I’m trying to plan a trip to Paso Robles. When I finally get there I know one of my first stops has to be Zenaida Cellars. They have killer Rhone-style wines — just check out their flagship red blend Fire Sign. But I think one of the main indicators of a truly stand-out Rhone-style winemaker are his or her take on the individual components: I want to know that the G, the S, and the M can stand on their own. Today I present to you the S of Zenaida Cellars — the 2014 Zenaida Cellars Syrah.
Stew and Barb weren’t always winemakers. In fact, Stew still works in the medical field and Barb is only recently retired from her career as an attorney. On a recent visit to Sonoma County wine country, I scheduled some time at this literal mom-and-pop wine operation. And if you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend you visit as well — this is your chance to learn the nitty gritty of the winemaking operation from a couple who’ve made this work a project of passion, not profit. And nothing exemplifies this creativity more than the 2013 Late Harvest Syrah.
On a recent visit to Sonoma County wine country, I popped by the mom-and-pop Lauterbach Cellars to see a boutique wine business in action. Not only was I welcome with generosity of hospitality, good spirits, and a wealth of wine knowledge — I was absolutely blown away by what this couple creates. Self-educated winemaker Stew Lauterbach and wife Barb pretty much just make the wines they like and like the wines they make. But today I want to highlight one of my favorites in the current Lauterbach line up.
As the resident wine writer, I’m also often the resident somm. No problem. I geek out enough on wine and wine pairings, I don’t mind shouldering that responsibility honestly. But I’m going to admit that the night I drank Qupé Syrah, I did not pick it. Not my idea. And it was the best idea I never had.
I was at the Paso Robles seminar and grande tasting event in Oakland awhile back and stopped by the J.Lohr tasting table. I can’t help it. I know they’re a big name brand, but they feel simultaneously local. Maybe its because their Bay Area tasting room is literally around the corner from my house. Maybe it’s because I see them at every Wine Walk up and down the Penninsula. Or maybe it’s because every time I stop by their tasting room, tasting table, etc, I’m greeted with a warm, friendly face willing to talk to me at length about any and all of their wines — from Safeway finds to “members only” selections.
So I’m at this Paso Robles event, and I’m talking to Mark Hess, a J. Lohr Regional Manager, and we’re going through the tasting flight when we get to the Syrah. Now this is one that is available to the public, but for some reason it’s hard for me to find — not always available at Safeway, I sometimes have to go to a local market, Zonattos, just to find this Syrah-treat. Mark and I are sipping, and talking, and my mind always goes to “what food would go with this.” And as we discuss this topic, I get hungry. So, the following weekend, I buy this wine and whip up, what I think, is the perfect food pairing.