What to eat with Paso zinfandel

Opolo and Castoro share dining tips for the red wine that is the focus of a weekend of winery events

Special to The TribuneMarch 13, 2014 

Paso Robles wineries are celebrating Vintage Paso: Zinfandel and Other Wild Wines this weekend (more information at http://pasowine.com). Here’s what some wine industry locals had to say about Paso zinfandel and pairing it with food.

Opolo Vineyards

7110 Vineyard Drive, Paso Robles Open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p. m.  http://opolo.com

Opolo Vineyards was launched by owners Rick Quinn and Dave Nichols in 1999. Though Opolo does produce a few premium white wines, the label has made its mark with bold but balanced red wines, including its Mountain zinfandel, Summit Creek zinfandel and a late harvest zinfandel.

“With our zinfandels, we primarily source fruit from our own vineyards and compliment that with fruit from an additional 20 outside vineyards in order to take full advantage of what the Paso Robles AVA (American Viticultural Area) has to offer,” said Scott Welcher, general manager of Opolo’s winery operations and viticulture.

“For example, the intense, fruit-driven zins from the west side and the more austere, dark ripened fruit from the east side really complement each other. It’s truly an example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.”

In terms of food pairing, Welcher noted that “zinfandel really is a universal varietal — it can match well with almost anything. We do a lot of spit-roasted lamb here at Opolo. It’s got a little spice and enough body to match the zinfandel character, but really any kind of roasted meats would go well.”

Chance J. Hochschild, Opolo Vineyards’ wine club manager, added that a spiced cranberry sauce made with Opolo’s Mountain zinfandel goes wonderfully with roast turkey or rotisserie chicken.

The recipe does make a lot however, so “unless your family really loves cranberry sauce, you might want to cut it in half. ... the best part about doing that is that you’ll end up with half a bottle of Mountain zinfandel left over to drink while you cook!”

Castoro Cellars

1315 N. Bethel Road, Templeton Open daily 10:30 a.m. to 5 p. m.  http://castorocellars.com

One of the oldest wineries in the area, Castoro Cellars was founded by Niels and Bimmer Udsen in 1983. The label sources grapes almost exclusively from their own sustainably farmed estate vineyards, and the lineup of Castoro Cellars’ wines includes zinfandels such as an Estate, a Cobble Creek vineyard designate and a late harvest.

“We grow zin in six different vineyard locations,” explained Niels. “Each one is unique due to the site, soil and age of the vines. It is really a fantastic tool when making the final blend to have those choices available. I feel our vineyards completely demonstrate Paso zin, and have the variety of depth and flavors only our region can offer.

“Getting zinfandel fully ripe before any fall rain is always a challenge. But when you do it, will make the best wine in the winery! It is a balance between canopy, crop and water,” Niels said.

As far as his favorite food pairings with zinfandel, he said, “This is tough because I drink zin with everything! A great go-to is grilled foods on a summer evening. A lamb chop wrapped in rosemary on the barbecue with a zinfandel reduction sauce to finish it is perfect. Add some grilled veggies and porcini polenta dressed with true Parmigiano and you’re set!”

OPOLO SPICED CRANBERRY SAUCE

• 3-1/2 cups Opolo Mountain Zinfandel

• 2 cups sugar

• 2 cups (packed) golden brown sugar

• 12 whole cloves

• 12 whole allspice

• 4 cinnamon sticks

• 2 3-by-1-inch strips orange peel

• 2 12-ounce bags fresh cranberries

Combine all ingredients except cranberries in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced to 3-1/2 cups, about 15 minutes. Strain syrup into large saucepan. Add cranberries to syrup and cook over medium heat until berries burst, about 6-8 minutes. Cool. Transfer sauce to medium bowl. Cover and refrigerate until cold. (Can be made a week ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero.

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