The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2012

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Page 58 of 140

WHAT WE'RE DRINKING Hellaciously S Ripe TERRA D'ORO ZINFANDEL PORT IS A NEW AMERICAN CLASSIC story and photos by Randy Caparoso ince 1973, Amador County's Terra d'Oro Winery (once known as Montevina) has forged a solid reputation for some of California's purest styles of Zinfandel; but in recent years, the winery has also been carving a niche with its Terra d'Oro Amador County Zinfandel Port ($24/750 ml. and $12/375 ml.). According to Terra d'Oro Winemaker Chris Leamy, "In 2000 we produced only 500 six packs of our non-vintage Zinfandel Port, and sold it only to our wine club. Now it's grown to over 5,000 six packs, and is distributed nationwide. We're having to designate more and more of our vineyards for Port production." What is it about the Terra d'Oro that has made it one of the most popular domestic Ports? Leamy believes that it's because it is pre- dominantly a Zinfandel, which yields a "very comfortable, approach- able style." It is, in fact, a soft, svelte, luscious ruby red wine; bursting with sweetly caramelized black cherry/raspberry fruitiness, entwined with smoky tobacco, dried date and walnut shell complexities. "We fi nish our Port at just under 19% alcohol—a little less alcohol, and also a little less residual sugar (about 10%), than traditional Port, but very appropriate for the varietal. You get a profound, bright Zinfandel fruitiness—a concentration of the dark berry/black cherry character everybody loves in the grape," says Leamy. One of the vineyard blocks usually going into the Terra d'Oro Port is a traditional fi eld blend, so there is a tiny bit of Petite Sirah and Barbera adding zip and heft to the fi nished wine. The trick, according to Leamy, is to let the grapes sit out in the vineyards until they get "hellaciously ripe . . . you want those dark, raisiny bunches, full of concentrated sweetness and fl avor." The use of a pure grape brandy stops the fermentation, and soaks up even more of the varietal intensity. 58 / the tasting panel / november 2012

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