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September 28, 2018 Comments (0) Views: 252 GFR Challops

GFR Challops : Revisiting Zinfandel After All These Years

GFR's Jamie Drummond and friend Ian at San Fransisco's ZAPP conference in 2009.

GFR’s Jamie Drummond and Ian Hicks at San Fransisco’s Z.A.P.(Zinfandel Advocates and Producers Festival) in 2009. To be honest, he doesn’t look very well in this pic.

Challop (noun) – plural : challops
Pronounced “chah-lop’

1: Abbreviation for challenging opinion. 
2: An irregularly published column on website Good Food Revolution.


 

There was a time, almost a decade-and-a-half ago, when I had a years long affair with the grape known as Zinfandel.

As affairs go, it was a pretty damn passionate (and often messy) one, leading to innumerable travels back and forth to California for “work”*, and looking back today I find it bemusing to think that I had such a visceral, instinctual, and wholly physical attraction to the wines crafted from that particular varietal.

 

Purple Teethed Monsters : With Hooked's Dan Donovan and Ravenswood Winemaker Joel Peterson at ZAP, San Fransisco 2008.

Purple Teethed Monsters : With Hooked’s Dan Donovan and Ravenswood Winemaker Joel Peterson at Z.A.P. (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers Festival), San Fransisco 2008.

 

Although I have no doubt that things are very different today, having gone through my wine education with the Wine and Spirit Trust in the United Kingdom in the early 90s, I had been raised with a palate that was entirely biased towards the wines of the Old World, namely France, Italy, and Spain, usually in that order.

Working as a Sommelier in Edinburgh back then, my exposure to quality Californian wines was few and far between. I do recall listing some Bonny Doon and Rochioli courtesy of Raeburn Fine Wine‘s most excellent Zubair Mohamed, one of the finest mentors a young wine student could ever wish for. Even then, my experience with Zinfandel in particular was minimal at best, although I do have rather woozy memories of some excellent examples with Rod Berglund’s old vine wines at Joseph Swan.

 

With Hooked's Dan Donovan and Edmeades Winemaker Van Williamson at Z.A.P. (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers Festival), San Fransisco 2008.

With Hooked’s Dan Donovan and Edmeades Winemaker Van Williamson at Z.A.P. (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers Festival), San Fransisco 2008.

 

Upon moving to Canada in the mid-90s, I remember being immediately struck by the sheer volume of Californian wine on both the LCBO’s shelves and restaurant lists. Like a ginger-haired Scottish kid in a candy shop, I went wild, and being the completist hypomanic I am to this day, I gave myself a mission to taste each and every Californian wine I could get my hands on. And it was in these frenzied moments of indulgence I truly discovered Zinfandel wines.

There was something about the wines’ expression of sheer pleasure that liberated more serotonin within me than I had ever experienced previously through ingesting wine? Perhaps it was to do with levels of alcohol I had never encountered before? Perhaps it was the vinous, leather, and ripe dark berry fruit that exploded from almost every glass I wholeheartedly enjoyed? Who knows? But I was completely bloody hooked, and I gladly foisted it upon so many of my friends and family too.

 

Alex Hamilton, Chef Jamie Kennedy, Anton Potvin, and Mitko Milev in the Zinfandel vineyards at Montevina, Amador County back in 2006.

Alex Hamilton, Anton Potvin, Chef Jamie Kennedy, and Mitko Milev in the Zinfandel vineyards at Montevina, Amador County back in 2006.

 

Whilst working at Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar I continually introduced our clientele to an enormous selection of Californian Zins that I obtained through innumerable private orders, much to the chagrin of Chef Jamie Kennedy, who was much more traditional when it came to his wine choices.

Indeed these conflicting opinions around Zinfandel’s place at the JK Wine Bar led to me taking Chef Kennedy (along with a handful of industry ne’er-do-wells) upon a trip to California taking in San Fransisco, Napa, Sonoma, and Amador County, in an effort to convince him otherwise.

Did I succeed in bringing him over to the darker side? I’m not so sure about that. But we did have a truly terrific time on our journey, although it culminated in some questionable behaviour that nearly lost me my job… but that’s a story for another day.

I cannot pinpoint exactly when my almost-carnal desire for the grape waned, but looking back through my tasting notes I can observe that I gradually began tasting less and less of them.

The thrill was gone. The bloom was off the rose. I was completely Zinned-out.

 

GFR's Jamie Drummond with the legendary Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards.

GFR’s Jamie Drummond with the legendary Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards at Z.A.P. (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers Festival), San Fransisco 2008.

 

Last month I found myself sitting at home with a glass of a very modest Zinfandel, the first in quite some time, and as I imbibed, the memories of those crazy, hazy Zin-sodden days came flooding back; the breadth and depth of these extremely florid olfactory-inspired memories was quite astonishing, exhilarating even.

At that moment I came to understand that this specific grape had obviously had a considerable impact upon my life over those years.

There was a time, almost a decade-and-a-half ago, when I had a years long affair with the grape known as Zinfandel.

Am I, today, embarrassed about going through that phase?

Do I feel any shame for being so obsessed with a grape that many of my peers see as a lesser varietal?

Not at all.

Those were some good days, nay, great days.

 

*As a footnote I should add that I was also seeing a young woman from San Fransisco for a good number of these years, so I did have an ulterior motive for many of those trips.


Jamie Drummond

Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And it’s interesting to scratch that old Zinfandel itch.

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