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!