Sunday, May 30, 2021

Dueling Zin-Syrah Blend for big bold sipping

 Dueling Zin-Syrah Blend for big bold sipping

I was captivated by the peculiar, eerie, almost alarming label ... the whole concept of a gunfight duel at close range. But, then you apply the metaphor to wine and its almost brilliant, two big bold heavyweights fighting it out, although that certainly devolves the concept of harmony and integration or a blend. So it is with Dueling Pistols, a blend of half Zinfandel and half Syrah. One really has to see it to appreciate it, so here it is ...

This blog is as much about branding, marketing and packaging of a wine as its varietal, terroir and resulting flavor profile. Too often, the marketing and branding affect one's purchase decision as much as the latter, the actual wine. 

I saw the label, photographed it, then came home and researched the wine, thought about it, and went back and bought a bottle to try. As I thought about it, this reflects the same tasting profile and character of one of our favorite go-to labels, Venge Scout's Honor, of which we've written about often in these pages. Big, bold, fruit forward, expressive - great for pizza, pasta, burgers - a wine anyone can enjoy - and any provincial or less sophisticated wine drinker will love! Throw in the Venge 'V' and the fun we have serving with our daughter-in-law Vivianna, and you have a 'go-to' wine that we keep around for such occasions. Read more about Scout's Honor in this blogpost - Venge Scouts Honor Trio. and here -

But a whole brand for this wine, versus just this label? You be the judge. Of course if a judge were involved, he'd settle the dispute and resolve the matter, eliminating the need for Dueling Pistols! They actually have two labels, both the same story and approach - one from Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County, and the other from Paso Robles.

The producer writes, "Dueling Pistols wines intertwine two competing varietals in a 50/50 blend where each varietal’s fight for power balances that of the other, like the compelling characters that tell the Dueling Pistols story."

This is fantasy! They go to great pains to write a background story setting up the reason for the duel. And go to great lengths to conjure a story about all the other characters on the 'back' label. "No duel is complete without the spectators and everyone has a story to tell. The town physician stood ready, but willing to save neither shooter. The town drunk was there, standing right in the middle, but even he wasn’t about to get between these dueling pistols." 

Dueling Pistols Dual Varietal Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel Syrah 2016

The Zinfandel was sourced from older vines in the northern part of the Dry Creek Valley AVA. Dry Creek is the premier Zinfandel region in Sonoma. The Syrah was taken from vineyards in southern Dry Creek Valley. The Southern Dry Creek Valley runs into the Russian River AVA which is a cooler Pinot Noir region. I wrote about the Dry Creek Valley Zinfandels in two recent blogposts, Kinsella Dry Creek Valley Cabernet 2017 and Ridge Vineyards "Lytton Springs" Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2014.

Each block of the Zinfandel and Syrah grapes are fermented separately and then aged for 18 months in French oak barrels (30% new the rest used barrels). The alcohol is a stiff 15%.

The Dueling Pistols Dry Creek Red 2016 is a brand from Terlato Wine Group. Interesting and perhaps notably, there is no record of this label past, later than this 2016.

Winemaker notes: Black Currant, Blackberry, Cherry, Tea, the nose has brooding aromas of dark fruits and black tea with an enticing hint of white pepper. Aged 18 months in French Oak, 30% new. The long ageing allows the two competing varietals to marry well and balance out one another, develop tannin, and build structure.

This was awarded 92, 91 and 90 points respectively by The Tasting Panel, James Suckling and Jeb Dunnuck. Wilfred Wong gave it 90 points and called it 'full textured, delicious... powerful, finely balanced ..." Well, three out of four, perhaps ...  Cellartracker reviewers gave it 92+ points, but the fix is in ... don't trust the results when four of the six are the same reviewer, and one of the remaining two is "The Drunken Cyclist"!? Hah. "See you at dawn."

As the name exclaims - a duel, not harmonious, integrated or elegant - rather almost obtuse and angular, dark ruby colored, full bodied, concentrated forward fruits of ripe sweet blackberry and black raspberry fruits giving way to black licorice, notes of cognac and finishing with vanilla and almost cotton candy sweetness on the full finish. 

RM 89 points. 

At a similar pricepoint, I will opt for staying with Venge Scout's Honor, same big bold profile, but more craftsmanship in blending a more harmonious, integrated yet complex, interesting wine.