Vineyards around California's Lodi region, a cradle of notable zinfandels, were tapped for the 2012 Gnarly Head Cabernet Sauvignon (about $9 at big-box wine stores), thus proving that the region, which people love to love and love to hate, has more than a single string to its bow.
This a dark but hardly moody cab, offering on the nose a nice bouquet of blackberry and cassis. (What is this cassis we're always citing? Flavor derived from black currants that grow in Burgundy.)
Big, juicy, dark fruits lead the way on the tongue, with concentrated plum, black cherry and raisins chiming in at mid palate. Understated tannins make their presence known without shouting. This well-balanced red finishes medium long with a dark chocolate cherry bass note at the finale.
It goes without saying that a robust cab like this pairs well with steaks of many descriptions, but it will also pair to good advantage with equally robust four-cheese pasta, lamb chops or strong cheeses.
By Colette and John Bancroft. She is the Times' book editor, and he is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel.