30 Second Wine Advisor: Old-style value California red 30 Second Wine Advisor: Old-style value California red

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Old-style value California red

We're running a little late this week, so let's wrap things up briskly with a recent tasting report on a perennial budget-price favorite, Marietta Cellars "Old Vine Red."

A Sonoma County, California winery owned and operated by wine maker Chris Bilbro and his family since 1979, Marietta makes varietal Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah and oak-aged blends called Angeli Cuvée and Emilia's Cuvée.

Most thrifty wine lovers, though, may know Marietta best for its Old Vine Red, a Zinfandel-dominant modern model of an old-style California field blend, wines made from gnarled old grapevines - typically Zin, Carignan, Petite Sirah and others - planted hodgepodge in a single vineyard.

Marietta Old Vine Red is non-vintage, designated by Lot Numbers rather than harvest years; and I'm pretty sure I can remember it back when the lot numbers were still in single digits. Now No. 50 has been released from the winery, while No. 49 - reported here today - was released in April 2009 and is widely available at retail in the $10 to $12 range in most markets.

The winery no longer clearly discloses the varietal blend on the label or Website, as far as I can see, but chances are it hasn't changed much since Lot No. 31, which I reported in July 2003 and which was 60 percent Zinfandel, 25 percent Carignane, 10 percent Petite Sirah and 5 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, all grown in old-vine patches in several California regions. Lot No. 49, the winery says, is grown in Sonoma and Mendocino counties.

Not a wine meant for aging, it's best drunk up within two or three years after the vintage while its very berry fruity flavors are fresh. But it's a fine value, and a particularly good match with meats from the grill, burgers, chili and other simple fare.

Marietta Cellars "Old Vine Red" Lot 49 California Red Wine ($11.99)Marietta Old Vine Red

Very dark reddish purple, with a garnet edge against bright light. Berry fruit and spice, full and intense. A mouthful of dark berry fruit, structured with fresh-fruit acidity and a firm backbone that suggests a little more alcohol than the 13.5% that the label reports. Predominantly Zinfandel, it's made to replicate field blends of old vineyards in Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties, the back label says. (Sept. 26, 2009)

FOOD MATCH: Fine with a spicy Midwestern-style beef chili.

WEB LINK: Here's a link to the winery Website, bypassing the Flash intro and going straight to the content:
For a quick overview of Lot 49 Red, see this link:

Look for vendors and compare prices for Marietta Old Vine Red Lot 49 on Wine-Searcher.com:

The winery's online store offers other Marietta brands, but they don't sell Old Vine Red online, in order to maximize availability at local retail. To see other brands, click here:

To find distributors by state (and a few Canadian provinces) for Marietta Old Vines Red, try this winery Website link:

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