California Wine: The Reasonability of Seasonability


Waiting is wonderful.

I know the saying may seem tired, but anticipation really does heighten the pleasure of whatever is awaited. The first tomatoes in the market that weren't force-ripened in the back of a tractor-trailer need nothing but a sprinkle of salt. A waft of night-blooming jasmine quickly turns an evening stroll into a hypnotic walkabout magically making one lose track of time. Sunshine in the Pacific Northwest becomes a moment of work-shirking celebration rather than a reason to pout when not predictably present.

We live in a culture that has systematically removed the need to wait for anything. We ship fruits and vegetables from around the world so it seems that everything is always in season. And because of that, the quality suffers. I would much rather wait for something to arrive in its due time if waiting means it will be better. And it is always better. Fruit ripened on the vine tastes how it should, delicious, and waiting for it makes the experience that much more amazing.

Wine should be no different. People are finally beginning to appreciate the quality of small production, family-owned, hand-crafted wines, and I am thrilled. What they also need to consider is that small production means these wines will not be available to drink all year. Sure, you can pop into a Ralph's, choose almost any bottle of wine and you will find it on the shelf all year long. It will probably also taste the same all year long, as delicious as a force-ripened tomato.

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One wine worth waiting for is the Broc Cellars Vine Starr Red. A blend of 95% Zinfandel and just a splash of Syrah, this wine is a welcome surprise. It is lean and spicy full of both brambly raspberry and fresh herbs. It tastes like what Zinfandel would sound like if it told its tale in a whispery voice, carefully and slowly revealing details constantly keeping its listener held in rapt attention.

It is a welcome contrast to the way it is often vinified in Paso Robles: so full of boisterous fruit and drunken shouting that it can be heard all the way down here in Los Angeles. Chris Brockway uses grapes that are grown either sustainably, organically, or biodynamically from very specific sites, and it shows. The production on this wine is a mere 300 cases, which sell quickly. However, even though it is only available for a short period of time, drinking it will leave an impression that will easily linger until its next release.

The Broc Cellars Vine Starr Red retails for about $25 a bottle.

[Photo of the wall of clocks by Flickr user puroticorico.]

Los Angeles resident Michael Newsome, a wine buyer for Whole Foods and a Certified Italian Wine Specialist, joins us every Tuesday for an exploration of California wine. See his previous posts here.

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