Monday, May 9, 2011

6 Great Sulfite-Free Wines for under $25

Recently I was hired by Fat Grape Winery to write up tasting notes.  I've been friends with Rick Bowen (co-owner) and his dad Pat (winemaker & co-owner) for many, many years. Patrick started as a home winemaker in the late 90s before he delved into the business side in 2008.  He has always made powerful but not overbearing sulfite-free, unfined, unfiltered reds.  If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, I highly recommend you check out this little winery in the old Navy Brig on Treasure Island.  You can either make a quick trip or spend a day on the island as there are 4 other wineries out there and one of the most picturesque views of San Francisco.  When this was written the tasting was free.

2008 Cabernet Franc
This wine is on the lighter side of the Fat Grape line up. It is a dark ruby color in the glass. It's nose reveals a nice dusty earth and spice. The spice carries through to the palate where it can be savored with hints of red fruit. The tannins are light and approachable for those who don't care for large overpowering reds (or to pair with chicken and other lighter meals).

2008 Mourvedre
This is another wonderful Mourvedre from Pat Bowen. The aromas of blueberry and boysenberry dominate the nose. The tongue is immersed in jammy blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, and a hint of vanilla which fades into an earthy spicy finish that lingers on the tongue. The decent amount of acid gives a nice backbone to the light smooth tannins for an overall great structure.

2008 Sangiovese
Dark magenta in color this wine speaks of its Tuscan history with its herbal notes and hints of dried sour cherries, but it doesn't stop there. The bouquet is also spicy with a deep, dark, wet earthy tone. The palate is filled with cherries and a light sprinkling of cinnamon. Dry tannins and decent acid should enable a few years to peak in a cellar, but it is approachable now. This will pair quite well with a rosemary chicken dish or pasta with marinara sauce.

2008 Petite Verdot
The inky purple black signals this will be a big wine. The nose is filled with spice and subtle dark fruits unveil themselves. The palate starts with intense homemade blackberry pie and blueberry cobbler right out of the oven and transforms into a crisp spicy finish. The acid is strong but not overpowering and is balanced by the nice tannin structure. Pair this with beef or spicy shredded pork.

2008 Old Vine Zinfandel
Every fan of Zinfandel knows the best concentrated flavors are on the old gnarled vines. This vineyard really shows what an old vine can do in Lodi. The wine is a dark, deep purple. The aroma is jammy with a hint of it's white pepper bouquet. The palate is filled with loads of jammy goodness and hints of earth and spice. The soft satin tannins and good levels of acid yield a wonderful structure. The alcohol is high, but is completely in balance. This is the result of not watering down grapes that are very ripe, a common practice in many large wineries. This keeps all the flavors, acids, and tannins concentrated and in their natural harmony. This is ready to drink now. It may be better in a couple years, but when the wine is this good, why wait? The 2008 Old Vine Zinfandel is the kind of wine where you have a taste and you are ready for the whole bottle. This will pair well with steak or roasted lamb.

2008 Cabernet Sauvignon

From the dark cherry color to the lack of menthol and capsicum flavors one can tell that these grapes were at the peak of ripeness when they were picked. This Cab exhibits an intense bing cherry aroma which is bound by a bouquet of cola, mocha, and a hint of licorice. The cherries carry through to the palate where they are joined by cinnamon, cloves, earthiness, and a slight touch of dust. The sultry finish lingers on the palate. A good amount of acid and soft tannins with a little edge of astringency enables this wine to be enjoyed now or in the next couple years.


  1. omg I love you. I'm allergic to sulfites

  2. So is the wine maker. He gets all congested from wine with sulfites. So he makes it without.