Wine Blogging Wednesday #48: Back to Your (Vinous) Roots (UPDATE August 19)

Excuse me, I have to run out the door to buy some wine! First, however, I wanted to thank Lenn for hosting the event he instigated on its fourth anniversary & congratulate him on the inspiration to round up the blogosphere's widely ranging cabal of Oenological scribblers through the simple, effective ritual of tasting a shared yet individualized assignment. A ritual that has succeeded at forging something like a sense of community. Kudos, Lenn!

'The Scribe' seems to have beaten me to the punch in this instance, but I'd like to follow through on my own habitual pattern & use the topic of this Wine Blogging Wednesday as motivation for more than one posting. As a matter of fact, my third installment may take some time & some doing, since, as a nod to Mr. Thompson's particular turf, I'm looking for a chance to re-view my 'Aha!' moment regarding Long Island wines: during an extended return stay in New York City back in that fateful year of 2000, I discovered & repeatedly shared the impression made by a Merlot from Pellegrini Vineyards on the North Fork. The vintage was 1997-- I wonder, is any of that still to be found, & (gulp) at what price?
But before then, I have two divergent 'taproots' to trace: one for red wines & one for whites. They represent contrasting experiences that shook my take-it-or-leave-it complacency regarding wine, bred by the middling to cheap Rioja that was the vinous norm in my family as I was growing up, & later, by extension of habit, among friends.
The wine that gave me the fruit & spice I wasn't getting from the Riojas-- or from the occasional treasured Premier Cru that was usually, at the very least, 'diminished' by stewing unrefrigerated in the tropical heat-- was a Sutter Home Zinfandel. In all likelihood, a '92 or '93, the latter being an especially good year for California Zinfandel. (--or maybe it was 'Non-Vintage' at that point?) I went on a Zin binge that lasted-- oh, maybe seven or eight years. I weaned myself slowly, gradually, with much help from Rhone varietals.
While the experience with Zinfandel gave me an exhilarating sense of gaining access to the sensuous richness in wine-- which had seemed to elude me up to that point-- my visit to the Domaine of vigneron-négociant Jean-Marc Brocard in Chablis during the Summer of 1995 rubbed my unprepared nose in wine's subtle complexities, making the dramatic point that most of this richness was still beyond my 'sensory means'. The circumstances of my visit bear retelling at length, but first I have to locate some of the wine.
In relation to my task at hand: the Trinchero family continues to bottle Zinfandel under the Sutter Home label, but the local distributor, Vicente Suárez, did not have it in stock. They had the Sutter Home Merlot, their Cabernet, & their White Zinfandel, of course! But not their Zin.
(As I write this & review some of the contributions already posted, I see Tim Eliot over at Winecast located & tasted some of this juice. Salud, Tim!)
As an 'acceptable faccsimile', I bought a bottle of 2004 'Terra d'Oro' Amador County Zinfandel from Montevina, which is another of the Trinchero Family's labels. In an attempt to compensate somewhat for not locating my self-assigned vinous 'madeleine', I also bought some 1998 DeLoach Russian River Valley Zin-- & I'm glad I did. On first opening yesterday, cedar spice-box notes from the oak tended to dominate the Montevina, while the DeLoach seemed a little 'brett-y': mostly loam & leather. I missed the bramblebush & berry at the usual core of Zinfandel typicity, as the fruit character tended more to plum & some black cherry. The DeLoach seemed to lighten in body & 'died' in the glass with a clear, surprising cranberry tartness. Paired with some chorizo-spiked kidney bean 'chili' stew to bring out spice notes as well as buffer their 14.5% alcohol level, both wines evidenced some wonderful evolution this evening: the Montevina Terra d'Oro opened to a creamy milk chocolate nose that seems to be reflected in the midpalate texture. In the DeLoach, the earthiness was offset & balanced by some orange zest acidity. My nose seems to be half asleep-- there is a touch of herbaceousness in both of them, but I can't pinpoint it-- maybe sage? Let me just say that the DeLoach sells for $19.50 plus 7 1/2 % tax here, & they seem to me an unjustly underappreciated producer. Maybe I'll leave it at that, & promise some further tasting notes as a third-time-charm addendum. Tomorrow I'll have to begin to search in earnest for some Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis...à suivre...

UPDATE: Méndez & Co. have J-M Brocard's Grand Cru 'Les Clos'!
Some further notes on the Zinfandels are here.