Teeth-Staining Intensity from Purple Wine Company

fourYour wine can be purple in your glass.

Your hands can be purple after pouring bottle after bottle.

Your teeth can be purple after sipping too much Petite Sirah.

Or your Wine Company can be Purple.

Derek Benham founded Purple Wine Company in 2001, after selling a value-oriented brand called Blackstone that he had co-founded. I’m sure you remember Blackstone: it produces a wine that has been, at times, America’s best-selling Merlot.

So the guy knows how to make wine, and how to make money with wine.

Enter Four Vines. This wine company was founded in 1994 by three folks who wanted to focus on making Zinfandel: big, bold, kick-ass Zins from the best Zin regions in California. Christian Tietje built the Four Vines brand with two under-$15 labels and three region-specific Zins. All were highly-rated and regarded as good values.purple

And now Four Vines is part of Purple Wine Company, purchased by Derek Benham about two years ago. I recently had the opportunity to taste those three appellation Zins, as well as a new PWC wine called Cryptic.

I started with Four Vines “Biker” Zinfandel Paso Robles 2009, because Paso Zins have always gotten my vote for the Best in Varietal. This one is made with fruit from two vineyards in West Side Paso Robles, including one of my all-time faves, Dante Dusi vineyard. West Side Paso is heaven for warm-climate grapes, with hot, sunny days and very cool nights that produce intense flavors and good structure. Calcareous soils (that means chalky/limestone-y) also keep yields low and flavors concentrated.

Four Vines Biker was as good as I’d hoped. The balance and purity of fruit was exceptional, and elicited this from my fellow taster: “This is the best Zin I’ve had in a long time.” The character of the fruit is bold but not heavy or jammy, with pure blueberry and black raspberry notes extending from start to finish. Natural acidity brightens the fruit, and sweet vanilla oak chimes in to soften the finish.

Four Vines “Sophisticate” Sonoma County Zinfandel 2009 shows a very different personality, probably due as much to the addition of Petite Sirah as to the fruit’s origin. Some of the grapes are sourced from warm-climate Dry Creek Valley, well known for producing ripe, rich Zins. But the surprise was the inclusion of fruit from the Russian River Valley, world famous for cool-climate Burgundian varietals Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

This Zin is indeed sophisticated, showing more austere fruit and acidity. Whether it’s the cool-climate fruit or the Petite Sirah, something knocks down the overt fruitiness of this wine and brings spice and tangy acidity to the finish. As the Four Vines website promises, this wine shows “the elegant side of Zin.”

Four Vines “Maverick” Amador County Zinfandel 2010 is another beast altogether. The fruit hails from Gold Rush Country up there in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. Zin has flourished there since Italian immigrants planted it over a century ago, and the region is known for big, muscular reds. The fruit for Maverick was sourced from vineyards at 1200 feet elevation, with 40 to 100 year old vines that are dry-farmed and head-pruned. That’s a recipe for intense, earthy wines.

And “Maverick” doesn’t disappoint. This chewy, spicy red leads with a bright berry nose that belies the weight of the palate. The red berries are followed quickly by bracing acidity and firm tannins, showing this wine’s youthful intensity. Right now it’s the kind of wine that will drink better the day after you’ve opened it (or even two days after!).

We finished the interactive online tasting with Cryptic 2010, a new brand created by Purple Wine Company. Cryptic blends not only grapes but regions too, combining Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon and “other” from Lodi, Amador County and Paso Robles. Even the oak regimen is a combination of French and American.

The result is predictably big, bold and complex, beginning with a nose that starts with cranberry fruit and rolls into gamey notes, mocha, and a hint of eucalyptus.

The palate shows the Petite Sirah first, with a fleshy mouth-feel and characteristic dense, dark berry notes. Concentrated and complex, Cryptic needs some time to open and mature in order to reveal all its flavor notes. Give this one some time in your wine cellar (or closet) too.

All told, Four Vines wines represent great value and drinkability. I’d recommend searching out the Zins, and while you’re at it, give their delicious un-oaked Chardonnay a try. Cheers!


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