Mystery: What Price for this Wine?

What would you pay for this wine? 
A common question posed by someone selling wine from a value geography or a grape or winery you haven’t heard of before.  Of course, the wine does have a price, and after you taste and guess they will tell you the answer.  But how would you put a price on a wine made by a garagiste, or someone who will someday have their own winery but they have not yet made their first commercial batch?

A Zinfandel with no price

A Zinfandel with a fancy label but no price

This was my challenge when my friend Mellissa Solin gave me a bottle of Zinfandel from her cousin, an upcoming winemaker in Lodi, California.  Like many young winemakers, his day job is at a much bigger winery.  The winery job pays the bills while he gains experience and works to build his own brand.

My mystery wine came complete with its post-it note label full of information. It’s from Lodi, could be a fruit bomb; 14.15% alcohol, maybe not?  I decided the best way to test it out would be to compare it to a couple of known entities.  First I chose Bedrock Old Vine Sonoma Valley Zinfandel, one of my favorite “serious” Zinfandels.  This wine avoids the bold fruit and jamminess that some Zinfandels express.  The other end of the spectrum was represented by Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin.  This Zin is very ripe and jammy.  Nothing wrong with that, lots of people love Gnarly Head.

The theory: surround the mystery with two known examples

The theory: surround the mystery with two known examples

I put the wines to the test with lamb chops fresh off the grill.

How did they fare at the table?

How did they fare at the table?

Bedrock Old Vine Sonoma Valley Zinfandel 2011 ($28 from the winery by mail)
A really nice Zinfandel.  Benefits from a bit of air after opening.
Eye: Color is deep deep dark bluish red.
Nose: Aroma is definitely dark fruit, black cherries, sometimes I get chocolate, sometimes a bit of smoke.  Not at all jammy.  Oak is not noticeable at all – nice!
Mouth: Very lively and even peppery. Structure seems to be mostly from acidity, although tannins show in the finish.

My benchmark >$20 Zin, lively spicy but not overripe

My benchmark >$20 Zin, lively and spicy; not overripe

Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin 2010 ($10 local wine shop)
Eye: Very dark red.
Nose: Dark fruit, figs and raisins.
Mouth: Very smooth, ripe and jammy.  A bit flat from little acidity, although it does show a bit of tannin in the finish.  Nice enough wine for the big Zin fan, not my personal favorite.

Nice example from the ripe, raisiny Zin school

Nice example from the ripe, raisiny Zin school

“Valley Pipe Supply” Zinfandel 2011 ($???)
Eye: Dark, warm red, translucent well toward the center.  Seemed the lightest in color of the three.
Nose: Dark fruit, pepper.  Not obviously oaky. Somehow, it gives a “clean” impression on the nose.
Mouth: Nice and lively, not flat.  I get more red fruit although pretty dark.  Just a touch of tannin. This wine was riper than the Bedrock, but pretty close in its overall impression.  Definitely closer to the Bedrock than the Gnarly Head.

Where does the Mystery Wine fit?

Where does the Mystery Wine fit?

Day two sometimes tells a lot about a young wine.  Both the Bedrock and the “Valley Pipe Supply” were still very nice on day two and were enjoyable again at dinner.  The Gnarly Head had gone around a raisiny/pruny corner, taking on some port-like characteristics.

I’ll need to wait for an answer to the Mystery question: How much would you pay?  Given my experience with the “Valley Pipe Supply” prototype, I’d be happy to pay around $20-25 for a bottle someday in the future.  I hope I get the opportunity to do so!

Monthly Wine Writing Challenge
This is my entry in Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #6, the theme is “Mystery”.  Go here to see what other bloggers in our monthly challenge group have written!

11 Responses to “Mystery: What Price for this Wine?”
  1. Oenophilogical says:

    Funny. Just seeing your headline – before reading this post – I would have said that I might easily pay $20 or so. It’s from Lodi after all. How marvelous that you got to experience this special bottle of Zin!

  2. Sally says:

    Love the pics showing the legs – and what a great way to do a comparison…without knowing how much it is. I like that you taste with food as well. Enjoyable post as always

  3. Familiarity with the two commercial wines you mentioned – hoping your friend’s cousin makes his mark in the California market sooner rather than later.

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