Monday, January 23, 2012

Naughty or Nice... Hard Row to Hoe Zinfandel Release

From Lucha Vino

You say Primitivo.  I say Zinfandel.  Whichever name you want to give this grape, one thing is for sure.  You need to checkout Hard Row to Hoe's new release, the 2009 Zinfandel .  This voluptuous wine conjures up images of Mae West’s sultry invitation to “Come on up and see me some time…”

Before we get to the details on this bad girl we'll take a look at where the inspiration comes from.

Don and Judy Phelps are making some of the most interesting wines in the Lake Chelan AVA today.  The creativity and wit begin with the winery's name and extend through the names many of their wine's carry on their labels. 

Don is a great host at their tasting room regaling visitors with the story of an industrious entrepreneur, a row boat, lonely miners and the ladies of Point Lovely.  (Read more here.  Or, better yet, stop in to the winery for a visit and hear the story first hand.)

Back to the wine.  Judy is the winemaker, Don does most of the vineyard management.  Judy has a has a Master of Science degree in Zoology from the University of Connecticut Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department and Completed the UC Davis Wine Making Certificate in 2006 (the first graduating class).  She began making wine in her garage and went straight into the pro ranks starting Hard Row to Hoe with Don in 2006.

Judy definitely likes variety.  When I asked her about her favorite wine to make she responded with “Trying something new!”  You can see her pioneering spirit represented in the 12 different wines included in the 2009 Hard Row catalog.

Don and Judy grow five varieties on their estate vineyard from Sauvignon Blanc to Cabernet Franc and a few in between.  Their six acre estate vineyard on the Northern shore of Lake Chelan is tended through organic means only.  That means Don spends more time working in their vineyard using natural pesticides such as Cinnamon oil and planting other natural vegetation to assist with pollination and distracting pests from the grape vines.  All the hard work is worth it and shows in the wines Hard Row to Hoe delivers.

One of the most challenging wines Judy has made is a Cinsault that is still in the barrel.  The great challenge for Judy is allowing the grape to express its character rather than putting it through an exhaustive program to achieve a flavor profile based on a preconceived notion.  Judy prefers to work with the character of the grape rather than blending it away through the use of barrels or blending in other grape varieties. 

As a result, you will see many single varietal wines in the Hard Row to Hoe Catalog. Judy can take this approach with her single varietal wines since Hard Row to Hoe sells the majority of their wine directly through their tasting room.  Selling through their tasting room is a luxury that allows Judy to explore the unusual grapes and deliver some delicious wines for all of us to enjoy.

2009 is the second offering of Hard Row’s Zinfandel.  They sourced the grapes from the Rosebud vineyard on the Wahluke Slope, purchasing all they had to offer.  How much was that?  Somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 tons – Judy says that is the maximum Don can haul with his truck!  It is also all the Zinfandel that Rosebud grew in 2009.  This grape needs a long growing season which makes it difficult to grow in Washington.  As a result, 2009 is only the second Zin release from Hard Row.  The last one was in 2006.  The need for a long growing season is also the reason you will not find very many wineries making Zinfandel from Washington Fruit. 

This Zinfandel is not like those you may have grown accustomed to from our California neighbors to the South.  Judy really does let the grape do the talking and it shows.  The Rosebud Zinfandel was aged for 12 months in French Oak Barrels that ranged in age from one to three years.  After barrel aging the juice was aged for an additional 6 months in flex tanks (a relatively new material that is permeable to allow for additional breathing with less character influence on the wine).

The Hard Row Zin is shapely, luscious and has curves in all the right places.  The nose shows notes of Raspberry, Strawberry and a light earthy smokiness that gives way to a palate featuring similar red berry character along with some tart rhubarb and spices all rolling into a cranberry tinged finish.  In the old Point Lovely parlance you might say this Zin is a “Lovely Tart.”  One that could very well have induced many a miner to ante up and make that rowboat trip across the lake!


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