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Adelaida Schoolhouse Recess Red

A drink on its own proves it's best with food.
Monday Mar 14, 2005.     By Zinny Fandel
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

Having returned from a frustrating dinner on the South Side (bad table manners and overall badness left me annoyed) requesting a stop at Vas Foremost Liquors was about the only sound I uttered on the ride home. Having gone beverage-less at dinner, I decided to splurge on a bottle that teemed with potential goodness, keeping in mind that I planned on drinking it without food (save the occasional handful of yogurt-covered raisins).

Steamer begged off the decision, so I grabbed a bottle of 2001 Adelaida Schoolhouse Recess Red. I generally would have bypassed it: Falling in the $12ish range, it's not "cheap-nice" (Zinny-speak for $10 bottles) and not "nice," and its label is a little glossier than those I'm generally mystified by.

Winos: Please pair with food. But there are two stories to this bottle. The first is its own: Named for a women, this area west of Paso Robles, California, served as a route to the sea for the the Catalan escolte (soldiers who guarded the Franciscan missions), then as a conduit for illegal trade, again between the sea and the missionaries. The "schoolhouse" refers to, unsurprisingly, a schoolhouse.

The second story had me on a business trip in Des Moines, where we surprisingly stumbled on a bottle of Adelaida Zinfandel (Adelaida, the winery, has four labels: the actual "Adelaida" is its second-highest, right after reserve, Schoolhouse is its lower end). Not too expensive, but enough that I can count the number of times I've drank it on one hand, I drank a bottle of the Adelaida Zin with Steamer on a dock two Augusts ago, right when our situation was as picturesque as the setting.

That said: the wine. The Recess Red had hints of the real thing, perhaps not so much in taste as in experience. It's a robust bird, just like my memories of its pricier cousin, bursting with grapes like Sangiovese, Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, among others. You can't help but notice the berryness of it, but the finish is more sour than sweet. While it wasn't as delicious going down as I had hoped, I would readily pair it with almost anything Italian, as it seems to be a wine that would do better with a forgiving dish. Grab a bottle and do your best at the Northwest side's Southern Italian secret: Via Veneto.

Zinny Fandel's tales of living the BYOB life are intended to be attempted at home.


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