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2002 Rosenblum "Carla's Vineyard" Zinfandel, Contra Costa County, California

As someone who loves wine, and doesn't really bother to hide that fact, its quite frequent that people bring over a bottle when they come to dinner. I'm always thankful for the gesture, no matter what wine they bring, but I really enjoy it when the wine reflects a thoughtful choice and a good winemaker.

I'm sure my eyes lit up when this bottle walked through the door in the hands of some friends who finally made it to dinner after months of schedule jockeying. I've reviewed a couple of Rosenblum wines before, and they generally shine out from the pack in my surveys of larger tasting events.

Rosenblum is, of course, one of the few resident wineries in the Bay area -- tucked away into an industrial park in The Alameda, south of Oakland. The produce a massive portfolio of wines, dominated by one of the best selections of Zinfandels from all over the state.

This wine is particularly interesting as it not only comes from a local bay area winemaker, but also from one of the nearest vineyards to San Francisco: Carla's Vineyard, which lies just over the Antioch bridge in Contra Costa County. This is an ancient vineyard, with vines nearly 100 years old planted in sand and gravel, and it yields a low 1.5 tons per acre, which is a lot less fruit than your average vineyard yield which comes in between four and six tons per acre.

The vineyard is maintained by and named for Carla Meadows, daughter of longtime grape grower Tony Cutino. Carla has made it a habit (a calling?) to seek out and restore heritage vineyard sites throughout the state, bringing ancient vines back to the point at which they can produce consistently again.

This wine was aged for about 13 months in 80% American oak (30% of which was new) and a little bit of French oak as well. 1620 cases were made.

Tasting Notes:
This wine is a black hole in my glass: deep dark purple in color with a deep purple rim. Its nose is full of blackberry pie and candied cherry aromas. In the mouth the blackberry flavors are in full force at the front of the palate with elements of black cherry and a dusting of cedar as it heads to a satisfying finish. Classic Rosenblum, classic zinfandel.

Food Pairing:
We drank this on the tail end of a dinner of grilled Mongolian pork chops and wasabi mashed potatoes and it chased those flavors perfectly.

Overall Score: 9

How Much?: $19

This wine has already sold out in Rosenblum's online store, but it can be purchased at most major wine retailers in San Francisco. Rosenblum's site has a handy feature where you can see which retailers in Northern California carry the wine. For those of you elsewhere, try Froogle.

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