Friday, July 01, 2016

The Zonin Dress Code and a Farewell to Friends

Bubbles and bittersweet don’t go together often around these parts.

The mood’s a little downbeat around Vine HQ, even after receiving samples of a new slate of Prosecco offerings from Zonin – dubbed their “Dress Code” collection. There were three bottles – the “Black,” “White,” and “Grey” – as you can see here:

Three bottles of Prosecco are usually a bit much for the Sweet Partner in Crime and I to pop all at once, so we went with our usual strategy. We called our trustworthy alleymates, Christine the Pie Queen and Dinner Club Jeff, to help us polish off sample this bit of Italian effervescence.

Only problem – this is likely the last Naked Vine tasting with our nearest and dearest for quite some time. Jeff has a fabulous opportunity with a new job in Seattle. Being the nature nuts that the two of them are, the foot of Mount Rainier isn’t a bad place to call home. Alas, for us, that means that the decade-old Tennessee Alley Drinking Club is going on hiatus.

Since we all became acquainted through The Hanging Chad and Jeff and Christine ended up buying a house almost directly behind us – we’ve had lots of wonderful times and some on the other end of the spectrum (like the one that involved a two-hour hot tub session and a passed-around bottle of bourbon…).

In any case, the wines we had them over to try were a new twist on Prosecco. I knew of the winery Zonin largely through their production of inexpensive Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. I didn’t know that they were also producing bubbly, but they are, under the label “Zonin1821.”

The twist with these particular Prosecco is that they aren’t made entirely with Glera grapes. Most Prosecco are 100% Glera. The regulations for Prosecco DOC (and if you’ve forgotten about those classifications, you can look here) allow up to 15% of other grape varietals in a blend. I think you can see where this is going. All three versions retail for about $15-17.

With bottles in the fridge and antipasti on the table at Vine HQ, C&J crossed the alley to pop some corks with us one more time before departing for the Pacific time zone.

We started with The White – which is 91% Glera and 9% Pinot Bianco. Pinot Bianco is Pinot Grigio’s slightly paler cousin, known best for producing full-bodied whites in France’s Alsace region. In Italy, Pinot Bianco returns a fruitier, somewhat sweeter product, and the result came through in this blend. This was the sweetest of the three bottles, featuring flavors of apricot and tropical fruit. On its own, not the best – but it was the best of the three for brunchtime mimosas the next day.

Next came The Grey – a blend of 87% Glera and 13% of that Italian classic, Pinot Grigio. The result was a drier, more minerally wine, with some green apple and floral notes. There was an odd finish to this one – a slight astringency that cut the finish off very abruptly. Just to sip on, I thought it was a little better than the White, since I tend to prefer drier bubblies. One interesting note – this was an excellent pairing with some very difficult foods. We had olives and marinated artichoke hearts on our little appetizer board, and in both cases, the astringency of the finish faded when combined with the flavors of those foods, resulting in a quite pleasant pairing. Perhaps something to file away for future reference.

Finally, we made our way to The Black – a blend of 90% Glera and 10% Pinot Noir. No, this isn’t a rosé by any stretch of the imagination. Juice from all grapes, whether red grapes or white, is largely clear. The color comes from contact of the juice and the grape skins. Thus, this wine ends up looking like a regular white wine, despite the name. (By now, you likely noticed that “bianco,” “grigio” and “noir” translate from Italian as “white,” “grey,” and “black” respectively…)

The Black was, by unanimous acclimation, the best of the three. The pinot noir gave the wine some more structure and complexity – bringing out notes of roses, green apple, and lavender. This was the first of the three bottles to disappear completely. This would be a solid food wine for almost any kind of light entrée – especially a simple presentation of fish or sushi.

The tasting done, we merrily headed off into the night for dinner at the York Street Café, site of one of the first meals we’d shared. More laughter, food, and wine followed – typical for most times the four of us ended up in the same room. Through the years, Jeff and Christine been some of the best, most supportive “couple friends” that the SPinC and I could have dreamed of.

We wish them all the luck and love in the world in their new adventures.

We miss them already.


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