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Through the Grapevine: Celebrat-zin of a new chapter

Plungerhead zinfandel (note: photo does not reflect vintage reviewed). Photo courtesy

This is Alan Bennett’s final wine column for The Maine Campus. 

Rating: A

I am proud to announce that I have accepted a job as a reporter in Biddeford, Maine and will begin this summer. I’ve been feeling down lately, and was elated at the prospect of not only actually being employed after graduation, but landing a job in my field. So naturally, upon news of my hiring, I went straight for the liquor store. I wanted to celebrate with something that could match my emotive state, and Plungerhead stuck out to me like a very sore thumb, and a sure-fire winner.

Make “laid-back guys,” who make “stand-out wines” who also call themselves, “irreverent craftsmen following a rooted (somewhat less irreverent) family tradition,” Plungerhead’s 2013 Lodi old vine zinfandel breaks the mold both in terms of quality and personality.

This blend of 90 percent zinfandel, 7 percent petite sirah, 2 percent petite verdot and 1 percent primitivo is just as you’d expect: well-rounded, balanced and complex. The winemaker lists aromas of dried cherries, blackberries, vanilla, toasted walnuts and violets. An open bottle confirms these to be true, with added notes of smoky tobacco and freshly cracked black pepper. It’s a wonderland of perfumed spice and sensual allure.

A beautiful shade of deep plum in the glass, this wine is dressed to impress. Its legs were toned, clinging to the sides of the glass with Olympic ease. I was captivated. One thing led to another and soon I found myself sipping away at an Olympic pace. Immediately, a sweet wash of bold berry flavors overtook my senses — cherries, blackberries and currants coddled my soul in a loving embrace, while brash tannins and assertive spices lingered on my tongue. In an instant, I was bombarded with rustic molasses, cinnamon, chocolate and clove, black pepper and toasted oak, outlasted by a nicotinic finish that satisfied my need for a cigarette.

The complexity of the wine is surely a product of its unique blend — petite sirah providing an inky complexion and an acrid acidity and petite verdot providing a leathery depth of flavor. In terms of mouthfeel, it’s stiff, sharp and heavy, making this the perfect sipping wine. Yes, my friends, this is a wine to savor.

The wine’s bold personality is certainly attributable to its namesake creator, Eddie Plongerheid who, as the story goes, was presented with a unique depiction of himself on the wine’s bottle, remarked that it looked nothing like him, laughed, then opened the bottle and poured himself a glass. Certainly the bottle is a show in itself — Mr. Plongerheid is presented rather elf-like in appearance, wearing a purple blazer but with barrels for legs and a red plunger upon his head. He is, in essence, the plungerhead. If that doesn’t scream originality, I don’t know what does.

Even more original is the packaging. Plungerhead makes use of the “zork,” a unique plastic corking system that allows the wine to be completely resealed after each pouring. You’ve surely read my experiences with red wines and their ability to sour rather quickly (read: Cupcake 2014 pinot noir; the horror). Plungerhead, however, maintained its integrity for several weeks — stored chilled and allowed to come to room temperature before serving — until I was able to finish the bottle. And yes, that’s right, I allowed myself to savor this wine. It was a celebration, but not a rager.

I would pair this zinfandel with any cuisine. Of course, go for the tomato-sauced classics, the rare, juicy steaks and the lamb tagine. But be daring: pair it with grilled vegetables, a light salad topped with juicy fruits, seared chicken thighs, sweet potato gnocchi with brown butter and sage, chocolate volcano cake — the list is endless. This wine is all-encompassing, and it is undoubtedly delicious on its own.

This wine gave me spirit; dare I say, a sense of purpose. On a reflective note, it was perhaps the perfect wine to end my series of reviews. As my time at The Maine Campus draws to a close, I am proud to have served as your sassy, brassy, and sometimes too real “sommelier.” This experience has taught me not only about wine and the art of reviewing it — something I hope to continually refine and improve upon as I continue throughout my career — but about the joys of following one’s passion.

I started “Through the Grapevine” after purchasing a particularly bad bottle of pinot grigio (thanks, Villa Pozzi, for letting me down when I needed you most). But as a result, I discovered a passion and a love for something I don’t think I would have otherwise. In bringing you what I feel to be the truth, I can continually rekindle my passion for good food, good wine and good journalism.

Now, do yourself a favor and buy a bottle of Plungerhead’s 2013 Lodi old vine zinfandel. You won’t regret it.

Plungerhead 2013 Lodi old vine zinfandel is available at Burby and Bates in Orono for $13.99 for a 750-milliliter bottle. Definitely don’t miss out.

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