Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Big House Cardinal Zin, Beastly Old Vine Edition

With summer continuing, I remain on the lookout for wines to barbecue with. In my mind, a barbecue wine is cheap, easy to drink, and perfect for sharing with friends. It can also serve as a "3rd bottle" for those nights when you're entertaining and the good times last into the evening. Notice how I didn't mention barebecued food pairings, that's because I tend to think of barbecue wines or outdoor wines as ones you don't have to worry about pairing with any particular food. Over the course of this wonderful summer I have had the chance to sample and review multiple wines I'd put in the barbecue wine category, a few of which are listed right here:
1. 2009 M. Chapoutier Cotes du Rhone "Belleruche"
2. 2009 Santa Carolina Reserva Carmenere
3. 2010 Stepping Stone Corallina Rosé
4. 2010 Muralhas de Moncao Rosé
5. 2009 Bodega Tamari Torrontes

In May I even did a "barbecue wine showdown" pitting the 2009 The Usual Suspects cabernet and the 2009 Pueblo del Sol tannat.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I opened another Big House Wines selection, the 2009 Cardinal Zin Beastly Old Vine. At a suggested retail of around $10 and an actual retail price closer to $7, this meets at least one of the criteria for barbecue wines. Tasting and evaluating it will determine if it's another winner for the summer, and perhaps one to stock up on as we head towards Labor Day.

The 2009 Cardinal Zin is actually a blend, like most Big House red wines. This year, winemaker Georgetta Dane blended 80% zinfandel, 10% mourvedre, 8% carignane, and 2% petite sirah. The zinfandel comes from old vines, something like 40+ years old.

(img src: http://www.bighousewines.com)
Nice packaging! I like the "Cardinal" on there, he looks so thirsty! But so are we, so that means it's time to talk about this Cardinal Zin.

It pours a fairly nondescript purple/red, so basically it looks like red wine. There's no electric violet hue like in some 2009 Beaujolais, nor an entrancing rusty burgundy that I experience in grenache sometimes. Just red wine. With that said, remember this is a potential barbecue wine, so my expectations are simple.

How does it smell? Zinny with a touch of the earthy mourvedre, if you ask me. "Zinny" is candied raisin, plum, black pepper, and a bit of sweet cherry. Some vanilla oak makes an appearance, a bit too heavy for my taste though. The ripe plum and cherry create a good richness and depth, so in a way the 2009 Cardinal Zin coats your palate. I wasn't really happy about the candied raisin, but then again that is a flavor I have found in other old vine zinfandels. For a $10 (or $7) zinfandel-blend, the nose offers good complexity and enough intensity to still be discernible by a slightly dulled olfactory sense. The kind that you get after spending a day grilling and drinking those other two bottles of wine with your friends.

Onward to how the wine tastes. What pleased me the most was the black pepper, prickling the edges of my tongue after a few seconds and restraining the sweet fruit flavors. Yes, I know there's carignane in there, along with mourvedre. I really can't tell though, unless the carignane was letting in the red licorice and candied cherry flavors, and the mourvedre gave the wine it's tannin and earthy flavors right on the fininsh. As for the petite sirah, maybe it was added for color or just to fill out the tanks, I have no clue because I don't think I tasted it at all. Then again my palate might not be sensitive or trained enough.

So, does the 2009 Big House Cardinal Zin Beastly Old Vines make the cut as a barbecue wine? Yes, it does. I gave it a B- and for $7, a BUY recommendation. This isn't something to break out for special occasions or a wine to age in your cellar. It's a good choice for a mid-week pasta dish with red sauce, a weekend barbecue back-up bottle, or that third bottle to open after a fun day with your friends.

This wine was a media sample for review purposes.

Beau Carufel

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