1. A little about Amador County -- not just for gold miners
2. Some info on Amador Foothill Winery
3. Instructions of what do with this wine -- it needs a little time.
4. The review of the "Clockspring Vineyard" Zin
Amador County is a little slice of Americana located in interior California, kind of equidistant between the two amazing natural sites: Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe.
Two hours from San Francisco and a little out of the way, you have to know there's wine in these foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to hop off the main highway and head to this small but pretty damn good wine region. In the heart of the gold rush territory and named after Jose Maria Amador, who set up a successful gold mining operation in the area, vines have been grown here since the mid-1800s.
|Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institute|
The Sierra Foothills, which is much cooler than other non-coastal wine growing regions in California (like the Central Valley and Lodi, for example) due to elevation, makes some kick-ass wines.
This wasn't a secret a century and a half ago -- the California Shenandoah Valley viticultural area (not to be confused with the Virginia one) was once a THE hot winegrowing region in California. Wine was made there to quench the thirst of the gold miners. The crowning glory of it all was Zinfandel. Although the end of the gold rush and the beginning of Prohibition killed the wine industry there, the vines kept growing on their own.
|Credit: Amador Vintner's Assoc|
I picked up a bottle of Amador Foothill Winery's "Clockspring Vineyard" Zin for around $17. A small winery, with a female winemaker at the helm -- Katie Quinn -- Amador Foothill does a variety of wines but Zin seems to be the jewel in the crown. Clockspring is known in the region for its higher elevation and the balanced, rich, fruity, full wines made from its grapes.
Before I start the review, I need to address the title of this post. There was a little Jekyl and Hyde that went on with this wine. I can't believe the transformation it made in 24 hours. The first night it was thin, bitter, and not at all fruity. I sensed a little pepper and some dried out fruit but I thought it was terrible.
I didn't want to give up though, so I saved it and drank it the next night. I am SO glad I did. The wine changed completely and became what I describe below. It's well worth the wait. You could decant this for a few hours as well and probably get similar results, BTW.
The Wine: 2007 Amador Foothill Winery, "Clockspring Vineyard" Zinfandel
Where it's from: Shenendoah Valley, Amador County, California
Grape: 100% Zinfandel
Color: Although I'd read that the wine was characteristically dark, I found this one to be light in color and very shiny/reflective. It almost look like a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir! I had thick, gloppy legs that ran down the glass after a swirl from that nearly 15% alcohol.
Smell: Lots of black pepper, ripe blackberry and plum fruit, and a little prune note. It smelled a lot like a horse too...or maybe just the saddle!
Taste: Tons of black pepper and the wine was very textural. It had nice, noticeable but not overpowering tannins, and a great hit of mouth cleaning acidity. The fruit was bold: black cherry, candied plums, and a toasted bread flavor with a little bit of dill and dried coconut made this a super interesting wine. The wine stuck around for a long time -- it had a strong candied blackberry and toast flavor that lasted forever.
My only criticism: This was a very HOT wine. The alcohol made a strong impression and was almost too much, but the presence of so much fruit flavor kept it from going over the top.
Drink or sink? On day one definitely sink. It wasn't good at all. Day two it was a total drink -- rich full, bold, just like what a Zin should be. The color was deceptive but I love the pepper spice and the lasting candied fruit. This is a great Zin for cold weather, stew, mushrooms, and comfort. Fireplace memories start with this baby. Great wine.