Bringing your own bottle of wine to a restaurant is routine in Napa and Sonoma, but it's not so easy if you live in Ohio or Colorado or nearly half the other states in the union. The alcohol laws in this country are kooky and outdated, but you've probably figured that out by now.
Even where it's legal, restaurateurs have mixed feelings about BYOB, or as it's sometimes called "brown bagging" or corkage. Like it or not, the profit margin is thin in the restaurant business and wine sales help balance the books.
There's a time-honored etiquette to BYOB that newcomers should learn, but even veterans need the occasional refresher course on the subject. Here are a few guidelines to follow.
There are particular days of the year in which Americans indulge with gusto the need for a drink. New Year's Eve and St. Patrick's Day come to mind, but if ever there was a day that called for either celebration or drowning your sorrows, it's Tax Day, April 17 this year. I'm just getting around to working on my return—I wonder what I'll be doing on Sunday—so I'm not sure whether I'll be toasting victory or defeat. But I believe in being prepared, so I advise all wine lovers to have a good bottle ready no matter how things turn out. I have a few ideas for you, and since these wines are meant to be consumed for Tax Day, I've targeted current releases that don't need cellaring.
One of California's best sweet spots for great old-vine Zinfandel is a remote little valley in western Russian River not far from Forestville. The best-known vineyard there is Jackass Hill, which was first planted in 1889 and is notably bottled by Martinelli Winery.
Just down the hill, and once part of the original Giuseppe Martinelli ranch, is the 18-acre Martinelli Road Vineyard. It's not nearly as well known as Jackass Hill, but Turley bottled it under the Rancho Burro designation for many years, and Mike Officer at Carlisle launched a single-vineyard Martinelli Road in 2009, which I rated 94 points on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale. Last week, the McWilliams family of Arista Winery purchased the vineyard for an undisclosed sum. It sounds like the vineyard is in good hands.
Back in the mid 1990s, there were three kings of California Zinfandel, the Three Rs we called them: Ravenswood, Ridge and Rosenblum. The snotty young punk in Zintown was Turley. Fast-forward almost 20 years and things have sure changed. The Three Rs continue to make fine Zinfandels—Ridge most frequently—but only Turley is on top of its game."
That's my takeaway after tasting through the winery's most-recent releases. I've been drinking Turley since the first vintage, 1993, and, taken as a group, these are some of the best Zinfandels that Turley has made. The group included 2009s from the winery's top single vineyards as well as early-release 2010 from its value-oriented blends.
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