WHAT: The Gnarly Head Authentic Red 2010 is a perfect wine for Independence Day weekend grilling or picnics. It is a rich, bold, luscious Zinfandel blend from California that appeals to a wide range of wine drinkers, and some people who think they don’t like wine.
The wine has amazing depth and complexity for this price level. It starts with rich aromas of cherry and cola, with some spice. The taste is long-lasting and consistent, full of blackberry, black cherry, plum and spice. The flavors are well-balanced, smooth and round, with no jarring notes.
It’s a fruit-forward wine without being jammy. And though the wine spent time in French and American oak, the tannins are subdued and well-integrated. There is no oaky taste that you get in some Zins.
The blend is 50 percent Zinfandel, 20 percent Merlot, 17 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 10 percent Petite Sirah and 3 percent Syrah. The 2011 blend, which has just been released, is slightly different, but the tastes are almost identical.
Old vines tend to generate powerful, tasty wines, but the vines produce smaller grapes and fewer clusters. The yield per acre goes down, but the intense flavor makes it worth the effort. Besides the estate-grown Zinfandel, Gnarly Head buys grapes from friends and neighbors in Lodi and Monterey.
The winemakers then play with the mixture until they come up with a blend that makes everyone smile. The winemakers say the blending is the fun part of the process, but I’d say the most fun comes from drinking the wine.
I would chill this wine slightly and then decant it to allow the aromas and flavors to open. This is not a wine to cellar for very long. It’s drinking too well right now to save it.
WINERY: Located in Lodi, the heart of a great Zinfandel region, Gnarly Head’s property is full of gnarled old vines ranging from 35 to 80 years old. The old vines were grown as bushes or free-standing, head-trained vines.
The winery takes its name from these gnarled old vines, but I’m sure there’s also a touch of whimsy in the name. I think it leans on the way California surfers in the 1970s called waves gnarly when they were extreme and amazing. Then they began using gnarly for all kinds of extreme and amazing things.
The winery, owned by Delicato Family Vineyards, was founded in 2004 and is known primarily for its Zinfandel. It also produces Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and a single vineyard Zinfandel called Gnarlier Head.
The Authentic Red and Authentic White are new additions to the portfolio. The white is a lush and juicy blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Colombard, Muscat and Viognier.
The labels on each bottle feature a stylized drawing of an old head-trained Zinfandel vine.
GOES WITH: A wine with this much flavor can stand up to strong and spicy tastes. My wife, Teri, and I had it with homemade Sloppy Joe sandwiches, home fries, peas and a salad. It was a wonderful match.
The rich fruit flavors held up well against the spices and tomato sauce in the Sloppy Joes. I also tried the wine with some chopped pork from a pig I cooked over the weekend and it was even better.
Authentic Red also would go well with heartier grill fare such as steak, grilled chops or slow-cooked barbecue.
Teri liked it so much she went out and bought another bottle to share with her friends.