“I’m not making any stinking Zin,” he’d say, although he was secretly thinking about it. As he pours me a taste of his 2015 Child’s Play Columbia Valley Zinfandel, the story unfolds. Tony Rynders, the Oregon winemaker known for garnering more 90+ point scores from Wine Spectator than any other winemaker in his ten years at Domaine Serene, struck out on his own in 2008. Now he’s owner of Tendril Wine Cellars based in Gaston, Oregon with an entry level brand called Child’s Play. The brand currently includes a Chardonnay/Pinot Noir blend, rosé, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel.
Why Zinfandel? It’s the favorite variety of his wife, Diane, “much to my chagrin,” professes Tony. In 2014 while getting Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from Red Mountain (Tony produces a Washington Cabernet Sauvignon for his Tendril brand), the grower began talking about Zinfandel grapes that he had left over. The Zinfandel ended up returning to the winery with Tony where the grapes went through his grandfather’s press, a labor intensive and meaningful action. While claiming that his grandfather’s winemaking didn’t influence him to go into the wine business, he concedes that it may be in his genes.
Each selection of the Child’s Play brand is priced at $30 a bottle, a true value for the quality. While it’s only been in the market for two years, Tony had the concept in mind for some time. He explains that the inspiration came as a way to use his daughters’ artwork that papers the walls of his tasting room. The colorful pictures have been incorporated into the wine labels. The back of the label reads, “We look forward to each new vintage with youthful anticipation. It is exciting and unscripted…like kids at play. We hope you experience the same excitement as you enjoy our wines.” Pinot Noir, a Chardonnay/Pinot Noir blend, a rosé, and a Zinfandel compose the current lineup.
The fruit for the 2015 Zinfandel is sourced from Red Heaven Vineyard on the south end of highly acclaimed Red Mountain. The region gets more sun and higher wind than anywhere in the Columbia Valley, resulting in fruit of great concentration.
Will Tony continue to make Zinfandel? “I’d continue to make it if I was living in the Columbia Valley, but the logistics are a pain and it’s fragile.” The variety is difficult to grow considering the unevenness with which it ripens. He destems it all by hand. “It was a labor of love, but the love is wearing thin.”
Food Pairings for Zinfandel
The 2015 Child’s Play Zinfandel has a beautiful fruity nose with an essence of baking spice. That baking spice carries through to the palate along with notes of baked cherries.
Pair it with barbecued fare, including chicken. The cooking technique lends itself to this red wine.
Or serve it with pizza. We like to make our own pizza at home. If we’re uncorking a Zin, we’ll swap out the traditional marinara style pizza sauce for a barbecue sauce. Just be sure to use a sauce that isn’t overly sweet. It’s surprising how much sugar is in many bottled barbecue sauces, and too much will spank the fruit out of the wine. This often leads me to make an espresso barbecue sauce from scratch (it’s not difficult). Italian sausage or prosciutto, olives or onions would all make great toppings.
For a hearty winter dish try an onion panade. Think French onion soup, slow cooked in the oven. Substitute some of the cooking liquid with the wine you’ll be drinking.
“Why isn’t the Zinfandel on your sell sheet here?” I inquire while visiting the winery. “Because I want all of it!” exclaims Diane while Tony assures me it’s available for purchase.