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Welcome March with this tasty wine

Ron Smith, World of Wine columnist

Reaching into the older section of my modest wine cellar, I pulled out a bottle of Bogle Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel 2013 vintage. A beef stroganoff dinner was on the menu for that night, and under orders from the chef (my wife) to come up with an appropriate wine, I thought this might be a good match. It was!

While zinfandel and the word "sophisticated" aren't often found in the same sentence, this vintage from Bogle winemakers takes delicious fruit and creates a wine lively with red cranberries and pink peppercorns. Hints of a hillside briar patch in summer waft through the wine as well, while spicy clove heightens at the finish from the oak aging. Rustic and refined at all once, this zinfandel is sure to please. It has a lingering taste that your taste buds will remember.

While I didn't find this listed anywhere as a good matchup with beef stroganoff, this is a versatile wine to pair with everything from rich and unique dishes, to your favorite barbecue, weeknight take out, or as I found out, a tasty home run to please any chef.

What is the difference between just zinfandel and "old vine zinfandel"? Broadly speaking, like anything else that has accumulated years for quite some time, productivity goes down. With that decrease in volume available for harvesting, an increase in quality goes up correspondingly.

These old vine zins were planted in the early 1900s in California and survived the Prohibition due to their popularity in home wine-making and as communion wine. These low-yielding vines with very extensive root systems will produce a wine that is concentrated in flavor, complex, along with a distinct touch of elegance.

Located in a delta near the Elk Slough (pronounced sloo), a swampy inlet on a river, the area is subject to temperatures over 100 degrees, during the months of May through September. With temperatures going this high for such a potentially extended period, grapes will typically ripen early. With zinfandel grapes, their one drawback is uneven ripening per cluster: some are raisined, some dead ripe and others just at the peak of ripeness when harvested. The result is a high sugar level in the grapes.

This characteristic not only contributes to the richness of the old vine zinfandel wines, but to their generally higher alcohol content, which is what some wine drinkers like, and others don't. This particular 2013 vintage has an ABV of 14.5 percent - about as high as it can go, and something that I did not find unpleasant. A nice plus for quality bargain hunters: the SRP is $12.

Ron Smith, a retired NDSU Extension horticulturist, writes weekly about his love of wine and its history. Readers can reach him at