The Federalist Dueling Pistols 2009, Sonoma

Cost: $34-36

What: One of the tests I like to give a Zinfandel is to see how versatile it is. Most any Zin can handle a hamburger, but not many taste good with a hamburger and something more delicate like chicken or a nice soup.

The Dueling Pistols aced the test, probably because it’s half Zin and half Syrah. The wine is big and bold enough to handle a burger, but the Syrah gives it enough silk and smoothness to not overpower lighter cheese or a soup like vichyssoise.

The color is a beautiful deep garnet in the glass with full aromas of blackberry, plum and spice. The flavors are deep and rich, favoring cherry, blackberry, black currant and some vanilla. The smooth tannins lead to a long, complex finish. The ripe fruit flavors of the Zin are tempered by the silkiness of the Syrah, making a wonderful combination.

The Syrah and the Zinfandel are fermented separately and are blended after a second, malolactic fermentation. The blend then spends 15 months in 20% new oak barrels. The grapes come from the Dry Creek Valley in northern Sonoma, an area known for producing great Zinfandel.

It’s fun to drink great wine with everyday food like Sloppy Joe sandwiches.

Syrah and Zin make a wonderful pair, blending seamlessly, so I would expect to see more of this kind of blend.

I also like the clever marketing during an election year. The dueling pistols on the label refer to the fight between the original Federalist, Alexander Hamilton, and Aaron Burr, who dueled on July 11, 1804. Hamilton died from his wounds.

The label says, “Since dueling is no longer socially acceptable we suggest solving differences over a glass of this ‘dual’ of Zinfandel and Syrah.” That’s not a bad idea. Maybe if politicians of different parties had a glass of wine together they would behave more civilly and find out both sides actually love our country.

And if this were the 1960s (where my brain still spends some time most days), the slogan would be “Make Wine, Not War.”

Winery: Dueling Pistols is made by the Federalist Winery, founded in 1981. Three friends, John Grace, Mark Rafanelli and Philip Staley bought the site that is now the Alderbrook Estate. In 2000 the Terlato family was asked to develop a long-range plan to produce world-class wines and market Alderbrook.

The Terlatos purchased a majority share in 2000 and began upgrading and modernizing the operation. They began producing The Federalist in 2007, while still producing Alderbrook.

The winery is part of Terlato Wines International, which traces its roots back to 1938 in Chicago with a retail store. After purchasing a California wine company, the family business became a leading national distributor of fine wines.

To help the distribution business Paterno Wines International began importing French and Italian wines. In 1979 it launched Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio in the U.S. market. At that time Pinot Grigio was virtually unknown in this country, but now it is the fastest growing varietal. Santa Margherita is one of the top-selling Pinot Grigios in the country.

The company continued to expand and imports and distributes wine from around the world and many regions of the United States. In 2007 the name changed to Terlato Wines International.

In the 1990s the company started buying wineries, beginning with Rutherford Hill. It now owns half a dozen wineries and holds majority or minority interests in many others.

Terlato also has formed partnerships with golfers Luke Donald and Jack Nicklaus, producing wine under each golfer’s name.

Dueling Pistols is the Federalist’s second wine, their first being the 100% Zinfandel Visionary, now in its second vintage. The company also recently released a Chardonnay. Owned and managed by the Terlato Family, The Federalist is set up to produce single vineyard and estate wines, with a focus on Zinfandel.

Goes With:
Teri and I had Dueling Pistols with Sloppy Joe sandwiches, potato chips and salads. I believe in drinking great wine with everyday meals, and this was an excellent match.

The smooth silkiness of the wine cut through the spice of the sauce and made a perfect combination in a way I don’t think would have been possible with a straight Zin.

I also tried this with a vichyssoise I made by combining recipes from Julia Child and Emeril Lagasse with some of my own ideas. The taste of the wine and the soup together was sublime.

You also could serve it with other grilled meats, hard cheeses and some hearty salads.

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