It might not be ‘native,’ but California wine packs a punch

Zinfandel is California’s muscle wine. 2007s are in abundance with some wineries introducing their 2008s. Both vintages deliver big time. According to Wine Spectator’s Vintage Ratings, both years are up there with the best in a decade.
“Zin” as the varietal is affectionately known, almost became California’s official “native” grape recently until someone pointed out that genetically it was proven to come from Italy and known as Primitivo, with lineage extended to an obscure grape in Croatia. It was first planted in California in the 1850s with original “old vines” still producing wine today.
As of 2008, Zin is the fifth most widely planted grape, behind Cabernet, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.
The Central Coast and Sonoma are two wine making districts that first come to mind as excellent Zin Countries. Not far behind is Amador County and Plymouth in particular, the home of Jeff Runquist Wines.
Jeff is known for his wide-ranging quest for just the right grapes for his wines. In addition to Amador grapes, he draws from Paso Robles, Carneros in Napa Valley, Lodi and Clarksburg. The 2007 Zins won Best of Class and Gold at the California State
Fair and Pacific Rim International Wine Competition. The ‘08s are off to a great start as they took Platinum at the New World International Wine Competition. Although ’08 was considered a challenging harvest, this “Z” has deep brooding color with a deep-seated aroma. Smoky oak and chocolate weave through restrained tannins. Alcohol level is down to 14.3 percent enhancing flavor. Zins commonly are more than 15 percent alcohol. Price is $24 on the website. 
The winery produces 14 varietals each with limited production. The Jeff Runquist Tasting Room hours also are limited: Friday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. See more at www.jeffrunquistwines. com.
How much do you get in that bottle or barrel?
I am no different than any other wine lover who has a constant quest for great wines worldwide. It’s a never-ending seduction of sight, smell, sip and sensory satisfaction. I get to write about these adventures in wine and I am constantly thankful for the privilege.
I also enjoy the research side of this world, with a fascination for quantifying what I write about, so here are my latest facts and figures.
The tools of wine consumption start out with a popular size of wine bottle containing 750 mille liters of wine that holds five glasses of wine at 5.5 ounces per glass. That’s about 25.6 ounces per bottle, or 2.4 pounds of grapes. One case of wine holds 12 bottles, or 30 pounds of grapes or 60 glasses of wine. Winemakers can expect a barrel of wine to hold nearly 25 cases of wine or 1,180 glasses. A barrel gets very heavy at these amounts, weighing 740 pounds or 59 gallons of wine.
Thanks to my friends at the International Wine Guild in Denver, Colo., the most recent wine trends data from 2008 has this to say:  wine consumption is up 3.5 percent worldwide, from 6.3 billion gallons to 6.5 billion.
Per capita consumption by country is surprising: Vatican City State leads at 17.6 gallons per person! Following closely is France, Luxembourg and Italy. What about the U.S.?  We are No. 57 at 2.5 gallons per person, but we are up 14.5 percent. For the total country, regardless of individual consumption, the U.S. is No. 3 behind France and Italy. The biggest producing country and the biggest exporter is Italy at 452 million gallons or 33 percent of their production. Salute Italia!
Wine Bytes
— Alternative Wines in Carmel Valley brings Schafer Wines for a tasting at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 22. New Chardonnay, Cabernet and Merlot are offered. Cost information is available by calling (858) 780-9463.
— South Coast Winery in Temecula hosts a Chefs and Winemakers Intimate Dinner from 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 23. Enjoy new releases and big winners, a five-course dinner and a free bottle of autographed wine from the winemakers. The cost is $90 for club members, $95 for nonmembers. RSVP at (951) 587-9463, ext. 7210.
— Dolce Pane E Vino wine bar and restaurant in Rancho Santa Fe is presenting a Premier Champagne Tasting of Perrier, Blanc de Blanc and M umm from 3 to 5 p.m. Oct. 23.  The cost is $25 per person. Reserve your space at (858) 832-1518.
— 90 Points or Higher is the wine tasting at San Diego Wine Company from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 23. Tho cost is just $15. Details are available at (858) 586-WINE.
— 3rd Corner Wine Shop & Bistro in Encinitas has Wines of Argentina with a paired dinner on Oct. 26. Reception at 6 p.m. Four-course dinner includes rack of lamb and hangar steak. Cost is $50 each. Call for an RSVP at (760) 942-2104.
— The New World Wine Experience presented by the world-leading Wine Spectator Magazine is planned for Las Vegas’ The Venetian and the Palazzo from 7:30 to 10 p.m. Oct. 28 and Oct. 29. Two hundred and twenty top wineries will be there. Tickets are $250 per person. Order tickets at www.venetian.com.

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