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Vine Lines: Some lovely Zins to try, even in the dead of winter

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This could probably be considered an ill-timed column, unless, like me, you enjoy barbecued meats so much, you can’t do without them.

So you barbecue all year ’round.

I do. And I mean ALL year. Spring, summer, fall, and winter. And I don’t have one of those fancy schmancy indoor barbecue grills that vent to the outside. I’d love to have one, believe me, but my kitchen is too small and my pocketbook is lacking.

So even on the nastiest days of the coldest months, when the mercury dips to ungodly temperatures like -35 C and the wind is howling, making it feel more like, oh, I don’t know — -800C? — I put on a parka, boots and gloves, and make my way from my carport door to my barbecue, which is about a dozen steps away.

This Arctic-like excursion has to be made to and fro numerous times once to light the flame, once to scrape the grill and let the detritus of previously burned-on gunk burn off, once to put the meat on the heat, once to turn said meat over, and the welcome final trek to collect the charbroiled slab of deliciousness that is hopefully worth all this effort.

Usually it is, or I wouldn’t do it. And it’s not just me who’s wild about barbecue — my husband, too, is an aficionado, and we take turns with each of the above steps so neither one of us has to do outdoor duty exclusively.

Why am I telling you this? Well, because the wines I’m about to discuss are Zinfandels, and they’re great with all kinds of saucy foods, but particularly with barbecue. Especially big meaty ribs, or any red meat that’s been cooked in and/or coated with a thick glaze of barbecue sauce.

Most of the great Zins come from California, and those that follow are no exception. But in the time since I had one of them, the Perseverance Old Vine Zinfandel, it’s become unavailable here. However, I mention it on the off chance you manage to find a bottle somewhere in your travels, especially if you’re heading to the States. If you do, pick it up. I promise it’ll be well worth the investment.

Incidentally, I tried two Perseverance wines, both from Sonoma, but the more expensive one was from the highly regarded Monte Rosso Vineyard. The latter was $28.75, but read like an $80 bottle. Richly hued, with aromas and flavours of blackberries, cloves and spice, with black pepper notes on the finish, this was a fabulous Zinfandel. The lesser Perseverance, which was still very good, sold at the Liquor Marts for $16.99. I’ve seen the Perseverance wines on U.S.-based web sites for around $20 or $25, so if you can find ’em, get ’em. These are definitely worth having.

Anyway, one we CAN still get here is the 2009 Paso Creek Zinfandel. It came highly recommended by Liquor Mart Product Consultant Cindy Rousseau. And I really liked it. I really LIKE it. Which reminds me — it’s time to stock up on some more!

The Paso Creek is loaded with black fruit, and has a hint of licorice and a pinch or two of black pepper. It was good to sip, although I had "primed" with a half-glass of Chardonnay prior to trying this Zin at home (I’d had it last year at the Winnipeg Wine Festival). In my notes, I wrote that the Paso Creek even SMELLED barbecuey, although I’m honestly not sure if I imagined that or not. I’d just returned from flipping the ribs, so perhaps what I was getting was grill smoke as opposed to smokiness in the wine. Either way, the Paso Creek smelled and tasted delicious. I also like that the Paso Creek Zin sells for $18.99 a bottle.

Well, check that. Sure, I’d like it even better if it were cheaper. But it’s not. And really, most good Zins — emphasis on ‘good’ — come with a slightly heftier price tag. I think the Paso Creek Zin is a great value for the money, which is why I’m happy it’s $19 and not more.

Other Zins I’ve enjoyed in recent months include the Francis Ford Coppola Director’s Cut Zinfandel — a very nice wine that was a little drier and edgier than many I’ve tried. But whether one’s paying for the famous name or the fact that this wine seemed a step above some of the others, it was a little daunting to find it sells for $31.95 a bottle.

Here are a few more:

• Sledgehammer, which boasts blackberry, black cherry and black pepper rounded off with hints of tobacco and vanilla — there’s lots to enjoy here for $19.04. (One question: If you drank too much of it, would you be Sledgehammered?)

• Clos du Val, big on fruit, especially blueberries, for $23.99

• Liberty School Zinfandel, jammy and oaky in aroma and flavour, with the expected pepper and spice ($19.99)

• Klinker Brick Old Vine Zin ($23.16)

• At a recent Brandon Wine Society tasting, the Ridge East Bench Zin, a beauty of a beverage. But with a price tag of $35.17, one would expect it to be really good. And it was. And is.

Zinfandel is great at any time, and while it’s known as a barbecue wine, it’s also really great with any richly sauced meat steak with buttery mushroom gravy, for example, or duck with black cherry sauce.

Note, too, that most Zins are high in alcohol content. I never really thought I’d be able to tell the difference between a wine with 12 per cent alcohol and one with 15, but when you consider the latter has 25 per cent more alcohol, well, it’s easy to drink the same amount of it and experience a greater degree of tipsiness than one might expect.

So beware the hidden perils of Zin, but enjoy the joys it has to offer.

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 1, 2012

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This could probably be considered an ill-timed column, unless, like me, you enjoy barbecued meats so much, you can’t do without them.

So you barbecue all year ’round.

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This could probably be considered an ill-timed column, unless, like me, you enjoy barbecued meats so much, you can’t do without them.

So you barbecue all year ’round.

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