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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Play Fair, Zinfandel

You’ve probably never heard of the Fairplay AVA, nor El Dorado County. Maybe not even the Sierra Foothills region in California. But this area is actually older than Napa and Sonoma and blossomed during the California Gold Rush of the late 1840s and early 1850s. Long a bastion of overripe one-trick pony Zinfandel, this region does Rhone and Italian well and on occasion you find an authentic, expressive Zin like the Gwinllan 2010 Estate Zinfandel. At 15.4 this is a hefty boy, but the fruit is fully restrained and paired judiciously with oak resulting in sultry earthy and dusty notes. There’s black cherry, black berry, cinnamon and sweet oak, all balanced against each other deviating from the usual jammy Foothills Zinfandel. This wine shows one of the valid reasons for visiting the Fairplay region – namely that with all the volcanic and granite soils, the region genuinely reflects the earth. Farmed at 2,300 feet, these grapes give a smoothness and richness with a bit of tannic structure, but not enough that it dries out your palette. Yes, it’s a tad hot, though it is excessively easy (and quite fun) to drink. I popped this with a pork sausage pizza with fresh oregano, chives and edemame. You couldn’t ask for better combo. Fairplay is game on and Gwinllan plays well with others. GWINLLAN ESTATE

ORIGIN: Fair Play, El Dorado County, California
PRICE: $36 / 750/ml
ALCOHOL: 15.4%

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