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Del Carlo Old Vine Zinfandel and Tri Tip Recipe

Now is the time when Sonoma County vineyards sprint for the sky. Buds may break in March or April, but it’s slow-going in cool weather, and the tender little shoots face danger from frost.

Now, with abundant sunshine, there’s nothing holding them back. But can there be too much of a green thing?

This year, May is again the month when I got around to shoot-thinning and de-suckering the vineyard. And it was almost too late. I’d been watching the Zinfandel for weeks, and it was stuck at shoots no longer than a deli pencil. Seems like the next day I looked, it was a jungle out there.

Head-pruned vines are supposed to get some sun on their crown, right in the middle of the vine — it’s good to have air circulation and light, keeping the crop healthy. But this seems to also promote suckers, green shoots that won’t produce any grapes for the farmer, and will just create more headaches down the road. Careful shoot thinning is one more step in the grooming and care of this complicated crop.

Hopefully, Ray Teldeschi’s 100-year-old vines don’t make too much extra work for him. After all, a key advantage of working with old-vine Zinfandel is that it’s a balanced, consistent vine that knows its place in the world — or its terroir, so to speak.

The Del Carlo 2012 Dry Creek Valley Old Vine Zinfandel ($32) seems to show an evolution in the winemaking, as well. The 2006, although from a cooler harvest, was big and brambly, while the 2008 was sweet and refined.

The 2012 looks and feels like a light to medium-bodied Zin. It’s a clear ruby hue, with a fine dusting of oak over fresh-crushed blackberry aromas — walnut enters as the wine opens up, and it flirts with spicy Mexican chocolate. Lively and tart on the palate, it hints at lingonberry and leaves a lingering flavor of tangy-sweet raspberry fruit roll-up. This is a classic Zin without excess — after tasting, I went back for a glass or two.

Recipe: Marinated Tri Tip

from Del Carlo Winery

  • 1 t. fresh thyme
  • 1/4 c. fresh rosemary
  • 3 fresh sage leaves
  • 5 cloves of garlic pressed in a garlic press
  • 1/2 c. finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. pepper
  • 3 T. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 c. Del Carlo Old Vine Zinfandel
  • Tri Tip (2-3 lbs.)

Finely chop the thyme, rosemary and sage. Mix in the remaining ingredients. Add the meat and marinate for 4 to 5 hours. While grilling, baste with the marinade.

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