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Monday, September 17, 2007

Mia's Plungerhead Zinfandel 2005

PlungerheadOne evening last week two Zinfandels appeared on the dining room table. Both were roughly the same price — between $15 and $20 — and both had fun, Millennial-Generation labels.

In fact, the two wines — the Mia's Playground Zinfandel 2005 and the Plungerhead Zinfandel 2005 — were similar in many ways. Both wines have non-traditional closures (Mia's uses a screwcap; Plungerhead a zork); both wines are made from Dry Creek fruit. In fact, both wines are made from Dry Creek fruit from old vines. And their posted alcohol contents aren't too far off: 14.8 percent for Mia's, 14.9 percent for Plungerhead. And … why, look there — the same winemaker, Richard Bruno, made both wines.

At least the companies that market them are different. Mia's is a product of Three Loose Screws, while Plungerhead is a brand of The Other Guys. But, wait! Those companies are both divisions of Don Sebastiani & Sons! And Mia is Don Sebastiani's daughter! (Plungerhead must be adopted!) And Richard Bruno, in addition to being owner / winemaker of Vinum Cellars along with business partner Chris Condos, is Don Sebastiani's director of winemaking!

And wouldn't you know, the winesMia’s-Playground taste amazingly similar: They're both good, respectable, medium- to full-bodied Zins that are well-behaved on the palate, giving no hint of their high alcohol content. The more I sniffed and tasted, the more convinced I was that I couldn't tell them apart. I won't go so far as to say that the same juice was pumped into two different bottles, because I wasn't there and I don't know that. But I will say that, given the same vintage of the same fruit, Richard Bruno has achieved very consistent results.

This reminds me of something that large automobile corporations do, commonly referred to as "badge engineering," when a variety of car models (say, for example, the Pontiac Firebird and the Chevrolet Camaro) are based on the same basic model, then given stylistic tweaks by their respective companies and sent out to compete with each other. I'll have to hand it to Don & Sons: This is a great way to get two different distributors to push your wines (that's how it works in Indiana, at least), and to double the shelf space devoted to your products. I salute his marketing savvy, as well as his ability to produce very good wines at reasonable prices.

As for the Zins, I recommend them both. Buy whichever costs less, or buy both and do your own taste test. We poured our leftovers into the same bottle and pumped it out; the next day our Mia's Plungerhead blend was delicious.
M. Zane Grey, 10:56 AM