Setting the scene: Friday night. End-of-the-week exhaustion. Take out food from one of our favorite Thai restaurants, Thanh Do. And a bottle of Gary Farrell Zinfandel from the “cellar”– a.k.a. the basement storage closet where we keep our wines. A treat!
Gary Farrell Winery is more well known for its elegant, food friendly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but we have a huge fondness for their lesser known Zin, as well. It pairs wonderfully with the spices in the Thai food. We have always found that great makers of Pinot Noir tend to make really lovely, elegant Zinfandel, when they happen to make one in addition to their flagship Pinot. Seems that something in the finesse of the Pinot carries over to the Zin. So Zins by great Pinot makers tend to be less overpowering, more balanced, and so wonderfully sip-able. That’s a big generalization, yes. And it’s not based on scientific research, but just our observation.
Our one and only visit to the Farrell winery was in 2004, on our second trip to wine country. It had been recommended to us by a good friend with good tastebuds, and was noted as a beautiful location and tasting room– a lovely “experience” to tour there. We found it to be all of that and have since recommended it to many. The day we were there, Gary Farrell himself happened to be up on a tall ladder peering into one of the many wine tanks, seemingly a very hands-on kind of guy. We were charmed. We know that Farrell has long since sold the winery and left, his name still on the bottle but his pioneering winemaking touch now somewhere else. We have to admit that knowing he isn’t there– and that the winery is now owned by a big conglomerate– does diminish our pleasure in the wine a bit. But the subsequent winemaking teams seem to have carried on Farrell’s tradition well. And we’re not going to let great wine sit unopened in the basement just because we prefer small, independently-owned wineries, are we? (silly question)
The particular vintage of Farrell last night was the 2006 Collins Vineyard Zin from the Russian River Valley. For the most part, we don’t open our wines to breathe long in advance, as is the custom amongst a lot of connoisseurs. Our logic is that if we did so, we’d miss the all the tastes that evolve from the time the cork is popped ’til the wine settles fully into itself in the glass. We like to taste the change for ourselves. Sometimes that means the first sip can be too edgy and we might decide then to let the wine sit a bit. But not so with the Farrell last night. Magnificent from the first sip. Elegant and balanced, as expected. But with power, as well. Lots of plum and dried cranberries and a hint of cinnamon. Strong finish, lingered long.
We decided right then and there, after just one sip, to give this wine a 4 out of 5 paw rating– a rating system we haven’t even defined yet, but that we were really passionately wanting to dole out at that moment. When we decide what the paws mean, we’ll let you know. Until then, let’s just assume that 4 out of 5 means “darn good.” The wine continued to soften in the glass but didn’t lose any of its elegance, power or fruit. Sipped wonderfully well all evening long, thus confirming our “darn good,” 4 out of 5 rating.
A good time was had by all. Cheers!