Updated 2010-02-08 16:23:19 ID=591:0

© 2010 The Romantic Table
©2009 The Romantic Table 2009-02-17 09:52:55:123
©2009 The Romantic Table

Larry McGourty writes about wine and food

Paso Robles Wine Region -The State of Zin

Year 2009 on the California Central Coast will go down in the books as one of the more challenging years: not enough rain to start and too much rain to finish. In Paso Robles we stared out with a cool Spring and a serious drought, then finished with a record deluge. Sometimes you wish Mother Nature would get her act together. Depending upon where in the region you farm Zinfandel, you got very different results.

The cool Spring and earlier than usual Fall rain in 2009 caught a number of Paso Robles vineyards unprepared. This was not so much the result that the crews were not ready and able to harvest, but depending upon the location of the vineyard, the grapes were not ripe enough for harvest.

In the Adelaida region where we farm, because of the higher elevations and warmer micro-climates, we were already long harvested before the rains came. I still have vivid memories of long days of 105F heat, trudging wearily up the rugged vineyard hills as we harvested. What a difference a month can make.

We usually reach good Brix levels early and need to wait for pH levels to rise a bit before harvesting. According to friend and wine expert Dr. Giovanni Mattii this effect is due to the limestone formations our vineyard is situated upon. It seems counter intuitive to me since limestone is alkaline, but the reality is there in the fields. Anyway, things seemed to click early and we were harvesting by late August.

So far feedback from our customers has been universally very good. Despite the drought --or maybe because of it, we delivered some great grapes --"some" meaning because of the drought and the fact we mostly dry farm there was not much. Anyway the winemakers were pleased and we are looking forward to tasting some great wine in a couple years. Other local winemakers are reporting similar good results.

In the cooler regions of the Westside, especially in the "Templeton Gap", not all the Zinfandel grapes were quite ready. Those still hanging had to go through the rain. Results seem to be mixed, probably depending upon the ripeness of the grapes. Zinfandel does not have a thick skin, and unlike some varieties developed to grow in more challenging environments like Bordeaux, it does not not tolerate moisture well at the end of the season. Results seem to be mixed, some wineries reporting terrible results while others claim they went through OK. Only time will tell.

The situation seems to be about the same for the East. For some reason the Eastside was way behind the Adelaida region in harvesting. The wineries on the East by and large are the largest operations in Paso Robles and have multiple sources. No doubt because of the down economy and grape glut in general, they were able to source from outside whatever they needed to make good wine.

So, in general, despite the early Fall rain, I'd say the "State of Zin" may not be completely virtuous, but good in general.

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A tip from Sue!

Make your salt and pepper your "right -hand" aid

An easy tool to have handy at all times in your kitchen is your customized combined salt and pepper shaker. Buy a clear plastic shaker with a handle on it. Make yourself a "customized salt and pepper combo or "house blend." Ours is three parts ground pepper to one part salt. Having one of these handy really cuts the prep time down when doing breading and preliminary cooking!