California's signature varietal — zinfandel — has blessed many of my wine columns as remarkably downright delicious and food friendly — when the alcohol levels don't exceed 14 percent and the winemaking focuses on balance and flavor and textural appeal.
Over the past three decades my tasting notes have revealed and documented the grape's versatility. For instance, when it comes to vegetables, seven zins achieved a 100 percent rating over eight pairings with avocado; 10 bottlings batted 92 percent with potatoes; and seven wines neared 90 percent over eight tomato nibbles and sips.
Just by chance the seafood pairings are scarce, but 11 zinfandels scored a 93 percent success rate with 14 salmon entrees, far superior to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
This varietal focuses on the non-seafood categories as follows: lamb (100 percent, 9 wines/9 pairings), beef (97 percent, 21 wines/32 of 33 pairings), poultry (93 percent, 15 wines/28 of 30 pairings), pork (89 percent, 12 wines/16 of 18 pairings), Mexican (86 percent, 16 wines/25 of 29 pairings) and pasta (80 percent, 8 wines/8 of 10 pairings).
No doubt about it, California's rocking red loves food.
And while the grape can excel in a variety of California growing regions, including Dry Creek Valley and Paso Robles, it is Lodi that is synonymous with zinfandel.
I have long touted the Oak Ridge Winery creations, including Moss Roxx Ancient Vine (three vintages so far) and Maggio Old Vine (four vintages). Now I present the sleek and sexy OZV (Old Zinfandel Vines) 2012 ($13.95, 13.95 alcohol, second vintage). The back label describes the wine as offering "a robust and delicious expression of Lodi's unique terrior" and tasting "jammy with raspberry, milk chocolate and mocha flavors, soft tannins and a supple mouth feel." I certainly rank it as pretty irresistible.
The first go-round was a favorite of yours truly: Charm's breaded crispy chicken with a light gravy and chopped green onions. It was a bright, luscious combo with the OZV and fit well with the kale and gravy mashed potatoes. And as with just about every other varietal to date, don't hesitate to enjoy with unsalted peanuts.
Round two was prawns sautéed in olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. No surprise that the wine was a bit dominant, but it was a tasty mix, both with the prawns and the buttered corn on the cob. The remainder of the bottle not only held up nicely overnight but was also a downright flavorful companion to pieces of roast chicken with wild rice.
The latest pairing exploration involved the homemade soft taco with melted cheddar cheese, shredded beef and chopped tomato, green onion, lettuce and carrots. OZV couldn't have been much happier, and showed clear affection for the guacamole as well.
Oh, and while I love to have it disbursed in WineMarket according to food compatibility, the eye-catching bottle also appears on some supermarket shelves; keep an eye out.