HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: Wine Guerrilla: The Art and Soul of Zinfandel. Three wines reviewed.

This week, we sipped our way through a flight of Wine Guerrilla wines: two Zinfandels, and Rebel Cru, a red blend.

While most wines are like a good short story, these wines proved to be novellas. They opened with a hint of mystery, unfolded with several rather complex twists and turns, and seductively grew into their big happy endings.

All of them required a great deal of time to open up. They were aromatic almost from the get-go, but in terms of taste, at first they were all somewhat subdued. After a glass of each wine the first night, we capped them and resumed the next evening, when it still took more than an hour for the wines to reach their sweet spots. (Our aerating pourer didn’t fit these bottles, and with only one decanter, we wanted to try them all on equal footing.)

These are not party wines, nor are they for beginners. They are contemplative wines, better experienced with a game of chess or Scrabble than with a movie, or with good friends for a long, lovely dinner, for they deserve time and thought. They offered up several different and very interesting phases of aroma and taste. And, despite Zinfandel’s lingering “cloying” reputation, these wines are not sweet bombs. If you want an “easy” wine, Wine Guerrilla isn’t it. If you’re willing to give it time and attention, Wine Guerrilla is Highly Recommended.

2009 SONOMA COUNTY ZINFANDEL. 14.5% ABV. 1,000 cases produced. $15 suggested retail, available for as little as $10.95.

With its base of 81% Zinfandel, it also has 10% Petite Sirah, 8% Carignan, and 1% Cabernet Sauvignon from various Sonoma locations. It was aged in 30% new American oak and in one- to three-year-old French, American and Hungarian barrels, and bottled unfiltered and unfined. This results in a thick and chewy wine that both commands and demands attention.

The first impression was that it was a little darker and sharper than its companions, with a peppery, very slightly herbal nose, and a palpable scent and taste of … well, go to Steve Heimoff’s article at www.winemag.com/Wine-Enthusiast-Magazine/Web-2011/Whats-So-Special-About-East-Oakville-Soil/ and the first sentence describes it. The iron taste is probably due to the soil the vines grow in—I’d bet a nickel that some of the soil nourishing the 2009 crop was red and volcanic.

Slightly spicy mid-palate, the wine gave way to a second impression that was richer, with cherry, oak, and brown sugar on the nose along with luscious black fruits and lots of tannins. Even so, the taste was shrouded. We just had to wait for it to catch up with its nose, which was wonderfully aromatic once the first iron impression gave way.

On the second night, it was softer, yet the flavors finally rounded out and came into their full expressions. This was a lovely wine that had many different aromas and tastes—an interesting wine indeed.

LABEL NOTES: Ah, Sonoma County—terroir the Wine Guerrilla knows well. Our humble beginnings trace to these rolling hills. You could say it’s in our blood. Just like our Sonoma County Zin. The 2009 vintage of this sexy Zinfandel goes well with all known food. Or is equally good all by itself. You’re the decider.

2009 DRY CREEK VALLEY SONOMA COUNTY ZINFANDEL. 14.7% ABV. 560 cases produced. $20 suggested retail, available for as little as $13.95.

This model consists of 88% Zinfandel from two old-vine vineyards at the head of Dry Creek Road, Biglieri Vineyard and Cartee Vineyard, with 12% Petite Sirah blended in.

Like the first Zin, this one told a fascinating story. It started out tasting a lot like a Pinot Noir, with orange and tea in both the aroma and taste. Yet, despite the tannins, it started out softer than the first Zin. With another twist, despite the softness, it had a spicy finish throughout.

The second night, it actually started out spicier than the first night! Again, its bright, beautiful aroma was matched by the taste when it caught up. It was quite similar to the first, with big fruits, cherry top notes, a little oak and vanilla, and a chewy yet smooth depth to it.

LABEL NOTES: Presenting the latest production from Sonoma’s visionary auteur. If this wine was a movie, the critics would be raving “Four Stars.” … Starring the best Zinfandel grapes. One sip and you’ll be singing its praises, too.

2009 REBEL CRU SONOMA COUNTY BLEND (40% Zinfandel, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah, 10% Petite Sirah). 14.5% ABV. $20 suggested retail.

This wine surprised us the most, because it started out just as silky and reserved as the first two. We expected the Cabernet Sauvignon to deliver more bite than the first two Zins did—not so.

On the second evening, we gave in and decanted this one, at which point the wine finally opened up to reveal itself fully. Still, the Cab remained in more of a supporting role than we thought it would. If anything, the Zin predominated, and the Petite Sirah shone forth with its clear high notes. Again, this was quite aromatic, and a pleasure to experience: elegant with big black fruits and a surprisingly suave and elegant mouthfeel and finish. No fruit or oak bomb here!

With the winery’s owner, Bruce Patch, coming from a background in the record business, it’s no surprise to see musical references in the LABEL NOTES: You wouldn’t expect a sissy blend from a revolutionary. Our new Cru gets big and bold with zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, syrah and petite sirah. It’s like the Fab Four of wine—zin the “cute one,” cab the “clever one,” syrah the “quiet one” and petite sirah the “funny one.” Together, they make beautiful music.

WEB NOTES: The name, “Wine Guerrilla,” reflects a unique approach to winemaking and marketing. Having begun as a broker of fine small-production artisinal wines, Wine Guerrilla brings together a vision of a reasonably priced premium wine with a love of California’s native grape, zinfandel.

Wine Guerrilla operates on a singular mission: Find the very best zinfandel grapes, and craft wines worthy of the grape’s unique characteristics, and introduce those wines to the public.

We use our knowledge of the Sonoma region, including the famous Dry Creek Valley, the Alexander Valley, the Russian River Valley and the Sonoma Valley and our existing relationships with many of the county’s best-known growers to create something truly special. Our single vineyard wines are sourced from such renowned local small vineyards as Conte, Adel’s, the Forchini Vineyards and Coffaro Vineyards.

Wine Guerrilla [has] launched its “Uncorking a Revolution” initiative—a response to the cork industry’s push to pressure the wine industry into using cork stoppers exclusively.

Wine Guerrilla has been a strong advocate of Stelvin screw tops for years—both for the convenience and ease and for the closure’s ability to preserve wine quality. So when the cork industry launched its 100% Cork initiative recently to counter the growing trend toward synthetic stoppers and screw caps, Wine Guerrilla felt compelled to respond with its own initiative—“Uncorking a Revolution,” with facts, figures and other fun stuff at www.welovescrewcaps.org and on Facebook.

HISTORY: Bruce Patch left the music recording industry in 1997 and moved with his ladylove to Sonoma. He became friends with several winemakers and parlayed his promotional skills into brokering their wines. After a few years, he decided to begin making wine himself. He turned to his friend David Coffaro, who has grown grapes in Dry Creek since 1979 and has been making his own wines since 1994. Under David Coffaro’s tutelage, Bruce Patch began producing Wine Guerrilla wines at Coffaro’s winery in 2004. The winery is a family operation even down to the wine’s labels, which are produced by his ladylove’s son, Sean Colgin, a Los Angeles-based artist. Visit www.SeanColgin.com.

WEB: www.WineGuerrilla.com

Samples received for review.
This entry was posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, California, Carignan, Petite Sirah, Syrah/Shiraz, Zinfandel. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: Wine Guerrilla: The Art and Soul of Zinfandel. Three wines reviewed.

  1. Kai O' Shea says:

    So glad to finally see these wines getting some well deserved press. Wine Guerrilla is among my best kept wine secrets and I always pull one out for those intimate dinners with friends who can appreciate a complex Zin. And each has made it among their favorites since. We are a mini club of Guerrilla groupies!

  2. Dawn Noufer says:

    I love your blog! It’s a concept that’s dear to me, as I’m a wine lover with a case of poor-college-student syndrome. I’m loving Zinfandel right now, so I’m eager to try these recommendations. I’ll be checking back for more!

    By the way, I just started a wine/food public relations blog of my own (DawnsDecanter.wordpress.com) and would love any input from more experienced bloggers.

  3. Nicole Bhat says:

    I am generally a big cab girl, but occassionally find a Zin or Syrah that I get passionate about. This Zin is one of those special treasures. I find it to be spicey, sexy, sultry. I love everything about it!

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