Saldo 2012

Saldo 2012We interrupt your regularly-scheduled wine blog for this announcement: It’s guest blogger time again here at Griffy on Wine! So kick back, relax, and pour yourself a glass as Cruzgriffy on Wine takes over for a spell.

My dad is obviously far more technologically advanced in his wine adventuring, and unfortunately I do not have a canary yellow Fiat 500 equipped with a state-of-the-art Winedar. What I do have is a red 2004 Anniversary Edition Ford Mustang and friends like Alex and Danae who spoil me with fantastic California wines. Today’s wine is Saldo, a 2012 Zinfandel from Orin Swift.

Wine aficionados are no stranger to Swift’s work, and you may recall a Griffy on Wine review of his much-renowned blend, The Prisoner. For lovers of Zinfandels (it is definitely an inherited trait in this family) Saldo is a blend of Zinfandel grapes from all across California’s many vineyards, Syrah, and Petite Sirah. The name “Saldo” is Latin, and translates roughly to “from here and there;” a clear tribute to their grape selection process.

More specifically, the grapes that go into Saldo hail from five acclaimed vineyards in California’s wine growing region.

Mattern vineyard is located on the Talmage Bench of Mendocino County. Owned by John Mattern, the vines at this site were first planted in the 1930’s, and the region’s hot climate has helped produce some of the best Zinfandel crops ever harvested. Next we travel to the Sutter Creek region at the foothills of the Sierra Mountains to the Aparcio vineyard. Owner Joe Aparicio planted the vines back in 1980-81, and employs a “Gobelet” style where no wires or other support methods are used. Between the old-world pruning style and rich, volcanic soil, Aparcio’s Zinfandel grapes are of the highest quality.

We then head West towards the Pacific to Dry Creek and two more suppliers for Saldo’s epic blend: Grist vineyard and Taylor vineyard. Grist is owned by the Hambrecht family, and the grapes benefit from cool breezes coming off the ocean to help moderate the otherwise staunch mid-summer heat. Over at Taylor vineyards, owners Patrick and Eivor go to meticulous detail in designing the layout of their vines. The vine work features different row directions, varying ages of vines, and a diversity of sunlight angles. As a result of this unique approach, the grapes are prime candidates for blending, as they offer a variety of flavors within the same crop.

The final stop on our Saldo blending is Pato vineyard in the Oakley region. Featuring some of the oldest vines laid in the state, the Christian Brothers legacy has survived since the 1870’s thanks to the care and dedication of the Pato family. The secret to the success of this vineyard is in the ground, or rather, what isn’t in the ground: gravel. More similar to beach sand in its texture and composition, the soil at Pato helps promote water drainage, which has led to the exceptional life cycle of the vines. It also produces a spicy Zinfandel with strong dark fruit notes.

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With their powers combined, we have Orin’s Saldo, a veritable supergroup of Zinfandel. My 2012 bottle was a gift from Alex and Danae at our annual Fashionably Late New Years party. Dana and I decided to pop it open on March 6th to celebrate our new car and National Smoke a Cigar day. Paired with some fine cheese, bread, balsamic dipping oil, and a Padron 4000 Maduro, we let the aroma of black fruit waft from the bottle and poured ourselves each a glass.

Considering the alcohol content (15.5%) I was expecting a full frontal assault of a wine, yet what hit my palate was the softest Zinfandel I’ve ever tasted. Unlike many zins, which are either heavily fruit forward or spicy, the Saldo is a beautifully balanced combination of blackberries, black cherries, and spice. It’s a bold wine that doesn’t overpower, finishes creamy-smooth, and can be drank off the shelf or cellar aged. Quite simply, it’s the best Zinfandel I have ever tried.

Saldo retails around $30 a bottle and is well worth the investment at twice the price. If you try a glass, let us know what you think!

Your’s Truly,

W.S. Cruzgriffith

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Carnivor Cabernet Savignon 2012

Carnivor Cabernet Sauvignon 12If Vegetarian is native American for bad hunter, then Carnivor is wine speak for a really over-promoted, poor Cabernet Sauvignon from Gallo in California.

At first glance I was looking forward to drinking my bottle of Carnivor.  It was a gift by someone who had heard me say the wine looked good.  Well, as we all know, looks can be deceiving.

Unfortunately for the people at Gallo, the high point for this wine is the really nice bottle;  Big, heavy with an understated label and an easy to remember name like Carnivor.  So, I popped the cork and started pouring.  It’s sad to say but the best part of this wine might have been the packaging.

The color of the wine is a very deep purple, and up to this point I’m thinking all systems are go!  But as I glanced my nose over the glass I found my wine was like Ferris Bueller, absent!  A cabernet this dark, in this nice of a bottle, I should have been able to appreciate the nose from across the room.  NOTHING!  Thinking it was me I asked my son-in-law who was sampling the wine with me.  He got nothing either.

Where things go totally to pot is the taste.  Another reviewer of this wine said they got “blackberry, boysenberry, black cherry, licorice, nutmeg, roasted coffee, earthy herbs, cocoa powder.”  Seriously, how do you fit that in the bottle never mind on your palate?  Me, I got a wet mouth!  This wine was soulless, empty, and very unsatisfying. If I had paired this with a steak, the cow would have sued me for defamation.  I might keep the bottle, if only as a reminded that sometimes beauty really is only skin deep.

IMG_1197Matt was done after his first glass, me I tried but didn’t finish a second glass.  Held onto the rest of the bottle to see if it improve overnight, and I’m sorry to report, NO.  The rest went down the sink.

Carnivor is a $10 factory wine that fails to even live up to those limited expectations, which is a shame because Gallo typically produces decent quality. Save your money and aim higher than this.

Borsao Berola 2011

01bqoxb88rafr_375x500Sometimes you just need to pull the Imaginary Canary Yellow Fiat 500 convertible over, forget there is anything called the Winedar, put the tasting notes and textbooks away, and just open a great bottle of wine to enjoy it.  Well, I have the perfect wine to do that right here, Borsao Berola, from Spain.

It can’t be overstated; Spain right now offers the best wine values to be found anywhere.  The Borsao Berola is a perfect example of that.  For $13 you are getting a wine of exceptional value, one that you’d be happy to share and even happier to keep all to yourself.

Borsao Berola a blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah.  The average age of the vines is about 35 to 60 years for the Grenache and about 10 years for the Syrah, and the blend is barrel aged in American and French oak for 14 months.  The color is a nice black cherry tone paired with a beautiful nose of black fruit.  The oak and the Grenache team up for great taste, especially the soft and gentle tannins.  This is a wine that you can sit and give some serious thought to–and I did–or kick back and enjoy dinner and friends with, and I did that too!  Just a very food friendly, people friendly wine.

I am no stranger to Borsao.  I think it is safe to say they are best known for their perennial pleasing Tres Picos.  That is a 100% Grenache wine that is a super performa for under $10.  As is common in Spanish wines, Boja is a co-op, Borsao is the brand name.  Wine production started around 1230 with the Monks at the Monastery of Veruela.  The Boja co-operative was formed in 1958, and in 2001 two other co-op’s, Pozuelo and Tabuenca, joined the team.  They now had the vines, the resources, and a modern wine production facility to go to market with.

Today their goal is to produce premium Grenache based wines.  The folks at Borsao identify very strongly with the old Kingdom of Aragon, a sprawling expanse that included Barcelona, Catalan, Valencia, parts of France to the Rhone river, parts of Northern Italy, and Sardinia.

Spanish winemakers are very expressive in their wines, and you can taste it.  The passion is there in every sip.  Try it and see for yourself.