On Saturday, toast America’s birthday with a glass of an American wine, the 2006 Opici Zinfandel Zin 91.
If there’s any renowned grape that can claim an American heritage, it is zinfandel.France has cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah, pinot noir, chardonnay, and others; Italy has nebbiolo, sangiovese, barbera, aglianico, and a slew more; but zinfandel is nearly as American as corn on the cob.
Wine geeks know that zinfandel’s DNA is the same as southern Italy’s primitivo grape and related to Croatia’s crljenak kastelanski grape. But after being brought to this country, zinfandel blossomed in its California soil and climate, and the state’s talented winemakers have turned it into a world-class red wine.
Zinfandel is made in various styles, ranging from a light red color with a light body and a simple cherry flavor, to a full-bodied inky black with 17 percent alcohol and a taste more like plum marmalade than wine. In between those two markers is Opici’s 2006 Zinfandel Zin 91.
The visionary behind Zin 91 is Hubert Opici, who decided to create the wine on his 91st birthday two years ago.
The grandson of Battista Opici, who came to New Jersey from Italy in 1899 to help build Newark’s Sacred Heart Cathedral, Hubert Opici joined the family’s Paterson-based wine company after graduating from Ramsey High School in 1934. Sixty-five years later, Hubert Opici is still showing up at the office and making his contribution to the family business.
To make Zin 91, the Opicis partnered with Vinum Cellars, a California wine company founded by Richard Bruno and Chris Condos, graduates of America’s leading enology school, the University of California at Davis. Bruno made the 2006 Zin 91 with fruit from old vines in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley, a prime area for Zinfandel. With Hubert Opici’s input, Bruno produced a bright cherry-colored wine with pronounced black cherry, herbal and black pepper aromas. After fifteen minutes of aeration, the Zin 91 begins to reveal its tasty blackberry-flavored fruit and balancing tannins. Befitting Hubert Opici’s heritage, there is a slight herbal aroma in this wine that recalls the Italian digestive Amaro.
At 14 percent alcohol with balanced tannins and fruit, the 2006 Opici Zin 91 is an ideal red wine to enjoy with hamburgers, steaks and chicken legs on your July 4th barbeque menu.
On a hot summer day, keeping it slightly chilled in a bucket of cold water will add to the enjoyment. I look forward to the wine Hubert Opici will create for us at his 95th birthday.
The 2006 Opici Zinfandel Zin 91 retails for approximately $19.