I am a Fire Sign. Born in the heat of the summer, I am an August Leo — my planet is the Sun, my element, Fixed Fire. There is not one aspect of my personality that strays from a textbook description of my astrological birthplace. I am a culmination of those bright-light qualities as Zenaida Cellars Fire Sign is the accumulation of warm-weather grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Zinfandel. The difference is while Leo’s can have a tendency towards the lavish, the dramatic, the extreme, this Fire Sign is full of grace, delicacy, and refinement.
About the Wine: Zenaida Cellars 22 acres of vineyard are located along the Templeton Gap, just west of Paso Robles, at the base of the Santa Lucia Coastal Range. The soils are quite varied — calcareous shale, limestone, clay, and sand are all located on site. And, with a blend like this, we get to taste just how nuanced those differentiations in soil types can be.
Zenaida Cellars 2014 Fire Sign is made from 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Syrah, and 25% Zinfandel — all from the Zenaida estate. Owner and winemaker Eric Ogorsolka takes a kind of “go-with-the-flow” style of winemaking in that he and his team are as hands on as they need to be to keep the land healthy and harvest fruitful. But these hands only practice sustainable agricultural procedures to ensure that the wine ultimately reflects the terroir and the fruit.
The grapes were all hand-harvested and destemmed prior to an initial 30-day cold soak and slow maceration in small, open-top fermenters. Gentle pressing ensures retention of a high amount of free run, adding to the depth of flavor you’ll read about below. Each lot was oak-aged separately in French oak (100% new, fine grain) for 18 months. After taste-testing, the best of the barrels were selected for the Fire Sign Cuvee.
Flavor Profile: I love to mention when a wine is just plain pretty. And this wine is, just the most gorgeous shade of deep magenta with a rose-petal-pink perimeter. Fresh out of the bottle, the smell is quite fruit forward with the intense acidity of pomegranate or cranberry. Give it time to settle and sniff again. Darker fruits like black cherries, black berries, maybe a hint of currants. Swirl, smell again, move your nose around — can you smell it to? Those soft-petaled flowers? Take your time and search for it. If you can find it, it’s an absolute delight for the olfactory.
The taste. While the taste is beautiful, I was in absolute awe of the texture. It was like my tongue was wrapped in a silk blanket. The wine is light and lively from start to finish with that almost “cool” quality one associates with silk. But the wine itself is warm in its flavors, its alcohol, and it’s oh-so-delicate use of tannins.
The actual flavor profile takes you on a bit of a journey through the garden (or is it the Zenaida estate?) The primary flavors are those just ripe (or slightly under) fruits which start out light with those cranberries and slowly evolve into more developed, darker fruits with notes of blackberries, plum, and maybe even dried black cherry. While the wine is in your mouth, inhale and exhale through the nose, and this is where, for me, that garden came in: a sense of flower petals, fresh fertile soil, hints of vanilla. The finish is subtle in that, even here those tannins keep their distance — there’s just a flicker, a pin prick, on the tastebuds. Not enough to soil the silky texture, but enough to gently suggest a kind of dusty, earthy, but aromatic aftertaste (like a fine cigar).
Food Pairing: Oh this wine is easily enjoyable on its own. In fact, I’m not going to lie, my partner in wine crime and I enjoyed this bottle well after the meal was over.
But Zenaida Cellars Fire Sign is also a great companion to food. My suggestion is to chose an earthy, maybe even gamey meat to amplify that earth-filled finish. We chose an herb-crusted lamb rack, cooked medium-rare. The natural earthiness of the lamb did, of course, bring out the earthiness of the wine, but the juiciness of the med-rare cook also enhanced those lush fruits found on the nose and in the palate. The side dish, to the contrary, should be something light, fresh, and herbaceous so those beautiful garden-qualities in the wine do not get over-powered. A simple herb-based salad garnished with dried cranberries or fresh raspberries would be perfect.
More Info: I received this bottle of Zenaida Cellars Fire Sign as a sample for review (Retail Price: $45). For more information about Zenaida Cellars, their Rhone-inspired wines, and to purchase wines directly, please do visit the Zenaida Cellars website.
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