Behind the Cork™ - PARS Old Vine Zinfandel

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2016 PARS Old Vine Zinfandel ($8)

This was a recent unexpected fine. I really enjoy the wines of Amador County and that’s what caught my eye about this one. And, at $8, I had to give it a try.

The grapes of Amador County didn’t let me down. This is a nice Zinfandel, especially at the price. But it’s not typical. It’s not jammy or peppery. It quite light. Almost tending toward a Pinot Noir.

Unfortunately, there’s not much to be learned about this wine or the winery. The back label shows that it’s bottled by Avid Vineyard. And, the winemakers are listed as Robert Goyette & H. Namdar. Now, the fact that it’s “bottle by” Avid Vineyard would lead me to the conclusion they didn’t produce it. That’s Ok. Apparently, they bought the wine and put their own label on it. But, there doesn’t seem to be any trail to Avid Vineyard. Again, Ok.

But, a quick search for Robert “Bob” Goyette shows that he got started in winemaking in California in 1970 and, in 1979, he and noted winemaker Rod Berglund started La Crema Venera, known today as La Crema. Now, that’s a good label with a proven track record. Then, in 2005, he started his own wine brand, Robert Goyette Winery, producing wines from Sonoma Coast’s top Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and Sonoma County’s top Cabernet Sauvignon.

Regardless of the origins of this PARS Amador County Old Vine Zinfandel, it’s a nice one and great value. If you happen to see this one, pick it up and give it a try. Cheers!

The Wines of Amador County

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California’s Gold Rush of the 1850s included the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. As fortune seekers flocked to the Sierras to prospect for gold, small wineries also began to appear. But the decline of gold mining in the late 1800s, followed by the start of Prohibition, brought devastation to this small wine community. But, some of the vineyards planted during that era survived and today are once again fueling the wineries of Amador County.

With some forty wineries in the region, there are some excellent wines being produced. Wineries such as Amador Cellars, Sobon, Turley, Helwig, Terra d’Oro (Montevina), Dillian and Renwood are just a few of the wonderful wineries producing great wines, some of which are distributed to wine sellers for your enjoyment.

Amador County wineries are focused on producing red wines including Zinfandel, Barbera, Syrah, and Petite Sirah, but you’ll also find a few whites and rosé wines being produced.

My ah-ha wine moment came years ago when I experienced an Amador County varietal that I’d heard of before my visit to Northern California. Upon learning it was a Barbera from Amador Cellars, my eyes were opened to more than just California Cab. And while finding a variety of Barberas continues to be a challenge outside of this region, you’ll “strike gold” in Amador County.

I’ll be featured a few of my favorites on Instagram (@EverWonderWine) in the coming days. But, if you are in Northern California, near Sacramento or Lake Tahoe, it’s worth a visit to Amador County, and it neighboring El Dorado County wineries. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with the wines of these regions. Cheers!

Barbera: A Wine That Doesn't Get the Respect it Deserves

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Several years ago, while visiting northern California, I was served a glass of red wine from Amador County that made me do a double-take.  When I asked what is was, I was told but the varietal didn't mean anything to me. I ended up having another glass and again asking about it, but it just wasn't a varietal that I'd heard of before that point in time.  Finally, I asked one more time what I was being served and was told it was a Barbera. I had never heard of it, but I knew I really liked it.

Excited by learning about this varietal, I returned home from my trip and, at my first opportunity, headed out to a nicer wine seller in search of a Barbera. I looked up and down the aisles but wasn't able to find the Barbera.  There was a very knowable wine guy at the store, but he was busy helping another customer with a wine selection and talking extensively to the customer about the wines they were interested in purchasing. This was definitely the guy I wanted to talk to, knowing he'd help me find a great Barbera. After waiting for quite some time, the wine guy became available and it was my turn to have a conversation with him. I walked right up and asked "Do have any Barbera wine that you'd recommend?"  After a bit of an awkward pause, he uttered one word; "No."  I was somewhat put on my heals but asked if he sold any Barbera wine. Again, the one-word answer was "No."  I thanked him politely and walked away. Had I said something wrong?

Well, it turns out that Barbera has been widely planted in California for a long time, but in the past, it was solely used as a blending component in mass-produced jug wines. Hence, it hasn't had a very good reputation as a varietal and still doesn't seem to get the respect it deserves. 

But, all that changed with the Barbera planting in the Amador and El Dorado Counties in the Sierra Foothills of California. Today, they continue to produce nice Barbera varietal wines.  They are not widely distributed, so they are still hard to find.

So, if you haven't ever heard of, or tried, a Barbera varietal, keep your eyes out for one. And, if you are so lucky as to come across one from the Sierra Foothills of California or from anywhere, give it a try. You're likely to be surprised by this wonderful medium to full-bodied wine with great dark fruit flavors of blackberry, black cherry, and plum, And, when aged in oak, it also develops even richer full-bodied fruit flavors with a hint of chocolate.

There is another wine region of the world that produces nice Barbera. And, we'll explore that region next time. Until then, Cheers!