The Wall Street Journal Disses Zinfandel

By Charles Olken

The other day, New York winecritic, Lettie Teague of the Wall Street Journal, wrote a column in which she smacked Zinfandel up one side of its head and down the other. Now this might be news except for two things. Ms. Teague does not drink Zinfandel, and that she got much of her information about Zin from a friend who lives in the Dry Creek Valley but who does not like Zinfandel. That is akin to living at the North Pole and not liking Santa.

It is no secret that there are wine critics in this world whose palates are less than informed. Nothing new in that. Hell’s bells, there are highly placed critics in local newspapers around here whose tastes are so limited that they don’t know much either. That goes with the territory. It does not take much to be a wine critic. You just appoint yourself. I know. I did some four decades ago. For some of us, there will be folks who listen while others, like Ms. Teague, get their audience from the fora they inhabit (no WSJ platform and no audience).

But, I am not here to diss Ms. Teague. She is entitled to her opinions. The problem is that her opinions are simply way off base.

Frankly, I don’t care if she or anyone else from New York likes Zin or not. I am not a fan of some types of wine either. Much of what Teague says is either silly or uninformed or misleading. I will let most of those half-truths lie there undisturbed.

But, when Teague says that Zinfandel’s problem is that it does not go with food, she is simply spouting utter poppycock.

In the first place, Zinfandel is not made in one, monolithic style. Nor is most of the Zin that readers of the WSJ might drink happen to be grown, as she asserts, in the hot Central Valley and thus can be dismissed out of hand, as she does, on that count alone. Sure, there is plenty of Zin there, but there is a hell of a lot of acreage elsewhere. And who said that all Central Valley Zins taste alike. Even Lodi Zins, often very ripe and chocolaty, are not all overripe and chocolaty.

I have been at this California wine gig for too many years now, and I have grown weary of the lies and innuendos and untruths that the Teagues of this world spout.

Let me simply point out that there is a range of foods with which Zin goes, and that range is pretty broad because Zinfandel comes in a pretty broad range of styles.

Ms. Teague, who does not drink Zinfandel, should treat herself to a bottle of Ridge Lytton Springs with a plate of grilled sausages. Ms. Teague, who does not drink Zinfandel, should rush right out and buy a bottle of Gary Farrell Maffei Vineyard Zin to try with her next Sauerbrauten. Ms. Teague, who does not drink Zinfandel, ought to demand that her supplier find her a bottle of Storybook Mountain Estate Reserve because it has the zip to be at home with Lamb Kebabs, the depth and richness to go with a butterflied leg of lamb hot off the grill and the keen, tight focus to make very nice with her best roast loin of pork. And that does not even begin to take into account the perky Zins that mate up so well with all kinds of red sauced pastas.

But, Ms. Teague will never know because she does not drink any of them.


 

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