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Wine of the week: Quivira, 2010 Sonoma County Zinfandel

Zinfandel has an "unfussy" appeal.

That's according to Hugh Chappelle, the winemaker/grower behind our wine-of-the-week winner — the Quivira, 2010 Sonoma County Zinfandel at $22.

"I believe there's something about zinfandel that puts people at ease," Chappelle said. "It's not as &‘fussy' as expensive pinot or the latest cult cab. A finely crafted example causes you to take notice as much as any fine wine, but the variety encourages you to also remember to enjoy the simple pleasures .<TH>.<TH>."

The Quivira is a steal for the price. It's an elegant zin, layered with notes of black cherry, herbs and pepper. It has great balance and refreshing acidity.

"I think what makes our zin distinctive and stand out is the effort we put into bringing balance and elegance to a variety that is still, perhaps, more commonly thought of as big, bold and slightly rustic," Chappelle said. "We do this in many ways, starting with biodynamic farming which, in my opinion, helps us get the flavors we want at the lowest possible alcohol level."

Chappelle also said he uses a process called "phased picking" to harvest grapes at different maturity levels to help balance the alcohol and acid.

When it comes to keeping zin exciting, Chappelle said thinking outside the box makes things interesting.

"We have a lot of fun brainstorming on this and are constantly experimenting with things like co-fermentation, traditional companion blending varieties, and searching out new terroirs and patches of old vines," he said. "A cool example of our use of co-fermentation is our estate zinfandel called &‘Flight,' which is a zin-viognier co-fermentation and obviously a riff on the more classic use of viognier with syrah."

Chappelle has been at Quivira Vineyards & Winery in Healdsburg since 2010 and before that he worked at Lynmar Estate in Sebastopol.

"I think the high-wire world of pinot teaches you to be comfortable operating without much of a safety net," he said. "While I believe that zinfandel is a harder variety to grow than pinot, pinot is much less forgiving in the winery."<NO1>

Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at 521-5310 or peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com.

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