MountainView Bistro Executive Chef Alan Lambert and Emilie Bain of Young’s Market have teamed up to offer monthly wine dinners for SaddleBrooke residents.

I consider September a shoulder season; the part-time residents have yet to return, but we start to see relief from the scorching sun and moderation of the monsoon humidity.  It’s nice to give our air conditioners a well deserve rest, open the windows in the evening and gather on our patios to fire up the grill and watch the setting of the sun.  A logical wine pairing choice for social gatherings around the barbeque is Zinfandel. 

I often tell my clients that there are “thinking wines” and “drinking wines”; the drinking wines are reasonably priced, possessing rich flavors, adequate balance, and an easygoing character that doesn’t require a great deal of attentiveness to enjoy.  Most Zinfandels and Zin blends found at area retail establishments fit this bill.  It is a wine to pour at informal social events, taking on a supporting role to the meal and conversation.

Zinfandel has its origins in Croatia, but the largest production by far is in California.  The best examples of this varietal come from Paso Robles, the Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma), Amador and Lodi counties.  Zinfandel is lighter in color and body than Cabernet Sauvignon but has rich berry flavors and a spicy component with high levels of acidity and strong tannins, making it a perfect wine for grilled and cured meats, pulled pork and ribs.  A certain amount of caution should be exercised when drinking this wine as most Zinfandels pack an alcoholic punch, often hovering around 15% ABV.

Consumers have a myriad of solid options when purchasing Zinfandel, most of which fall into the $10 to $20 range.  Listed below are three of my favorites, which are readily available in the Tucson area.

2014 “7 Deadly Zins” is a Michael David product and hails from the Lodi appellation. This is a big, rich wine filled with black berry flavors with a spicy component. A large production wine, “7 Deadly Zins” is carried in most area stores for under $13.

2015 “Dry Creek Vineyards Heritage Zinfandel” hails from Sonoma County and possesses a nice blend of red and black fruit flavors, with bright acidity and good structure.  A bit harder to find than the “7 Deadly Zins” and a little pricier at about $18, but well worth the cost and effort.

For those that are looking to splurge, the 2015 “Ridge Paso Robles Zinfandel” ($32 at Total Wine) brings the fire.  With greater complexity, supple tannins and brambly red fruit flavors, this high end Zinfandel is more of a “thinking wine”, but quite enjoyable and likely to impress your wine aficionado friends if opened at your next patio gathering.

Some news on the local front:  Executive Chef Alan Lambert of the MountainView Bistro has teamed up with Emilie Bain of Young’s Market to offer monthly wine dinners at the Bistro.  Chef Alan prepares a special menu for the dinners, placing an emphasis on locally grown, seasonal fruits and vegetables and linking the courses to wines specifically selected by Emilie.  Chef Alan describes the flavor components of each course, while Emilie, a personable and very knowledgeable wine sales representative, explains the nature and origins of the wines.  I have attended three dinners to date and have been quite impressed by the gourmet-level quality of the meal and well-matched wine pairings.  These events are definitely worth exploring for both the wine enthusiasts and epicures here in SaddleBrooke.  September’s theme is the exploration of the wines of Argentina. The dinners are scheduled to be held the third Wednesday of the Month and tickets are available at the HOA#2 Administration office.


Tom Oetinger holds an advanced certification in wine & spirits from the WSET in London, England and is available to answer your wine questions at