Varietal of the Month: Red Zinfandel

Working with Zinfandel requires use of the Goldilocks principle— pick it too early and you end up with a stemmy wine; pick it too late and you risk a stuck fermentation; pick it just right… well, what do you think? Zinfandel tends to have more acidity compared to other grapes at the same sugar levels, therefore making it necessary to let them ripen more than usual. As a result, alcohol content is rarely seen below 15%—some are much higher.

Wine of the Month: Orin Swift – 8 Years in the Desert

An opaque Red Zinfandel blend with a red amethyst rim, the wine opens with ripe raspberry and blackberry, dark plum preserves and hints of black pepper and clove. A hefty entry, the palate is packed with blueberry and sweet black cherry along with a touch of thyme, savory and tarragon. Long on the finish, the ripe tannins, a dash of ash, and notes of black tea round out the wine.

8 Years in the Desert is made with grapes sourced from vineyards of pedigree such as Monte Rosso, Bismark, Korte and Frei Ranch. The wine exudes the heart and body of Zinfandel with nuance and complexity from Syrah, Petite Sirah and Grenache. It is aged for 8 months in French and American Oak that is 37% new.

The history of Orin Swift Cellars dates back to 1995 when on a lark, David Swift Phinney took a friend up on an offer and went to Florence, Italy to spend a semester “studying.” During that time, he was introduced to wine, how it was made, and got hooked. A few more years of university led to graduation and eventually a job at Robert Mondavi Winery in 1997 as a temporary harvest worker. He decided that if he was going to work this hard it would eventually have to be for himself, so in 1998 he founded Orin Swift Cellars; Orin is his father’s middle name and Swift is his mother’s maiden name. With two tons of zinfandel and not much else, he spent the next decade making wine for others as well as himself and grew the brand to what it is today. – From

Food Pairings:
Red Meat, grilled meat of any kind, mature aged cheeses, spicy sauces

Recipe of the Month: Red Wine Braised Beef Stew

1 1/2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons Italian seasoning, divided
1/2 teaspoon each salt and black pepper
2 slices raw bacon, diced
3 tablespoons flour
2 red potatoes, large dice
1 red onion, large dice
1 large carrot, large dice
1 large parsnip, large dice
2 cups dry red wine
14.5-oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup beef broth
1 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh sage, sliced
Additional salt and pepper, to taste

Place the stew meat in a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper and rub into the meat to coat thoroughly. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

In a large pot or Dutch oven, sauté the bacon over low heat to render out as much fat as possible without browning. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon and drain on paper towel. Leave fat in pot.

Turn the heat to high and brown the stew meat on all sides in the bacon fat. Add the flour, onions, carrots, and parsnips. Stir to combine.

Pour in the wine and bring to a boil; boil briskly, uncovered, until reduced by half. Add the tomatoes, broth, water, sage, reserved bacon pieces and remaining tablespoon of Italian seasoning. Stir to combine and bring back to a boil.

Reduce to a simmer, cover the pot and cook over very low heat for about 1 1/2 hours or until the meat is fork- tender. Watch the liquid level and add more water or broth, if necessary.

Add salt and pepper, to taste.

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