There’s this fun story about Robert Parker getting attacked by a dog at a Chateaux in Bordeaux, and the dog’s owner (and also the Chateaux’s) doing nothing to prevent it. Regardless of the circumstance, Parker gave the wine made by the dog’s owner a good rating because it was nevertheless terrific juice, or so the story goes. Say what you want about ratings, but Parker has integrity. Of course, nobody cares what I think about wine (well, you apparently do — you’re reading this) but I like to think of myself as someone with integrity as well.
After a long day of travel from Omaha to the Napa Valley, Zach, the manager of Corkscrew who features in a lot of my recent posts on Napa as he went with me back in June and July, visited John Buehler, and then traveled back down the mountain to Varozza, where I had scheduled our last visit of the day. When we arrived, the place was deserted. We walked all around, called both of the numbers I had for them in my phone, left voicemails, and sent a few texts. By then, I had one hell of a headache and we had both been awake for seventeen hours. Weary, ragged, and hungry, Zach and I got into our rental car and struck off to find food and our hotel.
After we checked into our hotel, sat down at the bar, and ordered dinner, I got a call from our contact at Varozza. There had been a minor emergency to take care of, and now that it was attended to they wanted to know when we’d be coming back. With a packed schedule for the week and nearly too tired to keep our eyes open much longer, I had to reply simply that we weren’t. I could tell they were annoyed (they mentioned having opened several bottles for our visit) but I didn’t see any way around it. Since then, I’ve reached out to that contact a few times to try to suggest we get a drink or chat, but they’ve seemed cold and disinterested in my company. So far, I’ve done my best to swallow my pride.
Wine’s a funny business. I think Parker could destroy people two digits at a time if he wanted to, but he takes his work seriously and does his best to act always with integrity. He’s not in this business to make or break people, but just to rate wine. It’s that, as much as his palate, that impresses me, and I try to do similarly with my own reviewing and my ratings. I try to support the people I think deserve it, and if I don’t have anything nice to say, I follow my third grade teacher’s advice and I just don’t say anything at all. I wasn’t going to get bent out of shape about the miscommunication with Varozza; I don’t know if I’ll ever get the chance to taste at Varozza, or if I’m somehow blacklisted (hey, we were there on time), but regardless of all of that, when I popped this cork last night I knew immediately that I had to tell my avid readers (both of you) about it.
Simply put, this is one of the best Zinfandels I’ve ever had, putting it at the top of a list of a few hundred in the past couple years. Deep, dark, and lush, this gorgeous Zin is full in body and jammy, the notes complex and many as flavors continue emerging over the course of the tasting experience. An inviting nose of oak and popping purple fruits, a palate full of blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, delicate wood smoke and holiday spices, I just kept sipping and smiling as new flavors continued to emerge. I paired it the first night with a thick, bacon-wrapped pork chop and the second night with barbecued chicken as notes of vanilla, some cocoa, and a hint of coffee emerged. Then I poured the last glass and brought it up to my study and sat down to write this review.
I regret that I didn’t get to taste the entire Varozza portfolio on Zach and my visit to the Valley a few months ago, but the circumstances of that failed visit change nothing about this wine. It’s one of the best Zins I’ve ever had, period, and I’ll be buying more of it as soon as possible. 95 points on my scale, and very highly recommended.