Every once in a while a bottle of wine captures my attention and I simply must have it. You know the one: the artisan series, the kitschy logo or the sassy name that makes you think of something naughty without completely crossing the line into bad taste? Yes; THAT wine bottle is so hard to resist! Unfortunately, many a wine lover has been sorely disappointed by a major disconnect between the outward appearance of a bottle and its lackluster contents. Why must winemakers lure us in with flash only to leave us sipping flab? Happily, this is not always the case. The true marriage of beauty of and substance is so revealed in the wonderful line up offered by Terra d’Oro (Translation: “Land of Gold) Winery of Amador County.
Presented to the Women’s Wine Council by our leader, wine diva and media guru Linda Kissam, the Terra d’Oro wines caused an immediate buzz based on looks alone. I almost always refer to our tasting line up as soldiers – at the ready to serve us well. However, these beauties were clearly belles designed to seduce us with their gem-toned labels and etched images of sultry vines. The romance continues as we delve into the rich history of Amador County wine country. Once the epicenter of the gold rush, by the late 1800s Amador County was flush with over 100 wineries. The combination of rocky iron-rich soil, Sierra foothills climate and thirsty fortune-seekers was an opportunity that many wise men cultivated. Amador County wine country still thrives to this day with Terra d’Oro at its heart.
Terra d’Oro offers twelve wines along the spectrum, but our group enjoyed four of their signature Zinfandels, a Super Tuscan and a lovely Barbera. As usual, each member of the group brought a dish to pair and share. Suggested retail prices are indicated, but we have found most of the wines at BevMo for about half of the listed price.
Our first taste was of the 2008 Barbera. The nose on this food-friendly sipper is full of blackberry and spice. Juicy black cherry flavors and a smooth mouthfeel made this an easy fit for Judee Jachim Smith’s barbecued ribs – the sweet, smokey meat made the wine even more delicious. ($18 SRP)
We moved on to the 2007 Terra d’Oro SHR Field Blend Zinfandel. I am a huge Zin fan, but I was surprised to find that one vineyard would offer up so many versions of the varietal. As usual, the Women’s Wine Council proved to be fun AND educational! The deep, rich color was an immediate wow and the earthy nose opened up to ripe dark fruit as we gave it a little time and air. Big berry flavors and a bit of tobacco on the palate as well as hints of cocoa made this red another food-friendly wine. The bold flavors were enhanced by my Wild Rice with Lamb dish as well as a sharp, aged cheddar. ($30 SRP)
Next, the 2007 Home Vineyard Zinfandel. This delicious red was my second choice of the night by a very close margin. I found it to be quite light for a Zin and will drink it when I am in an “almost Zin” kind of mood. This was the first of the group that I would drink on its own rather than paired with food. With that said; it paired beautifully with almost every dish on the table – perfect crowd-pleaser at a dinner party. With cranberry and raspberry on the nose, and lots of fruit and warm spice on the palate, I loved it most with Debbie Israel Wiens’ Roast Beef Wrapped Asparagus with Horseradish. (SRP $30)
On to the 2007 Terra d’Oro Deaver Vineyard Zinfandel – my top pick of the evening. This is truly and Old Vine Zin, produced from grapes planted in 1881. It is robust with classic Amador spices: allspice, cardamom and clove. The flavor was all ripe plum and spice and delivered that “I am Zin!” moment that I love so much. This big boy would pair perfectly with anything from a steakhouse menu and was also a perfect match for Sue Richter’s Cheddar Rosemary Biscuit topped with Cranberry Cream Cheese. (SRP $30)
We ventured forth to the 2007 Forte Super Tuscan. The Deaver Zin was a tough act to follow, but the Super T offered up cherry and currant flavors with hints of pepper and nutmeg to please the palate. Terra d’Oro suggests pairing it with grilled meats and Judee’s ribs were indeed the perfect match. (SRP $30)
Our evening wrapped up with the Montevina Terra d’Oro Zinfandel Port. With aromas of raisiny fruit, chocolate and orange peel, I was concerned that I would not enjoy this port as heavy raisin flavors tend to be too much for me. However, the raisin lightened up on the palate and was joined by coffee and toffee flavors. Although many enjoy port on its own, I found that it was enhanced by pairing it with the Spicy Chocolate Cupcakes that I brought to the table. Since I typically do not eat desert, I found that I liked it even better when paired with the sharp, aged cheddar. (SRP $30)
Although the wines were our reason for gathering, one item on the table stole the spotlight. Carmen Micheli brought a Pumpkin Truffle Cake topped with Brown Butter Icing that not only paired perfectly with every last one of the wines, but put us in mind of holiday suppers and time with family. The elegant spice of the cake, surprise hint of chocolate and warm butter icing hit all the right notes with the Amador spice so predominantly featured in our tasting. Please click here: Pumpkin Trufle Cake for the recipe and enjoy.