Tag: Zinfandel

Welcome the Winery Ghost: Phantom 2013


At first glance at the Phantom label, it’s not obvious that this proprietary red blend is produced by Bogle Vineyards in Clarksburg, California. That information is hiding on a hard-to-see watermark on front label and more prominently shown on the back.

Our first encounter with the Phantom was about seven years ago when we owned a liquor store. One of our employees had “reserved” half of a case in the back office. We asked him why he did this but suddenly his English wasn’t so good. The lack of information gave us all the more reason to take a bottle for “homework” and find out firsthand what all the fuss was about. 

I can’t find any personal tasting notes from so long ago and I don’t remember if we liked it or not so Bogle Phantom 2013 provides an opportunity for a fresh start.

The Bogle label is so prolific that when I began researching it online, I thought I’d find it was owned by some conglomerate maker of mass produced wines. But in fact, Bogle Vineyards is a family-owned business that produces a selection of value brand wines, including popular varietals and two red blends.  The Bogle family farms 1600 acres in Clarksburg and the Lodi appellation, as well as sourcing grapes from various California growers.

We find the Bogle varietals and blends in most liquor stores selling in the range of $9 to $11 a bottle. Their reserve wines are offered on their website for about $24. As per some of the online reviewers, Phantom, priced anywhere from $16 to over $20, tends to sell out before the next year’s vintage arrives. And so the Winemaker’s Note, “Welcome the winery ghost into your home with the latest vintage…before it vanishes again” is fitting.  

The 2013 Phantom is a blend of 39% Zinfandel, 38% Petite Sirah, and 23% Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose has equal amounts of ripe cherry fruit and briary, vegetal aromas. At the first sip, I realize that although we’ve decanted the bottle for about 15 minutes, it’s quite alcoholic and can use a little more time for the alcohol to blow off.

Coming back to it after another 15 minutes, flavors of currants and ripe berries combine with black pepper and spices on the palate. The flavor is balanced with oak in a medium to full-bodied mouth feel. A long finish has a trace amount of bitterness and slightly hard and chewy tannins. Maybe a little more aging in the bottle will mellow them out?

Overall, Bogle Phantom 2013 has a decent level of complexity for the price point and is one that I’d buy again (and hold for a while before drinking for a bit more aging in bottle). My impression of Bogle wines in general is that they offer consistent quality for the price and are easy to find even when traveling.

Here is an interesting interview with Bogle’s Director of Public Relations, Jodie Bogle: https://hucklegoose.com/journal/meet/meet-bogle-wines

Here are my notes on Bogle’s Essential Red: http://wp.me/p4rcsv-2f






Oak Ridge Zinfandel Throw Down


We’ve recently been enjoying wines from Oak Ridge Winery in Lodi, California. For our throw down we’ll pit a 2012 Oak Ridge Old Vine Zinfandel at a cost of about $14 against their 2011 Reserve Zinfandel which costs $24. Our goal is to see if we can taste a $10 difference.

The $14 Zinfandel exhibits a deep purple color in the glass. By comparison, the Reserve Zin appears brick red providing the first clue that the Reserve is oaked. Both Zins have a bold aroma of dark fruits on the nose however, the Reserve has added layers of vanilla and spice. At first tasting, the $14 Zin holds its own with luscious blackberry and currants, but after several sips, the Reserve begins to pull ahead with a richer mouth-feel, fruit intensity, spice and layers of complexity. After several sips of the Reserve, the $14 Zin tastes thinner and more acidic. Both Zins offer a fairly long finish but only the Reserve presents nice soft tannins.

At first tasting, we thought that the Reserve with its $24 price point would only win by a nose. By the end of our first (or second) glass it was clear that although the 2012 Oak Ridge Old Vine Zinfandel tastes fine for the price, the 2011 Oak Ridge Reserve Zinfandel is worth the extra $10.

The Oak Ridge Reserve bottle explains their “artistic orchestration of fruit and cooperage”. Grapes are sourced from Maggio and Reynolds vineyards. Seventy percent is barrel aged for 18 months in French and American oak. The remaining 30% stays in stainless to maintain the bright berry character.

Gnarly Head 2012 Old Vine Zin

Gnarly sounds like surfer dude language to me, but in this case it describes the 35 to 80 year old gnarled vines that have been pruned in such a way so that they form a knotted, mangled top.
Old Vine Zin is an audacious, full-bodied fruit bomb. There’s nothing subtle about the blood red color and bold aromas of ripe cherry and blackberry. On the palate, the fruits mix with black pepper and a bit of spice. Vanilla presents itself on the mid-palate. The wine has a strong, oaky finish.
We enjoy the spiciness of Brazin and Seven Deadly Zins, two of our favorite Zinfandels in this price range. If you prefer a big, fruity Zin that is not as heavy-handed with the spice, Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin is a good pick. Priced at about $12.

Brazin Old Vine Zin

We enjoy the bold spiciness of Seven Deadly Zins and set out to find another wine in the same vein. Based on a few online reviews, we selected the 2010 Brazin (B) Old Vine Zin from Lodi, CA. The wine’s name is very descriptive of its personality. Brazin is brazen, a bold and unabashedly flavorful wine.
Swirling produced good legs and the alcohol content clocks in at 15%. The nose is big and full of plum, with some earthiness. The taste is a good representation of Zinfandel with bright berry and spice flavors. The heat of the alcohol is off-set by deeply concentrated fruit, giving the wine a measure of balance. The medium long finish ends with a pop. Maybe it’s the alcohol having the last word.
Brazin is fun to bring for a party or get-together and is a bargain at under $15.