Liberty School Zinfandel 2012: a Hope Family Wine

I do most of my wine learning by reading online content. I have a some favourite tried-and-true writers but it is nice once in awhile seek out new and fresh perspectives. Recently I stumbled upon the blog of Canadian wine writer Krista Lamb. I enjoy her style of writing, a mix of stories and reviews, a style similar to what I am trying to develop. Through her blog I found yet another wine writer I now follow as well, Meg Houston Maker. She recently spoke at the 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference on the story all wine writers need to tell:

You have a wine blog. Congratulations: You are now a nonfiction writer. But that doesn’t mean you can’t tell a story. In fact, you must tell a story if you want your work to be read, and if you want your reader to keep reading. Good wine writing demands more than just a palate and a vocabulary. It demands curiosity, creativity, insight, and diligence—and that’s true whether you approach your work journalistically or view your blog as a strictly artistic endeavor.

Quoted from her blog

This rings very true with me. When I first started this blog I considered myself a nonfiction writer simply doing wine reviews, telling the facts. As time goes on I’ve found more enjoyment in telling the story behind the wine than just writing out a factual review. There will always be a review in my posts but telling the wine’s story is what makes it real and personable to me. Krista Lamb, the blogger mentioned above, suggested in a recent post that the Liberty School Zinfandel was her favourite of that variety so I wanted to try it out. Not always a big fan of Zinfandel I thought this was pretty good quality and value, two ideals held high by Hope Family Wines.

Hope Family Wines is the umbrella company for five brands owned and operated by the Hope family from Paso Robles. Arriving to the region in the late 70’s they began farming by growing apples and grapes. In the 80’s they starting selling grapes to the Liberty School Winery, eventually buying the brand in 1995. From those humble beginnings as farmers they have now are internationally recognized for their high end wines produced by Austin Hope, son of the original proprietors Chuck and Marlyn. I expect to see big things coming out of this winery as they continue to perfect their grape growing and wine making, they only have been in the wine business 30 years after all.

Look: In the glass this wine is ruby red near the rim and more of a violet colour near the middle. It has a denser concentration and colour than some other Zinfandels I’ve tasted. It has thick narrow slow moving legs.

Smell: This wine has moderately powerful fruit aromas of brambly earthy forest fruit like blackberry, blueberry, even some hints of red strawberries or maraschino cherry, kind of sweet like, and a touch dried like raisins or figs. There is also some spicy black pepper and clove along with some sweetness with licorice and anise seed. I also get some oak characteristics of vanilla and sweet tobacco. Overall quite complex for a variety that is normally simple at this price range.

Taste: At first sip the wine rose quickly to a big crescendo of fruit but dropped suddenly, then rose again to a long finish. With a bit of time this evened out to show fruit right through the tasting. Dark fruit flavours here with blackberry and currants, still that earthy brambly that was in the aromas. Add to the mix a healthy dose of baking spices and anise or licorice, and some slightly bitter cocoa. The finish is long, dry, and very tobacco like. In fact this tobacco flavour lasted in my mouth well past when I was done.

Conclusion: I’d have to say that this wine is a step above most of the other value driven Zinfandels I’ve tasted. It has a good depth of aromas and flavours while being balanced and very drinkable. I give it a 8.5+/10 because it has a lot of interest while being approachable for a simple drink. I kind of compare it to an Italian Chianti, being much fruitier while still holding on to a small part of the rustic earthiness. I think it has enough body and flavour to stand up to a barbecue while being finessed enough to sip with some chocolate.

Interestingly enough it seems that Hope Family Wines don’t produce this Zinfandel under their Liberty School brand any more. They now have a new brand called Can-dor, which is non-vintage and non-regional Zinfandel. Sounds a bit like they may be this variety it down the road of the Townsend Cellars Red Table wine.

  • Zinfandel
  • California, USA
  • 2012 – 13.5% ABV
  • Liberty School – Hope Family Wines
  • $20.75 at Chateau Wine and Spirits – Lacombe
  • Composite cork

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