Wine Time: Terra d’Oro Zinfandel 2012, Amador County

The Terra d’Oro zinfandel is a rich wine that paired well with a simple meal of sloppy Joes, but also would go well with burgers, barbecue, marinated lamb, eggplant parmesan and grilled quail. DENNIS SODOMKA/SPECIAL

Cost: $17-$19

 

What: Some great winemakers say there is no need to age your zinfandel.


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“Drink it young,” is their mantra.

I can’t disagree, because young zinfandel can be vibrant and exciting. But occasionally I will lay down some zinfandel to see what it does with a year or two of aging. I have rarely been disappointed. This is called delayed gratification, or saving the best for last, and I highly recommend it.

I tried this with the Terra d’Oro zinfandel from 2012, and it certainly got better. I also tried the current release, the 2014 vintage, and it was fantastic as well. Both wines have their selling points, so you could enjoy drinking some now and savoring the moment when you can taste the aged wine. All it takes is patience.

The Terra d’Oro from Amador County is outstanding. Located in the Sierra Foothills, Amador has been identified as one of the spots to grow the best zinfandel. Soil and climate combine to create perfect terroir for zinfandel. The soil is high in iron and manganese, while the vines get soaked in sun all day.

The Terra d’Oro is a beautiful deep red in the glass with inviting aromas of blackberries, cherries and spice. The flavors are luscious in this well-balanced wine, offering hints of juicy raspberries, blackberries and sassafras. It has a warm, round mouthfeel that leads to a long finish.

I liked the younger version better with food, while the smoother, mellower wine that was aged two years was wonderful for sipping by itself.

The grapes are carefully hand-picked for this flagship wine. In the winery they are cold-soaked for up to three days to allow water to break down the cell walls of the grape solids, extracting flavor, color and aroma. After gentle tank-pressing, the wine is aged in a combination of new French oak and new American oak for up to 14 months. This brings out subtle caramel notes and some exotic spice.

Terra d’Oro is Italian for “land of gold,” paying homage to the Italian immigrants who started the wine industry in the area.

Winery: Terra d’Oro wines were first released in 1973 under the Montevina label, the first Amador County winery to produce wine since Prohibition ended. They soon earned a reputation for hearty, full-bodied red wines, particularly zinfandel and barbera.

Other winemakers were impressed with the results and soon zinfandel was planted all over the county. Today Amador County is known as one of the best places in the world for fine zinfandel. The winery continues to produce wine under the Montevina and Terra d’Oro labels.

Amador was the center of the Mother Lode during the California gold rush, during which many miners planted vineyards to quench their thirst. Long after the gold played out, winemakers are reaping the benefits of their early plantings.

The winery has 400 acres of estate vineyards, including several historic, old-vine sites. Besides zinfandel, Terra d’Oro produces barbera, sangiovese, syrah, chardonnay, a chenin blanc/viognier blend, pinot grigio, muscato and a zinfandel port.

The winery also has a friendly tasting room with a patio overlooking the vineyards where you can sip a glass of wine while looking over the countryside.

The winery uses sustainable farming practices such as building owl boxes to attract owls who feed on harmful pests, and using cover crops between vines to help fertilize the soil and attract good insects to feed on harmful insects. This reduces reliance on artificial fertilizers and pesticides.

Goes With: We haven’t had many big meals the past several weeks because I am busy rehearsing for the musical Camelot being staged by the Augusta University opera program. I’m in the chorus, which is scary enough, but I’m also one of the fighting knights, so I now know how to use a broadsword.

I don’t think fighting, singing knights did much cooking.

The night we had this tasty zinfandel, I decided to make sloppy Joes, one of the fastest and easiest meals I know. I’ve experimented with my own spices for this dish, but the best is to buy a package of a commercial mix, add tomato paste and water to ground beef, let it cook for 15 minutes and you have a great meal.

My son, Michael, and I serve the meat on hamburger buns, but my wife, Teri, skips the bread and enjoys it just as much. We added cut up veggies such as carrots, celery, cucumbers, radishes and tomatoes and had a nice dinner. Sometimes we add potato chips, but I’m trying to eat healthy for as long as I can. (If I wanted to be even healthier I could have substituted ground turkey for the ground beef.)

This rich wine also would go well with burgers, barbecue, marinated lamb, eggplant parmesan and grilled quail.

WINE EVENTS

  • Wine tasting: 5-7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3, Kroger, 435 Lewiston Road, Grovetown; free; (706) 619-3420
  • Wine and beer tasting: 5-7 p.m. Feb. 3-4, Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; (706) 922-9463
  • Wine tasting: 5-8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3, Whole Foods, 2907 Washington Road; $5; (762) 333-0260
  • Craft beer tasting and art auction: 7-11 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3, Snelling Center, 3165 Washington Road, with food by Helms College culinary students; $75; (706) 840-7441
  • Wine tasting: 5-8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3, Wine World, 133 Georgia Ave., North Augusta; $5; (803) 279-9522

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