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Paso Robles

In Harmony – Pasta and Harmony Cellars Zinfandel

Harmony Cellars 2008 Zinfandel

Harmony Cellars 2008 Zinfandel

Paso Robles has been getting a lot of attention for it’s wines of late. When Saxum won Wine Spectator 2010 Wine Of the Year, Rhone varietals such as marsasnne, roussane, and of course syrah from the Paso Robles area became highly sought after. During a recent press trip to Paso, I tasted many great Rhone varietal wines from Paso Robles wineries such as Tablas Creek and Denner. However, as Paso Robles is also well known for it’s zinfandel wines, I had to sip a few of them. I was fortunate to have a sample bottle sent home to review of one of those zinfandel wines from Harmony Cellars.

The View Outside of Harmony Cellars Tasting Room

The View Outside of Harmony Cellars Tasting Room

A small, family-owned winery, Harmony produces about 6,500 cases of various wines each year. Owners Chuck and Kim Mulligan founded the winery in 1989, and winemaker Chuck Mulligan still does most of the work himself. The winery sits on a plot of land that has been in Kim’s family for four generations, and Kim’s great grandfather, Giacomo Barloggio used to make homemade wine in his basement.

Though I don’t know for sure, I will assume based on his name that great-grandpa Giacomo Barloggio was Italian. Perhaps that’s why the Harmony Cellars 2008 Zinfandel is a perfect pasta wine. I’ve been making a simple bolognese sauce for the past six years, and always love pairing it with different red wines to see what works well. I’m positive that the Harmony Cellars Zinfandel is my favorite pairing so far. With a price of $19 for the wine, it makes an for inexpensive pasta meal for two.

Harmony - Pasta and Zinfandel

Harmony – Pasta and Zinfandel

On it’s own, the Harmony Cellars Zinfandel was big and jammy, with plenty of dark cherry, blackberry and a little chocolate note. There’s also a good bit of spice, black pepper and cinnamon on the palate. The wine paired perfectly with the pasta bolognese, enhancing the dark chocolate notes while maintaining a good balance of dark fruit and spice.

Pasta isn’t the only food this wine will pair well with. Zinfnadel works great with almost anything you’d cook on the grill. With Father’s Day coming up, Dad will love putting some burgers and dogs on the grill, and pairing them with a glass of Harmony Cellars Zinfandel. If BBQ ribs are your thing, then zinfandel is for you! I love the combination of a great zinfandel and BBQ ribs, and Dad will too!

What is a Rhone wine – WBW71 post

Wine Blogging Wednesday 71

Wine Blogging Wednesday 71

One of the issues many new to the wine world face is learning the grapes certain wines are made with. This is more an issue with old world wines, such as Italy and France, though it can be an issue in the US as well. For example, when I tackled today’s Wine Blogging Wednesday post, Rhone not from Rhone , I had to first recall exactly which grapes make up Rhone wines. The main ones are GSM, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, if you weren’t sure. However, there’s a great supporting cast of cinsault, petit sirah, viognier, roussanne and marsanne. For today’s WBW post I selected a Paso Robles cuvee, or a blend, of Rhone varietals and am excited to tell you about it.

By way of background, Lenn “Devours” Thompson started an initiative to corral wine bloggers, getting them focused on the same topic once a month, called Wine Blogging Wednesday. Each month a different blogger would come up with a topic, and we’d all write about it. I didn’t join the fray until 2008, years after WBW was in motion. However, it’s a great way to get different perspectives on the same topic. It shows that even the experts see grapes differently.  Today’s topic is Rhone Wines not from Rhone, brought to us by Tim Elliot of Winecast.

As I mentioned, wines made in the Rhone style include Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre grapes. I could have selected a Grenache from Spain, or a Syrah from California for this article, however I’ve wanted to write about my dinner and interview with Austin Hope of Hope Family Wines and thought tasting his Liberty School Cuvee was the perfect opportunity. I’ll first cover the wine, then a little about Austin and dinner.

Liberty School Cuvee 2007

Liberty School Cuvee 2007

The folks at Liberty School believe that the Central Coast of California is perfect for Rhone varietals. If their 2007 Cuvee is any indication, I say they’re right. A cuvee is a blend, and this wine is a blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Viognier. I’ve often said that I’m not a fan of Syrah from California, as it comes in big and jammy, and I prefer the more restrained, earthy Syrah from France. However, at 13.5% ABV the Liberty School Cuvee is not a big wine, and it’s anything but jammy.

I taste the wine at three intervals, right after opened, after 10 minutes of air, and after 30 minutes of air. While it definitely opened and changed, it was fairly consistent throughout. The wine was a dark inky purple, and the cork bottom was almost black. At first, the nose had a very meaty bouquet, with a note of cocoa and spices. It had a great lush mouthfeel, and after 10-30 minutes there were dark berries balanced with some earth and nice leather notes on the palate. When I say leather, I could envision a well polished leather chair in a stately mansion, regal and sophisticated. The wine was definitely dry, though not tannic very tannic. Towards the end I started to taste secondary notes on the finish of spiced cherry pie and smoke, with a finish that lingered. I grabbed this wine at the grocery for $15, and it’s definitely a wine to try. We paired this wine with hamburgers, though we could have thrown a variety of grilled, roasted or smoked meats it it successfully.

What I enjoyed most about the wine was how it captured the essence of old world Rhone wines, with a touch of new world finesse and approachability. I’ve planned on tasting some more Hope family Wines and Libery School Cuvee against some Rhone wines in the near future and compare and contrast. I had taste several Paul Jaboulet Crozes-Hermitage a few weeks back, and while they cost a bit more, I’m interested in the taste profiles as a comparison. I’ll be sure to let you know.  I’ll also let you know more about Paso Robles, home of Liberty School and Hope Family wines, as I’m visiting the area next week.

I hope to catch up with Austin Hope again when in Paso. He’s a great guy. very dynamic, and passionate about wine and all that it entails. My interview of Austin turned more into a dinner with a great guy, as the restaurant was too noisy to record our conversation, and we talked too quickly and about too many topics to take notes of any quality. We did, however, cover a few topics that I thought were quite interesting, such as multi-vintage wines and box wine, as well as a hot project that make change the way you look at Paso in the future.

Austin feels that the concept of multi-vintage wines needs to be looked at a bit more closely. He maintains that by using wines of different vintages, winemakers will be able to capture the youth and expressiveness of younger vintages, with the maturity and complexity of older vintages. He believes by doing this, wines will be more approachable upon release, and offer more than any young release wine can. I’m excited to see what he does with this concept. Austin also believes that he can put out a box wine of sufficient quality to carry a Hope Family Wines name. Expect a spring or summer 2011 release of his box, and I will definitely get my hands on it. I expect it to be a very approachable and affordable wine.

As for the last project, well, that one I can’t talk about yet. However, when Austin told me about it, I found myself secretly rooting for him to succeed. We’ll see soon!

Have you tried a Rhone style wine, whether from France, California or elsewhere? Let me know what you thought!


Lets taste James David Cellars 2005 Central Coast Syrah

James David 2005 Central Coast Syrah

James David 2005 Central Coast Syrah

I absolutely love the tremendous amount of variety and diversity there is in the wine world. I love how the same grape, grown in the same area, perhaps even at neighboring vineyards, can taste so different.  The influence of the methods the winemaker uses to ferment and age the wine as well as the care and growing conditions the vineyard manager employs can change your perception of a varietal magically. I haven’t reviewed many Syrahs on the blog, and the ones I did review previously really didn’t trip my trigger, so to speak. It was, therefore, with a tad of reluctance that I accepted a sample of James David Cellars 2005 Syrah from proprietor David Cole, whom I networked with on twitter. I am happy to say that my excited video review is indeed an indication that James David Cellars put out some nice new world Syrah.

Though their family has been in the California farming and wine industry for some time, David and Kathleen Cole have only been at the helm of James David Cellars for a few years. However, their goal to create a wine that is easy to share with friends and family, good during a meal, or a good conversation, seems to be one they’ve already achieved with the Central Coast Syrah. A blend of grapes sourced from two vineyards, one in Monterey, the other in Paso Robles, only 350 cases of this easy drinking red wine were produced. Grapes from both Paso Robles and Monetery are said to exhibit true characteristics of the varietals. Grapevines there tend to bud a week or two earlier than other regions, and are harvested a week or two later than other regions due to the cool growing season. This means the grapes are on the vine longer, and develop an intense flavor.  Wines from these areas tend to have the peppery characteristics you find in Syrah from France (or Shiraz from Australia), and I enjoyed that very much on this wine.

Video-Let’s discuss James David 2005 Central Coast Syrah from Matthew Scott Horbund on Vimeo.

I chatted briefly with David about this wine, and he said that his favorite food pairings for the James David Cellars Central Coast Syrah would be pizza, or red sauce dishes like lasagna or spaghetti. Thea, a follow wine blogger and friend, agrees with David that this is a nice pizza wine. I’m not sure if $21 is in everyone’s budget for a pizza wine, and I think this wine is a tad more versitle than that. The pork roast that Robin made in the crock pot went very well with it, as would a nice salmon dish. The wine is light enough that it would pair favorably with the fish, and even chicken. Yes, I’m debunking the myth that chicken and fish only go with white wines!  I’m not sure how this Syrah will pair with a steak or lamb. David Cole mentioned that of the two samples he sent, this and the Eagle Point Ranch Syrah, the Central Coast  wine was more “French style” with a lighter nose and body than it’s big Californian brother. I’ve decided to review them separately, so check back soon for that Eaglepoint Ranch review.

In summary, for $21, I am happy to recommend you try the James David Cellars Central Coast Syrah. It’s well structured and versitle enough to pair with a decent range of foods. It also is easy drinking, and will do fine on it’s own, helping David and Kathleen achieve their goal of creating a wine that compliments conversation, as well as drive it. I believe this wine appeals to the “Old World” Syrah lovers, while still having some of the characteristics the “New World” Syrah lovers look for.  However, don’t just take my word for it. Find yourself a bottle of this wine, pour yourself a glass, and leave some comments below about your experience!

-Disclaimer- This wine was provided as a free sample from James David Cellars for me to review on the blog.