G’day guys. After a healthy vein of whiskey articles, I’ve decided to write a wine article before I did another type of spirit. Something I’ve neglected for a while.
So for this article, I decided to find something I hadn’t gotten around to trying yet. Already on this blog, I’ve covered the topic of domestic wine, French wine, Italian wine, Spanish wine, even South African wine. So that’s three continents, let’s branch out on this. For this article, let’s try something else a little left of centre – American made wine. Something you wouldn’t expect from the land of Stars and Stripes. Not Uncle Sam, not the country that gave us Wild Western films, lever action rifles, single action revolvers and NASCAR. Their interests lie more in beers and whiskies surely? Well, you would be caught off guard to learn that the U.S. does indeed have a fair share of wineries sprinkled throughout it’s states. Like a lot of other things in the States, there’s a huge demand for a lot of products, especially those of premiums. The U.S. is Cognac’s best customer in their export market. After China, they are our second best export market of (Australian) wine. So, it would be only natural that eventually they would start making their own. But of course, America, being the historic country of pioneering and exploration it is, these practices are not new by any means. Among the first known explorers to capitalize on this were Vikings exploring the area from Greenland, who came to call the area “Vinland” after the bounty of grapevine discovered therein. The first known creation of wine on American soil was by French migrants from Scuppernong sometime between fifteen-sixty-two and sixty-four in a settling in Florida. Eventually, as with all establishments of civilizations, viticulture became a priority in settling the new world. And eventually the American wine industry grew into the market it is today. And surprisingly, these American made wines, do in fact make it as far as Australian shelves. The commercial success and reputation of California’s Napa Valley springs immediately to mind, and it is responsible for the broad sweep of this. Napa County probably, if not definitely rose to fame by dethroning the French industry in the nineteen-seventy-six Paris Wine Tasting by method of blind wine tasting. Paying homage to the ideology that imported European wines need not be superior. But there are other American wines that make it to our shores.
Today’s bottle, a Zinfadel from the label Murphy-Goode, comes to us from the Sonoma County. Another wine growing region of California, to the west of Napa County. In fact, the area is the largest producer of wine in the entire state of California, including Napa County and the neighboring Mendocino and Lake Counties. Grapevines, were laid down in the region as early as eighteen-twelve at Fort Ross, a Russian settlement made in the area. Then spread by Spanish migrants, and further cuttings from the successful vines boosted the spread of the Sonoma wine trade further. In eighteen-fifty-six by the time of the Californian annexation, wine was officially recognized as an integral component of California’s agriculture industry. But one thing the European wine industries never had to face, or even considered anything except an advantage was the American Prohibition Era. Fewer than fifty wineries in the Sonoma County survived the drought to make it the repeal in nineteen-thirty-three. But by then it was too late to revive many labels. Even by the year nineteen-sixty, a measly forty-nine square kilometers were vineyards. But eventually, as the United States grew and thrived, by the year nineteen-ninety-nine, that area had strengthened to a healthier hundred-and-ninety-eight square kilometers. Spiked by the celebrations of new years eve nineteen-ninety-nine, I can only assume. I was four at the time.
The label Murphy-Goode is a successful family-owned label. On the label, you will find the word’s “liar’s dice”. The label, so the story goes, that in nineteen-eighty-five, the founders Tim Murphy, Dale Goode, and Dave Ready decided to make Chardonnay and Fume Blanc from their properties Murphy Ranch and Murphy-Goode Vineyard, over a game of liar’s dice. Murphy and Goode, two of the men partly responsible for developing another Californian wine region, the Alexander Valley. Dave Ready, was the marketer of the three. The label grew until in two-thousand-and-seven it was purchased by Jackson Family Wines and flourished under the financial stability and newfound access to more Californian sourced grapes. Something else that’s a first to this site, is the wine; Zinfandel. Understandably, it is not common here in Australia, if it even exists here at all. But it is a familiar piece on the board of Californian wine. A species of black-skinned grape with a speckly, disputed area of origin, said to be native to either the heel of Italy, parts of Croatia, or more logically some sort of unintentionally created crossbred species created between some two species, as scientists can link D.N.A. to both. Like Chardonnay. Apparently, Zinfandel is a thin-skinned but vigorous species, that thrives in warm climates. The vine grows grapes, low hanging but dense in bunches. They ripe quickly and boast high sugar contents that produce strong, robust wines that are known to exceed fifteen percent. Late-harvested Zinfandel are made into dessert wines. Another first for this site, the first wine here that for all intents and purposes is in fact vintage. This Murphy-Goode Zinfandel I have picked up today from my local Dan Murphy’s, completely by accident is a two-thousand-and-nine vintage. Whether this was actually specified intentional on the online advertisement when I bought it unknowingly, or was an act of kindness from my friends at my local store I’ll never know. But a ten year old Californian wine. I almost feel guilty drinking this aged vino for a thing as cheap as the internet. Almost. I came into this without even trying so clearly I was meant to enjoy this.
My first good impression was made by the presence of a proper cork, not a plain old aluminum cap. The nose, once the stubborn cork had been at long last relieved of it’s duty, inside the bottle was subdued and absent. A thin scent of a red, dry nose that was gone after a minute. So I pour a glass. Noses of a crisp, almost biscuity yeast, ripe fresh of mandarine and spice of orange. The taste is discreet, and supple. The wine is very light in body, low in tannin, a low uneven approach of sourness and earthiness. Aftertaste of orange rind reminiscent of the taste throughout. When allowed to breathe, the vino imparts textures of smooth, almost creamy palette. Sweet in nature, balanced with a sour spice on the finish.
This is the first truly vintage wine I’ve ever had, and must say I enjoyed it. This Zinfandel is a great allrounder, with spice and smoothness, heat and flavor. A very enjoyable drink. So, that’s one more cork to add to my slowly developing collection