Friday, March 09, 2018

Big Smooth Wines

Sam "Big Smooth" Perkins -- who has nothing to do with this wine.

Over the last year or so, I’ve been noticing more and more wines showing up both at Big Wine Store and in restaurants from the Lodi appellation in California. Lodi, which most non-Cali residents recognize from the Creedence Clearwater Revival tune, is just south of Sacramento and almost due east of the Bay Area.

Long-known as an agricultural center, Lodi’s place in the California wine world was mass production of fairly cheap juice. Over the last ten or so years, the lure of wine tourism has caused many local winemakers to up their respective games. Some major winemakers, in this case Sebastiani and Sons, have started creating wines from Lodi fruit.

This year saw the entrance into the market of Big Smooth wines. Big Smooth, with its tagline of “Think Big, Sip Smooth,” features the grape varietals that this section of the San Joaquin Valley is best known for – Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.

The bottle designs are pretty simple, as you can see, and the labels have a velour finish, which is supposed to accentuate the smoothness, I guess. They do feel different, so beware – you may end up absently fondling a bottle at some point.

Big Smooth 2015 Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon – If you imagine the lean, earthy lines of a Bordeaux and then consider what the polar opposite would be in the Cabernet would – this would probably be a pretty good approximation. There’s little here to the imagination on this Cabernet, which starts out strong and just stays with you.

Big Smooth’s nose is rich with blackberry and baking spices. The first sip yields a full mouthfeel. I found lots of blackberries, currants, alongside rich coffee and chocolate notes on the body. The best part of the experience for me was its lasting finish that holds onto that chocolate essence for a good long while.

I cracked this 14.5% ABV Cab with a surf and turf that I put together after the Sweet Partner in Crime had a hair appointment. I thought it went delightfully well with the steak. As one might expect, it ran over the scallops just a bit – but it worked well enough as a side, even if the SPinC thought it was a bit too much for her.

Big Smooth 2015 Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel – Now, if you’ve paid attention around the store here long enough, you’ve probably heard me mention the notion of an “Old Vine” wine before. There is truth to the notion that older vines tend to produce better quality fruit, albeit at much lower quantity. However, there is no standard definition for what constitutes “Old Vine” – other than what an individual winemaker says it is.

In this case, Big Smooth doesn’t reveal the ages of its vines, but I can tell you  that it’s a big ol’ quaff. Clocking in at 15.5% alcohol, you’re not exactly searching for subtlety when pulling the cork on this big boy. Big jammy flavors of plum, black cherries and vanilla come at you full force. There’s plenty of tannin from its year in largely American oak barrels, but that tannic flavor is stretched out and smoky, which keeps the overall flavor a little more restrained than it could be. It boasts a long finish that’s surprisingly soft for a Zin this big. With a big plate of BBQ, I think it would be a good enough pairing, and it went reasonably well with chocolate. For someone who likes this big, bold style, it would be a fair enough drink.

In general, however, for my palate, these wines weren’t the best match. I thought their fruit forward natures were a bit too fruity, verging on grapey. A decade ago, this probably would have been dead in my wheelhouse, but I’ve trended away from these over the years. That said, I know plenty of folks who would pull the cork and glug these down, delighting in the big sensations of it.

Big Smooth wines retail for around $16-18.