and alcohol lacking in many Zins. Food pairings can be difficult with full-blown Zins blowing away your palate, not so here. Limited inventory.

Bullet 1997 Rosenblum Zinfandel "Alegria," Russian River, $25: In contrast to the Brown, a Ferrari-inspired Zin, this single-vineyard release from Ken Rosenblum is a thumping Corvette -- a big cubic inch, pedal-to-the-metal, high-octane burner. Fumes of rich, spicy berries pumped with dark chocolate pound the senses. With 15.8 percent alcohol registering in the tank, you almost expect flames on the palate. Not so, a preponderance of jammy raspberry fruit smothers any hint of heat. Throw a scorched ribeye steak against it for full-throttle cruise control.

Bullet 1997 Montevina Zinfandel, Amador, $7.95: This little Montevina Zin recently showed favorably against Zins costing three times as much in an in-house blind tasting. It has us wondering why super Zins have to have super high prices.

Chuck Furuya

President of Fine Wine Imports

A humongous tasting of red Zinfandel, America's grape, happens every January in San Francisco. It is called ZAP. Here are two highlights from this year's showcase of this ever more popular wine:

Bullet Bogle Zinfandel "Old Vines," $13.99: Bogle is perennially and deservedly rated one of California's best buys. Produced from old vines, the '98 is ripe, juicy, peppery and full of delicious flavor. Drink with barbecued meat, meatloaf, Italian food and chili, to name a few.

Bullet Edmeades Zinfandel "Mendocino," $14.99: A personal favorite. I love the intense concentration combined with elegance, texture and balance. Bright and exuberant, yet layered with character and complexities, this Zinfandel offers much more than most California Cabernets and/or Merlots in its price range. Foods? Hearty red meat dishes -- roasted or charcoal grilled work well. Rich ahi, swordfish and salmon dishes work well too, just serve the wine a bit cooler.

Jay Kam

President of Vintage Wine Cellar

This month we have a comparison of two different styles of Zinfandel. We have a ripe, bold fruity style from 1997 and a more reserved, old-world style of wine from 1998. Try a bottle of each and see which style you prefer.

Bullet 1997 Rancho Zabaco Zinfandel Heritage Vines, Sonoma, Calif., $10.99: This is a Zin lover's everyday drinking wine. From the "Zin Zone" in the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma, this is big, bold and intense. Raspberry nose, ripe berry fruit and peppery character makes this a much better wine than the inexpensive price indicates. Enjoy with grilled sausages and peppers or barbecued chicken.

Bullet 1998 Karly Pokerville Zinfandel, Amador, Calif., $10.49: We couldn't keep the 1997 Karly Pokerville in stock, but never fear, the 1998 vintage has arrived. It's more classical and traditional in style than the 1997 -- a claret lover's Zin. Good fruit, but more structure and tannin than the 1997. Garth Cobb, winemaker at Karly, says "No one is going to have better 1998 Zins than Karly." Try it with cassoulet, braised beef or a homemade hamburger.


Bullet "14th Annual Wine Classic Auction & Tasting": Hawaii Public Radio's Wine Classic Auction & Tasting is set for March 5 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. in the Hilton Hawaiian Village's Tapa Ballroom. The HPR benefit will feature a grand tasting session, a meeting with winemakers and both silent and live auctions. Tickets: $55; $45 HPR members. Call 955-8821 for more information.

Bullet Sharpen those knife skills: Kapiolani Community college sponsors a workshop on knife skills, 6:30 p.m. tomorrow in Ohia Room 118. The class is free. Call 734-9441.

Bullet "Hungry for Nutrition": Learn how to choose healthy foods through interactive nutrition-related activities. A free class will be conducted at Times Supermarkets, Royal Kunia, 5-6 p.m. March 21. Topics include: how to choose healthy produce, foods low in sodium, low-fat dairy products, and lean cuts of meat. Call Gail Ogawa at 678-7208 for more information.

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