They were Ravenswood reds, chosen for me by Ravenswood founder and winemaker Joel Peterson.
What happened was, the small dinner that Ravenswood hosted at Hatfield's on Melrose in Los Angeles turned out to be smaller than expected. That left a forest of partially consumed bottles on the table.
Volunteers were needed to dispose of them, and I stepped foward to help.
The two bottles that Peterson handed to me were the 2008 Old Hill Zinfandel and the 2008 Icon Mixed Blacks.
Peterson is a newcomer compared to Hill, but an oldtimer compared to the newbies now making wine. He produced his first Zinfandel in 1976, starting the winery with $4,000. At least in those days, winemaking wasn't only for the rich, but also for the dedicated.
The Old Hill Ranch is a certified organic vineyard. Production is low, yielding delicious, interesting wines. Those are Peterson's words, but I wouldn't argue.
The Icon vineyard dates to before 1900. The wine blends a mixture of the grapes planted there, the way wines were made before Prohibition. And the way they should have been made all along, in Peterson's opinion, rather than hyping single varietals such as Cabernet and Chardonnay.
"I have no idea what is in it exactly," he says. But the stats say 37% Zinfandel, 36% Petite Sirah, 24% Carignane and 3% Alicante Bouschet.
The Old Hill is 75% Zinfandel. The rest is mixed blacks.
A Zinfandel specialist elevated to the Vintners Hall of Fame of the Napa Valley branch of the Culinary Institute of America, Peterson crafts his wines with minimal processing. Almost all of them come from old vines. In the case of Zinfandel, the vines get better with age, he says. Not so with Cabernet Sauvignon.
Although a purist, Peterson puts out a low-priced wine for the popular market (and to keep his business afloat). His Vintners Blend Zinfandel, which you can get for under $10, is the most consumed Zinfandel in the world, he says. To keep up with the demand, he makes 500,000 cases a year.
That wine you could have with spaghetti or hot dogs.
But Peterson's prestigious single vineyard wines required something more elite. At Hatfield's I tasted them with raw Hawaiian kanpachi, halibut with curry toast crust and chicken breast mole verde (not Mexican despite the name). Peterson ate none of this. He's a vegetarian.
At my home, the leftover wines had to make do with real leftovers--reheated Korean braised chicken, rice and roasted vegetables. They showed well, though, standing up to the slightly sweet and foreign flavors like the well-bred creatures that they are.