I'm a big fan of red zin in all of its expressions. From big, bold fruit bombs to more subtle European treatments, wines made from Zinfandel, or Primitivo, have long been some of my favorites. Dashe Cellars is owned and run by a husband-and-wife team who add two unique sensibilities to the production of fine wines. Anne Dashe has a degree in oenology from the University of Bordeaux, while her husband is a graduate of the University of California at Davis. When they came together as a family and a winemaking team, each Dashe contributed the best of the New World and the Old World to their wines, with a special commitment to showcasing the elements of terroir that reflect the unique soil, climate and regional characteristics of the vineyards where they harvest their grapes.
I met Anne at a tasting at RED Spirits and Wine and found her to be a passionate and engaging ambassador for her wines. Although the Dashes don't own any vineyards, they have long-term contracts with their growers to ensure consistent supply and quality of fruit. They especially seek out plots that will help them emphasize the old-school style of winemaking that demonstrates minerality. Dashe uses all indigenous yeasts, and little or no filtration of their wines. In fact, they strive to add very little in the way of outside influences on the process. Dashe summed up her philosophy as, "Leave it alone and intervene only when needed."
I next tasted two single vineyard Zinfandels that represented the masculine and feminine side of the Dashe portfolio. The 2009 Todd Brothers Ranch Old Vine Zinfandel is the 12th vintage that Dashe has produced from these 50-year-old vines near Geyserville in the Alexander Valley. This particular run is an intensely tannic wine that opens up nicely and would pair very well with a big honkin' steak. It should also age very well, softening the tannins and taking advantage of the complexity of the chocolate and spice flavors that lurk beneath the surface of the fruit.
On the distaff side, I quite enjoyed the lush, pretty floral aromas of the 2009 Florence Vineyard Zinfandel. These grapes come from clones of the vines that grew in the famous Rockpile Ranch vineyard. The very small berries produce a concentrated flavor that could be overpowering in the hands of less talented and subtle winemakers. Fortunately, the Dashes took the risk to produce this as 100 percent Zinfandel, which allows the essence of the grape to come out. The fruit is just as complex as the Old Vine Zin, but not quite as jammy. Both the Todd Brothers and the Florence Vineyard retail for about $30 per bottle.
Dessert wines are always a tricky proposition, but late-harvest Zinfandels are often real winners. Dash does not disappoint in this case either. Their 2009 Late Harvest Zinfandel is a superb sweet wine. Rather than coating your tongue with a syrupy texture, this wine has an intense plum and berry flavor that still drinks like a regular wine. The grapes were allowed to shrivel on the vine before harvest, which concentrates the intense flavors and sweet spiciness. Only 975 cases of half-bottles were released in this vintage, so you'd better look quick to find a bottle of this at $24.99. Paired with some blue cheese or a chocolate lava cake topped with berries and cream, this would be a perfect end to a special meal.
The last Dashe wine I tried was their 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. Dry and tannic in the Old World Cab style, this wine would definitely have benefited from having time to open up or be decanted. I tasted it straight out of the bottle into a tiny glass, so I couldn't really appreciate the benefits of the 5 percent Petite Verdot added to round out the structure. I could sense the potential enough that I bought a bottle for $40 to take home and try it out again under proper conditions.
If the rest of the Dashe wines are any indication I'm pretty confident that the Cab Sav will be a winner as well.