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Nov 30th
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Pleasant Valley Zinfandel 2006

Wine2Most red wine drinkers love Zinfandel. It’s a grape that grows well in California – producing spicy, jammy wines of varying intensity. I have a hard time steering my husband toward anything else, in fact. If we’re out for dinner, he nearly always orders Zinfandel.

When it comes to locally produced Zin, we are very fortunate. We have wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountains appellation making some of the best there is in our Golden State. On a wine-tasting trip to Pleasant Valley Vineyards, I thoroughly enjoyed all of their wines – especially the Austin Craig Zinfandel 2006 ($33). All the typical aromas of Zinfandel are present – lots of raspberry, blackberry, cherry and plum. There’s a spicy pepper in there, too. You just know it’s going to be wonderful from the very first sniff.

Pleasant Valley Vineyard’s owners, Cathy and Craig Handley, believe that great wine can only be made from perfect fruit. Since first establishing their vineyards in 1996, they have carefully tended the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes grown on their sunny property – meticulously nurturing them until it’s time for harvest, and then ageing the wine in French oak barrels. The grapes they buy from vineyards elsewhere to make other wines have to be the best.

The grapes for this Zinfandel were harvested in Amador County’s Shenandoah Valley in 2006, and the wine made its debut the following year. The Handleys have named many of their wines after their grandchildren. Austin Craig is their third grandchild – and with a wine named after him, he’ll probably grow up loving Zinfandel, and all the other wines his grandparents make.

This zinful wine is just the right stuff with pizza and barbecue. My husband grilled up some thick slices of ham with a few potatoes, whilst I made a fresh romaine salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing – also enjoying that first zesty mouthful of the Zin before dinner. I love to sip on a glass of wine when I’m getting dinner ready. It always seems to lessen the chore. And with a luscious Zin as good as the one Pleasant Valley Vineyards make, well life takes on a whole new rosy meaning.

Pleasant Valley Vineyards participates in the very popular Corralitos Wine Trail every May and September – along with Alfaro Family Vineyards, Nicholson Vineyards, and Windy Oaks Estate Vineyard & Winery.

Pleasant Valley Vineyards, 600 Pleasant Valley Road, Aptos. Tel: 728-2826. Open on Saturdays from noon until 4 p.m. until the end of September. Open on Passport day from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed on Aug. 8 for a private event.

Note: The next Passport event is Saturday, July 18. All the above-mentioned wineries, along with most others belonging to the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association (SCMWA), take part in this event, held four times a year. If you possess a Passport, this enables you to a free tasting at participating wineries. Passports are $40 and available at SCMWA or at most wineries on the day of the event. Info:

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