Quivira Zinfandel 2009, Sonoma County

Cost: $19-21

What: Zinfandel is the quintessential American wine, unlike any other except Primitivo from Italy. It’s a rugged, powerful wine loaded with fruit and spice. Though it can present challenges in the vineyard, making decent Zinfandel is fairly easy if you get ripe grapes.

But in the right hands, Zinfandel becomes something magical, a special wine for all occasions. The Quivira is such a wine at a good price.

It opens with beautiful aromas of blackberry and boysenberry. In the mouth you get waves of fresh fruit, especially blackberry, black cherry and plums, with a touch of black pepper. It’s full-bodied and bold, but with a velvety finish that lingers pleasantly.

The 2009 vintage had exceptionally mild weather that allowed the grapes to ripen evenly. With Zinfandel you often find grapes in several stages of ripeness in the same cluster, but there was much less of that in 2009. The fruit for this wine comes primarily from Quivira’s three certified Biodynamic and organic estate ranches within the Dry Creek Valley.

After 12-16 days of fermentation the wine spent 14 months in 60- and 70-gallon French, American and Hungarian oak barrels. It tastes great now, but probably will age in the bottle another 3-4 years.

Winery: Quivira (pronounced key-VEER-ah) is a family owned winery in the heart of Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley. It specializes in small-lot wines from Dry Creek’s outstanding varietals: Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc, as well as several Rhone style wines.

They follow sustainable farming practices and engage in Biodynamic farming because they believe the best wines come from the most authentic expression of the vineyard. The winery was founded in 1981 by Holly and Henry Wendt and purchased in 2006 by Pete and Terri Kight. The Kights loved the beauty of the idyllic setting of the winery and endorsed Henry’s vision for better wine through better vineyard management.

The name comes from early Spanish explorers who thought there was a region called Quivira Regnum, where everyone ate from plates of gold.

The pig on the Zin label represents the wild pigs found in the area. They trace their lineage to Italian immigrants who brought pigs and grape vines to the Dry Creek Valley. Some of the pigs who escaped mated with razor back boars left behind by Russian traders a century earlier. The wild pigs can be a nuisance, especially if they start nibbling on clusters of grapes or tearing down fences.

But Quivira has this to say about their battle with the pigs: “This ongoing rivalry has helped create one of our favorite local food pairings: Dry Creek Zinfandel with wild pig sausage.”

Goes with: I had this with a spicy red beans and rice and it was great. I also had it with an Italian sausage tortellini soup and that was another tasty pairing. It’s a nice wine to sip with some cheese and nuts. I particularly enjoyed an Ementhaler Swiss cheese with it. This wine would be perfect for pizza or just about anything on the grill.

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