Big Smooth. OK, I admit – wine was not the first thing that came to mind when I first read the PR email. But, since I challenged myself last year to be more open-minded about what I was tasting for this column, I read on. Seeing the Sebastiani name, and having grown up with the original family of wines, I took a chance on this Big Smooth Old Vine Zin.
This wine is made to be a crowd-pleaser. The name conveys the intention clearly and is the most truthful advertising I’ve ever seen. However, all the details that earmark this wine for success are precisely why I would normally avoid it if it weren’t for the sake of expanding my horizons.
For starters, the deep purple velvet label reminds me of black velvet paintings that were popular in my youth (and of Prince, of course). Then there’s the name Big Smooth, so many images come to mind. And lastly, the fact that the wine is made to be big and smooth – two words that don’t normally come up in describing my favorite wines.
My review of Don Sebastiani & Sons, Big Smooth Old Vine Zinfandel
Old vine Zinfandel makes up 81% of the grapes in this wine. It is blended with 13% Petite Sarah and 6% Merlot. Lodi is pretty warm and dry, so the fruit ripens fully and early. Hence, the “big” part of the name… 15.5% ABV, physically full-bodied.
It is also big in the sense of rich, ripe, jammy fruit and spiciness.
Aromatically, it is redolent with blackberries, black cherry, pomegranate, and black peppercorns. On the palate, the fruit is lush and smooth, velvety, with low acidity but enough of a backbone to provide structure.
Flavors of dark brambly fruit, cinnamon candy apple, and a touch of Dr. Pepper (in a good way). There’s a hint of meatiness as well that brings to mind wonderfully sticky barbecue.
Barbecue would make a great pairing for this old vine zin. I’d also recommend blue cheese, or a blue cheeseburger (even better). Though it is not a sweet wine, it is fruity enough, and full-bodied enough, to pair with dark chocolates or bittersweet chocolate desserts (not too sweet though). Also consider other slightly sweet, earthy foods like roasted beets, winter squashes, and roast carrots, or hearty chewy grains.
In over 10 years of teaching about wine, I have always encouraged exploration. I’m happy I opened my mind to this wine. The style may not be for me, but I know most people will be happy to find a big smooth wine to snuggle up with. At $15-$18/bottle it’s a good choice.
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