Gems in My Glass . . . February 2013

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Tasting Notes, Zinfandel

Rich jammy fruit, lovely balance and old vine character – Lodi terroir shines brightly!

McCay Cellars 2009 Jupiter Zinfandel:  McCay Cellars recently opened their new tasting room in Lodi, where winemaker Michael McCay, his wife Linda and the McCay Cellars team showcase their wines wine from multiple vineyards, the oldest being 102 years old.  Their ‘09 Jupiter Zin’s tantalizing aromas of berries, black cherries and hints of shaved chocolate arouse the senses.  Upon entry, olallieberry and raspberry flavors meld with cherry cola and mocha notes delighting the palate fully.  Elegant and balanced with a velvety texture, and the oak sits nicely in the background.

 D’art Wines 2010 Zinfandel:  Combining their passion for art and wine, Dave and Helen Dart opened up D’Art Winery about eight years ago.  From vineyards 85 to 125 years old comes this juicy and bright old vine Zin.  It opens with jammy blackberry and boysenberry aromas and flavors that remain focused, expanding and richly filling the mouth.  Deliciously ripe and artfully balanced with spice notes kicking in mid palate, and the finish boasts a nice touch of vanilla.

 Harney Lane Winery 2010 Old Vine Zinfandel, Lizzy James Vineyard:  Five generations of grape growing for the George Mettler family lead to this enticingly rich and full bodied Zin that opens with mouthwatering aromas and oozes jammy boysenberry and black raspberry flavors through the delectable palate.  A generous sprinkling of exotic spices and skillfully integrated oak add further dimension.  Complex, layered and well balanced with impressive depth and length. 

 Klinker Brick Winery 2010 Old Ghost Zinfandel:  Alluring wild cherry and spicy notes greet the nose and expand warmly on the palate.  Produced from a 100 year old vineyard, this seductive Zin coats the mouth with flavors of lip-smacking blackberry, cherry and huckleberry compote laced with a dusting of cocoa and vanilla bean accents.  Purity abounds from start to lingering finish. 

St. Amant Winery 2011 Marian’s Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel:  Crafted from vines planted in 1901, this big and densely concentrated Zin showcases sumptuous mocha-accented blackberry and black plum scents and flavors. Deep and beautifully structured with velvety tannins, this Zin displays deft handling of oak, striking balance and complexity from first sip to well-rounded finish.  Another stunning St. Amant wine from owner Barbara and her son, owner/winemaker Stuart Spencer. 

Victor Vineyards 2011 Old Vine Zinfandel:  Spicy aromas enliven the senses and lead to a yummy mouthful of fresh picked red raspberries and black cherries that entwine with a hint of cocoa and a generous sprinkling of freshly ground black peppercorns.   Crafted from old vines up to 112 years old, here is an elegant, lively Zinfandel that imparts decadent flavors while showcasing precise balance, a smooth texture, and freshness from first sip to scrumptious, lingering aftertaste. 

Lange Twins Family Winery & Vineyards 2010 Zinfandel: For decades the Lange family’s dedication to sustainable farming has been a tradition, and along with releasing thirst quenching, balanced wines, it continues to be a part of what they do so well. Their 2010 Zin exudes expressive fruity aromas that lead to a delicious mouthful of fresh blackberries, blueberries and savory spice.  The juicy fruit is wrapped around pretty tannins and offset by lively acidity, and the texture is silky smooth. 

m2 Wines Select Block Soucie Vineyard 2010 Zinfandel:  Sourcing grapes from Lodi for several years (this beauty comes from the Soucie Vineyard planted in 1916), m2’s wines showcase classic Lodi fruit beautifully.  With this complex, well-crafted 2010 Select Block Zin, tantalizing dark berry aromas rise from the glass and remain focused and rich on the palate. The intense jammy boysenberry and blackberry flavors at the core meld with sweet and savory cardamom and tea spices that hold through the long, satisfying finish. 

Mark your calendar for the annual Lodi ZinFest Wine Festival taking place the weekend of May 17-19, 2013 at Lodi Lake Park and discover just how much Lodi has to offer from these and other talented producers.   Visit for more details.  What a great opportunity for you to uncover your favorite Lodi wines! 


Gems in My Glass . . . January 2012

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Tasting Notes, Zinfandel

It’s time for ZIN!

Thouands of Zinfandel producers and fans descended upon The Concourse Exhibition Center in SF this month at the annual ZAP Festival (, sniffing, swirling and sipping this juicy, fruit forward variety. A wine for all palates, Zinfandel is produced in styles spanning a range from soft and elegant, to spicy and richly fruited, to dense, inky black concentrated dark fruit that stains the palate, lip-smackingly good!

Here are just a few of my favorites:

Scott Harvey Wines 2008 1869 Zinfandel: Cinnamon and juicy fruit aromas set the stage for this opulent, well structured Zin from Amador County – a Zin that really expresses the sense of place. The lush and dense black fruit is bright and juicy, and simply dances on the palate with mocha, baking spices and subtle oak notes lingering deliciously through the long finish; complex with good aging potential.

Scott Harvey Wines 2008 Amador County Zinfandel, Amador: A terrific easy-to-quaff wine that vividly screams Zinfandel. From its aromas of blackberry and boysenberry preserves to the forward, mouthwatering berry packed fruitiness joining vanilla and nutmeg spice and cherry cola accents, this Zinfandel delightfully pleases the palate.

Mara 2006 Dolinsek Zinfandel, Russian RiverValley: Enticing spice and dark berry aromas lift from the glass and hold firmly through the luscious, dark berry, bing cherry, plummy mouth filling palate. Accents of freshly cracked black pepper, bittersweet chocolate and a deft touch of toasty oak add further dimensions of complexity. A sophisticated Zinfandel with impressive length, depth and structure; delicious now, and ageworthy too.

Mara 2006 Luvisi Zinfandel; Napa Valley: Inviting aromas of black cherries and a touch of creosote greet the nose and continue to broaden on the palate, intermingling attractively with flavors of wild berries, black raspberries, licorice root, nutmeg and ginger spice. Precisely balanced and nicely textured, with a finish that is lifted, bright and clean.

Mauritson Family Winery 2010 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel: Lovely purity here with lilac notes amidst nicely ripened blackberry and huckleberry aromas. On the palate, the bright berry flavors meld harmoniously with baking spices, all wrapped around pretty, well integrated oak notes. Layered and juicy with nice balance and finesse, and a persistent lingering finish.

Kenneth Volk Vineyards 2007 Zinfandel, Paso Robles: A slice of warm blackberry pie embraces the senses with this fruit dominant, succulent Zin. Rich and ripe without being over the top, and a complimentary mix of baking spices weaves attractively through the plump fruit. Generous, pleasing and easy to quaff.

Brown Estate 2010 Napa Valley Estate Zinfandel, Napa Valley: Alluring and pure from the floral and fresh blackberry and wild berry aromas through the plush and rich mouth coating blackberry and black raspberry decadence on the palate. Juicy and complex with plenty of freshly cracked multi-colored pepper spice and meshing beautifully with the sumptuous fruit.

B. R. Cohn Winery 2009 Sonoma Valley Zinfandel, Sonoma County: Black cherry aromas jump from the glass and remain juicy and consistent on the palate melding with ripe plum and blackberry flavors and a touch of pepper at the core. Round and full bodied with good acdity; there is a pretty elegance about this Zin.

Gamba Vineyards and Winery 2009 Moratto Vineyard Zinfandel, Russian River Valley: A bowlful of spice infused fresh berries awakens the senses and broadens richly on the palate with ripe blackberry and black cherry fruit taking center stage, and a swirl of caramel topping the pretty fruit. Dense, bold and full bodied with good structure; approachable now, with more promise ahead.

Hartford Family Winery 2010 Old Vine Zinfandel, Russian River Valley: Abundant spice and bright berry notes waft from the glass and the juicy huckleberry and blackberry flavors remain expressive and consistent through the generously fruity palate. This beautifully crafted Zin is well balanced and belies its 15% plus alcohol level.

Sbraggia Family Vineyards 2009 La Promessa Vineyard Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley: Evocative aromas of anise, pepper spice and deep, dark fruit wow the nose and the bountiful rich berry and black cherry fruit, savory spice, and bittersweet chocolate flavors are lively and dazzling on the palate. Balanced and fresh with a nice purity about it, finishes with pleasing touch of oak.

Zesty Zinfandels!

Tasting Notes, Zinfandel

In late January 2008, hundreds of producers and advocates of America’s sweetheart grape – Zinfandel, gathered at the Zinfandel Advocate and Producers annual event at Fort Mason in San Francisco, to savor a plethora of juicy, jammy Zinfandels. Smiles full of purple stained teeth and exclamations of “WOW”, “where can I find this wine”, and “can it possibly get any better” told the tale of a day well enjoyed, and a varietal so coveted! Zinfandel, with roots from Croatia; is widely planted and produced in California, and has a following that grows immeasurably from year to year.

After several hours of sniffing, sipping, and spitting more than a hundred wines; here are my top”favorite fifteen” Zins at this year’s ZAP:

St. Amant 2006 Mohr Fry Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi ($18)
Deep, dark brooding fruit in the nose; bursts onto the palate with plenty of zing! This Zinfandel is full of rich, concentrated blackberry and boysenberry fruit and a generous dollop of spice. Rich and chewy with a firm texture and well balanced tannins; and love the purity of fruit.

C G d’Arie 2005 Zinfandel, Shenandoah Valley ($25)
Opens with enticing aromas of licorice and pepper spices, handsomely followed by copious dark blackberry and boysenberry fruit and a touch of tobacco on mid palate. A stylish Zinfandel with the acidity and nicely ripened fruit perfectly balanced. Well crafted with smooth, refined tannins. Finishes with a spicy flair.

Kuleto Estate 2005 Zinfandel, Napa Valley ($39)
The beautifully peppery, concentrated sweet berry fruit aromas are addictive, and the lush, full entry with layers of blackberry, bing cherry and spicy elements hold firmly through mid palate. Well structured with an incredibly long finish.

Storybook Mountain Vineyards 2005 Antaeus Zinfandel Blend, Napa Valley ($40)
Pretty crimson hue. A bit restrained in the nose; but after aeration opens fully to pure cherry, cassis and boysenberry fruit, which nestled alongside spice and oaky vanilla notes coats the mouth with gusto! With 27% Cabernet Sauvignon blended in, this wine is well structured with firm tannins and should age with power and grace.

Van Ruiten Family Winery 2006 Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi ($23)
Assertive spicy, pungent, fruity aromatics grab your interest decisively! Here’s a zin that blossom fully on the palate with layer upon layer of juicy berries, spices and a rich thread of vanilla. Lush and focused with a lasting finish.

Rubicon Estate Edizione Pennino 2005 Zinfandel, Rutherford – Napa Valley ($40)
Inviting candied berries in the nose, followed by a rich lush entry with mouth filling black raspberry, pepper and a hint of licorice that meld seamlessly. Perfect oak integration and oh so refined; one of the most elegant zins I’ve tasted.

Marr Cellars 2005 Mattern Ranch Old Vine Zinfandel, Mendocino County ($22)
Alluring spicy, earthy, anise aromas grab your attention; this zinfandel opens with tons of wild berries sprinkled with cinnamon on the palate. It continues to build intensely, climaxing with bright berry and spicy vanilla flavors and finishes long and memorably.

Starry Night 2005 Tom Feeney Ranch Old Vine Zinfandel, Russian River Valley ($28)
This deeply hued zinfandel boasts enticing pepper and licorice aromas. A bright burst of juicy berry and cherry flavors upon entry continues broadening on the palate. Beautifully balanced, with rich fruit surrounded by a generous dose of spice, and pretty oak notes. Ends with a finish that lasts forever.

Acorn 2005 Heritage Vines Alegria Vineyards Zinfandel, Russian River Valley ($35)
Roasted coffee bean and dark berry aromas waft pleasantly from the glass. Lush and full on mid palate, with juicy black plum and blackberry flavors layered with cinnamon spice and a dollop of black pepper. Lovely texture, velvety tannins and nicely integrated oak. The 10% Alicante Bouschet and 10% Petite Sirah blended in add to its complexity.

Mara Reserve 2005 Dolinsek Ranch Zinfandel, Russian River Valley ($45)
Buckets full of ripe blackberries and anise notes rise boldly from the glass, leading to a mouthful of rich, lush fruit and spice, nice tactility and just the right amount of acidity as well. Gobs of goodness in a glass! Plenty of depth and tannins suggest good ageability, too – if you can wait.

Macchia 2006 Linsteadt Vineyard Amador County “Adventurous” Zinfandel ($26)
Spices galore, from enticing cinnamon to all spice and nutmeg, jump out of the glass and provide the framework for the ripe, decadent mouthful of jammy dark berries at the core. A monster sized Zin at 16.1% alcohol, but very well balanced.

Grgich Hills 2004 Miljenko’s Old Vines Zinfandel Estate, Napa Valley ($69)
Inky, dark hue coats the glass, promising plenty; and it delivers! Vanilla and spice aromatics lead to powerfully concentrated ripe blackberry compote flavors that are broad and expansive on the palate, with accents of spice throughout. Nicely structured, and ends with a long, lingering finish.

Rosenblum 2006 Maggie’s Reserve, Sonoma Valley ($45)
Captivating spices and a dash of cocoa powder jump from the glass, and once the velvety elixir hits the palate you know you are in ZIN land! Bright, ripe bing cherry, wild berry and blackberry flavors explode in the mouth, and enliven the taste buds with enticing spicy clove notes and a hint of licorice. A complex zinfandel with plenty of depth.

Opolo Vineyards 2006 Mountain Zinfandel, Paso Robles ($26)
With a bit of aeration, a gorgeous fruit bomb explodes on the palate! A big, bold zinfandel with jammy blackberry and succulent black raspberry flavors and dash of pepper melding harmoniously with layers of baking spice and creamy vanilla accents. Exceedingly graceful given it’s powerful 16.5% alcohol level.

Klinker Brick 2005 Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi ($17)
Mouthwatering aromas, full of fresh berries accentuated by a touch of creme de menthe, charm you into the glass. Ripe juicy fruit takes center stage on the palate. Lush and round in the mouth, reminiscent of warm berry pie with vanilla bean accents leading to a pretty, silky finish.

Don’t delay, go out and seek your favorite Zin’s today!