At my house, summer cooking means grilling on the deck as often as possible. Last Friday, I marinated a couple of steaks, coated tiny new fingerling potatoes on skewers with olive oil and herbs, lit the grill, and picked lettuce and just-ripened tomatoes for a salad. Then I grabbed a bottle of this dark, velvety 2010 Dashe Cellars Zinfandel, a new release that I’d recently received.
Frankly, I’m not a fan of today’s brash, full-throttle style of California Zinfandel. I look at the alcohol levels listed on the labels, all too frequently in the above 15 percent range, and my tastebuds tire just thinking about drinking them.
Dashe is one of the producers that aims for more balanced Zins. As I wrote in my tasting note: “No sweet, heavy beastliness, just lovely pure red fruit, spice and cassis aromas, pepper, earth and licorice flavors with savory acidity in the finish. What’s not to like?” My husband and I finished the bottle as the stars came out.
The winery has made its name on single-vineyard Zins, though it also bottles small amounts of Riesling, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petite Sirah and a crisp dry rosé. An urban pioneer in Oakland, Calif., Dashe sources grapes from top family-owned vineyards in Sonoma, particularly in Dry Creek Valley. In 2010, the basic cuvée comes from four of them: Louvau, Lily Hill, Shadick and Florence.
A subtle approach to California Zinfandels
Founded by Michael Dashe and his French wife Anne in 1996, Dashe Cellars has been at the forefront of a mid-weight, more subtle style of Zinfandel since its beginnings. Fermenting with native yeasts in custom-made tanks is part of their recipe for complexity. Aging the wine in older large French oak barrels ensures softness with no raw, oaky taste.
The long, cool 2010 vintage was pretty challenging in California, but it accounts for this Zin’s high acidity, vibrant fruit and under 14% alcohol, all of which make it terrific with food. More Petite Sirah in the blend than usual adds concentration, texture and structure.
Think of this well-priced 2010 Dashe Cellars as a versatile red that will please even those who say they don’t like Zin.
Top photo composite:
Zinfandel grapes from Dashe Cellars’ Florence vineyard. Credit: Courtesy of Dashe Cellars