Gnarly Head Authentic Red 2010, Lodi

Cost: $12-14

What: This is a new blend from Gnarly Head, which is well known for turning out approachable, complex Zinfandels from old vine vineyards around Lodi.

Just released this fall it features a juicy core of lush blackberry, plum and black cherry flavors with layers of spice and chocolate, balanced by complex French and American oak.

While predominantly Zinfandel, the blend includes Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah.

If the winemaker can continue to produce a smooth, lush wine like this every year, the Authentic Red should be a popular addition to the Gnarly Head portfolio. It is a fun wine to drink, and should be popular with a wide variety of wine drinkers.

Gnarly Head has fun with its labels and marketing, and makes Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Pinot Grigio from some of the best vineyards in Northern California.

Winery: The winery, which opened in 2004, is named after the old vine Zinfandel growing on the property in Lodi, a great region for Zinfandel. Supposedly, one of the folks working for the corporation that owns the winery took a look at the 35 to 80 year old vines growing there and said, “Wow, those vines sure have some gnarly heads!”

Unlike modern rows of trellised vines, these old Zinfandel vines were grown as free standing “head trained” vines. Today they resemble wild bushes with twisted old trunks and branches that spread out in all directions sprouting leaves like unruly umbrellas.

The well-drained sandy soil in Lodi and the climate — long, warm summer days with cooling nighttime ocean breezes — are perfect for growing great Zinfandel.

The grapes produced by old vines are small and there aren’t many clusters, but the flavor is more concentrated. Old vine Zins usually produce powerful, tasty wines.

The Winery also produces Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and a single vineyard Zinfandel called Gnarlier Head.

Goes with: I had this wine while cooking at church with the men’s cook team. We all loved it. It’s fruity and refreshing, but with plenty of body. We had it while we cooked and snacked on sausage, jalapeno jack cheese and a couple of different kinds of grilled chicken legs. It matched everything. It also would be good with barbecue pork, your favorite pizza, burgers, other meat on the grill or chili.

Here’s a recipe for ribs from the Gnarly Head website:

Frances’ Pacific Rim Baby Back Ribs

(Recipe Courtesy of Gnarly Head Wines)
2 tablespoons salt
⅓ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons Aleppo pepper
1 tablespoon each: garlic and onion powder
3 racks baby back ribs
½ cup each: ponzu, hoisin, fish oil, sweet-hot chili sauce, honey and Zinfandel
2 tablespoons each: black bean sauce, minced ginger and garlic
1 teaspoon each: Chinese 5 Spice and dry mustard

Mix first 5 ingredients. Rub into ribs. Mix remaining ingredients. Cook until thick.
Place ribs in smoker, heated according to directions. Smoke for 2½ hours at 250 degrees, turning once. Brush with marinade. Turn and brush again. Remove, slice, garnish with chives.

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