Original "Zin" (or any other lame play on the word)

I love Zinfandel. I love its taste, mouth feel and finish. I love its fruit-forward character, and I love the complex mélange of aromas that spring forth from a freshly poured glass. But more than that, I love that Zinfandel is our grape. For better or worse, it's the grape America has produced, and the bellwether vines are found in California. And next to Pinot Noir, Zinfandel is probably one of the most versatile varietals when it comes to pairing wine with food.

I know, I know. Many people would argue that Zinfandel is too fruity--too big to be paired with foods, that the high alcohol content of the reds makes for difficult consumption while the white zinfandel is...well, it's white zinfandel (though rumor has it white zinfandel is the most popular wine in America).

Alexander Winery's 2004 Temptation Zin is not white Zinfandel. In fact, this bold fruit-bomb is anything but. Still, the wine has enough complexity and enough balance that it should satisfy the more discerning palate.

Color: Deep garnet
Nose: Strawberry, floral aromas of rose petal and just a touch of white chocolate make this an alluring wine.
Taste: Across the palate this wine delivers a slight smokiness coupled with red stone and pit fruits such as plumb and cherry. The mouth feel is silky and belies a surprising complexity.
Finish: The wine's finish is deceptive as I wasn't expecting such a balanced acidity. Not much in the finish by way of lingering flavors, but it definitely leaves a person hankerin' for another sip--or even a second a glass.

Pairing: Michael Chiarello of Easy Entertaining maintains that Zinfandel is the "golden retriever" of wine--it plays well with anything. He might have a point. This zinfandel paired well with home-made fajitas, but also was superb with lemon-infused hummus on toasted pita with capers. It has the fruit necessary to pair with sweeter dishes and the acidity to stand up to all but the heaviest of grilled meat.

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