Random thoughts on the world of wine, presented in no particular order.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sobon Estate: zinning in Amador

Full disclosure: I tasted these wines at a free tasting with the winemaker about 2 months ago.  I'm re-translating my notes (I keep them in a form of shorthand) from that event.

The first thing many of you may be wondering is, "where the heck is Amador, and why should I care?"  The Amador AVA is east of Sacramento, well inland from the coastal influences you find in Napa and Sonoma.  It's warm and dry during the growing season, and -- in my opinion, at least -- some of the best Zinfandel in California comes from there.  Certainly some of the best values in California zin are Amador county zins.  I've never seen an Amador zin over $26, and most of them are in the $10-$20 range.  So, it's a place rife with good value -- since you've likely not heard of it, neither have other shoppers, so there's not as much of a demand-based drive up in price.

My personal favorite producer in Amador County is Sobon Estate/Shenandoah Vineyards (hereafter referred to as just "Sobon.").  Sobon is a very green-friendly producer, growing organic grapes (no pesticides or herbicides), using solar power to minimize their carbon footprint (they actually sell carbon offset credits, since they create less CO2 than they eliminate!), and best of all in my opinion, using Stelvin closures on most of their wines -- screw caps mean no corked wines, and no need for a tool to open up a bottle!

Their line includes a number of non-Zinfandel offerings; Sauvignon Blanc, Roussanne, Viognier, a zin rosé (not white zin!), Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sangiovese round out their lineup for dry wines.  They also produce a Black Muscat, some Zinfandel-based Port, and a white Port based on their white Rhône varietals.  Their zins come in several lines -- Hillside, Old Vines, Cougar Hill, Fiddletown (from the AVA within Amador of the same name), and Paul's Vineyard.

OK, enough talking, time for some reviews.  First up, their 2007 Sauvignon Blanc:

Light yellow/green in the glass.  Shows nicely perfumed citrus in the nose. Apple, citrus and melon in the mouth, with a slightly herbaceous finish. Just enough acidity to be interesting, but not as zippy as comparably-priced Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand.  Still, a tasty wine, good for light fish meals or just as an aperetif.  Great, if you like a slightly lower-acid Sauv Blanc.  85 points.

In the interest of fairness, I generally don't like California Sauvignon Blancs (give me the enamel-stripping acidity of New Zealand, or the elegant minerality of Bordeaux, or the light crispness of the Loire instead), but this one really is quite good in that genre.  It's not nearly as flabby as most, with enough acid and low enough residual sugar to be quite tasty, in fact.

Then, their 2007 Hillside Zinfandel.  I'll note that 2007 was a very good year for Amador Zinfandel -- ideal growing conditions through most of the summer -- so if you have the chance to get an '07 from there, do so.  Anyhow, the Hillside:

Garnet.  Nose shows blueberry and blackberry, with some darker notes of cocoa.  Similar in the mouth, some dark cherry, with the addition of a little eucalyptus/mint note on the finish. Nice, moderate tannins give the wine good structure.  The wine is moderately heavy, with a fairly long finish.  88 points.

Next, 2007 Fiddletown:

Bright ruby in the glass. Powerful nose of cherry and black pepper-esque spice.  In the mouth, shows off more of the fruit -- cherry and raspberry -- with a distinct undercurrent of charcoal and black pepper.  Powerful, deep wine, but still very well-balanced, with enough acidity and tannin to keep from being flabby.  Very long finish.  This is quintessential "steak wine," especially if you're grilling over coals and peppering the steak.  Great value.  Drink through 2019.  91 points.

Finally, their 2007 zin Port:

Dark red in the glass. Inviting nose, showing LOTS of plum and some raisin/prune notes. More of the same in the mouth; lots of fruit, some of it dried.  Just a hint of spice on the finish to show off the Zin character. Quite tasty. Good balance and finish.  A rich port, perfect for "dessert in a glass," or with cheesecake. 89 points.

So there you have four very nice wines.  And the best part?  Every one of them is under $25 -- at the winery's website, you can buy Fiddletown for $22 and the Port for $13 for a half-bottle.  The other two appear to be sold out at the winery, but my local wine store has them for $10 for the Sauvignon Blanc and $11 for the Hillside.

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