Wine of the Week; 2011 JC Cellars Dusi Vineyard Zinfandel

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  For this week, my Wine of the Week is the 2011 JC Cellars Isabel Dusi Vineyard Zinfandel.

The Winery

JC Cellars (“JCC”) is an award-winning urban winery located in Oakland, CA.  Jeff Cohn is the winemaker and president. His wife Alexandra Cohn is the CFO. The winery was founded in 1997.

JCC is best known for their single vineyard Zinfandels, and Rhone blends. Their impressive portfolio of wines includes white and red Rhône blends, Syrah, Petite Sirah, a few other “red blends” (most notably, the Imposter and Smoke and Mirrors) Pinot Noir, a Rosé, a newly release single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, and a dessert wine. Annual production is about 5000 cases.

Jeff has access to some prime fruit, including renowned vineyards such as Rockpile in Sonoma, Stagecoach in Napa, and Dusi in Paso Robles. And Jeff certainly knows how to make great fruit into great wine. JCC has earned boatloads of 90+ point wines from major wine publications like Wine Spectator, and the Wine Advocate.

I think it’s fair to say Jeff likes to “tinker”, or as the JC Cellars website put it… Jeff fuses his passion for classic French winemaking with New World innovation”He released his first Pinot Noir last summer, and sells a Viognier that is a collaboration with a French winery –  Domaine François Villard of Condrieu.  As if his gig at JC Cellars/Jeff Cohn Wines weren’t enough, Jeff is also a consulting winemaker.

The Wine

The fruit for this wine is sourced from the Isable Dusi Vineyard in Paso Robles.  Here’s what Jeff says about the vineyard…..

The Isabel Dusi Vineyard sits along Highway 101 in Paso’s Templeton Gap – which means that is gets some cooling influence from the Pacific.  The vines here are 60 to 80 years old, dry farmed, the zin interrupted by an occasional vine of carignane.

Retail – $35; Alcohol – 15.5%; Drink now to 2019.

Wine of the Week; 2011 JC Cellars Isabel Dusi Vineyard Zinfandel

My tasting notes follow:

Garnet color with pleasing blackberry, black cherry, pepper, bramble, spice and a hint of smoke aromas. On the palate, it’s medium bodied, focused,  and well structured, with silky texture, supple well-integrated tannins and blackberry, black cherry, a bit of raspberry, and spice flavor with a delicious long finish. 

Rating: A-: This is an excellent example of how elegant Zinfandel can be!

Pair with:  Smoked baby back ribs!  But don’t stop there…try with smoked or barbecued chicken, Asian mahi mahi

Sample purchased for review

Ratings Key:
(A+) – 98-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 94-97/Outstanding
(A-) – 90-93/Excellent
(B+) – 86-89/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail
__________________________________________________________________

Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

Wine of the Week; 2010 Woodenhead Zinfandel Leras Ranches Bertoli

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  For this week, my Wine Of The Week is the 2010 Woodenhead Zinfandel Leras Ranches Bertoli.

The Winery

Woodenhead Vintners is owned by Nikolai Stez, and Zina Bower.  Nikolai grew up in the Russian River Valley, and was drawn to wine at an early age and began some home winemaking while still in college. His formal winemaking education consisted of attending the Horticulture and Viticulture program at Santa Rosa Junior College and attending a few classes at UC Davis. He began to seriously make garage wines in 1986 while being mentored at Williams Selyem.

He was assistant winemaker at Williams-Selyem before launching Woodenhead.  His domestic partner, Zina Bower, is equally passionate about wine, and is involved as well, handling the marketing and business side of Woodenhead. She also has a day job as business manager at Diamond Creek Vineyards in Napa Valley.

The name, “Woodenhead,” was a name given to Nicolai by an old girlfriend who thought that he was very stubborn 

In addition to Zinfandel, Woodenhead produces amazing Pinot Nori, a French Colombard, and a unique French Colombard based sparkling wine. They aspire Burgundian style wines with California fruit. They produce approximately 4,000 case of wine annually.

I’ve visited Woodenhead a couple of times.  I’ve always really enjoyed the wines and inevitably end up purchasing some bottles.  The tasting room is located on River Road in Santa Rosa and is perched on a small hill that overlooks the Russian River Valley.  I have fond memories on sitting on the patio, sipping their wonderful wines and taking in the glorious view.

The Wine

The fruit for this wine was sourced from  the  Leras Ranch.  The vineyard, originally owned by the Bertoli Family, was planted sometime between the late 30’s and early 40’s, making it approximately 70 years old (I’d say that qualifies as “old vine”!)  Nick Leras is the current owner and both farms and manages the vineyard.

The vineyard is head-trained and completely dry-farmed and the soil is primarily dark clay loam.

The wine is aged in French oak, and is bottled unfiltered and unfined.

photo (50)

My tasting notes follow:

Deep violet color with lifted intoxicating aromas of balsamic vinegar, oriental spice, and mixed dark fruits. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, and balanced with a supple mouth feel. It shows blackberry, black cherry, plum and spice flavors. Medium-long finish. SRP; $30; 15.2% alcohol; 172 cases produced

Rating: A-; A truly lovely Zin….that I heartily recommend!

Pair with: Pulled pork, lamb chops, or chicken mole!

Sample purchased for review

Ratings Key:

(A+) – 98-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 94-97/Outstanding
(A-) – 90-93/Excellent
(B+) – 86-89/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail

__________________________________________________________________

Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

Wine of the Week: 2010 Carlisle Sonoma Valley “Monte Rosso” Zinfandel

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  For this week, my Wine Of The Week is the 2010 Carlisle Zinfandel Monte Rosso Vineyard.

Winery

Carlisle Winery & Vineyards is a small Sonoma County based winery  based in Santa Rosa. According their website they specialize in the..

…production of old-vine, vineyard designated Zinfandels and red Rhone varieties (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Petite Sirah).

Mike Officer is the Owner/Winemaker.  He caught the wine “bug” early – at age 19 – when he tasted a late-harvest Riesling (It seems like we all start with sweet wines doesn’t it?) After graduating from college, he worked in software development for five years, but realized that was not his passion.  He knew the answer would involve wine, but he wasn’t sure in what capacity.

He decided to try winemaking,  starting with making 5 gallons of Zinfandel in his kitchen.  Some years later, he  and his wife Kendall found themselves making 300 cases of “garage” wine.  They decided to jump in with both feet and established Carlisle Winery & Vineyards in 1998.  They’ve focused on old-vine Zinfandel, and red Rhône blends, until the 2010 vintage, when they made their first white wines.

In addition to their own estate vineyard, they source grapes from Sonoma County, primarily the Russian River, and Dry Creek AVAs.  Officer always been a fan of old-vine vineyards.   In fact, of the 16 vineyard sources listed on their website, half ( Gold Mine RanchMartinelli Road VineyardMontafi RanchPagani Ranch VineyardPapera Ranch, Rossi Ranch Vineyard, Saitone Ranch, and Two Acres) are considered historic vineyards by the Historic Vineyard Society .

Carlisle wines are available via a mailing list.  The mailing list is currently closed, but if you would like to be added to the waiting list, click here.

The Wine

Fruit for this wine is from the legendary Monte Rosso Vineyard located in the Mayacamas Mountains. Monte Rosso has a reputation for producing wines of high acidity across all varieties (The vineyard is also planted to Cabernet Sauvignon) and producers. Wines are incredibly long lived.

The Monte Rosso Vineyard has a special place in my heart.  While a Zinfandel was my epiphany wine, it was Rosenblum Monte Rosso Zinfandel that blew my mind many moons ago. This one is better than that!

The wine is aged in 20% new French oak and bottle unfiltered, but given a light egg white fining to polish the mountain tannins.

2010 Carlisle Zinfandel Monte Rosso Vineyard

2010 Carlisle Zinfandel Monte Rosso Vineyard

My tasting notes follow:

Nearly opaque purple color with black fruit, bittersweet chocolate, earth, and slight roast meat aromas. On the palate, it’s full-bodied, but the mouthwatering acidity keeps it deftly balanced. It shows blackberry blueberry, black raspberry, mineral and a hint of bittersweet chocolate and a long finish 96% Zinfandel; 4% Grand Noir 15.8% alcohol; 410 cases produced

Rating: A-This is an outstanding Zinfandel! While it was a bit hot on the nose on day 1, that wasn’t the case on day 2.  Additionally, I made sure it was served at the appropriate temperature on day 2, and the heat wasn’t there. Perhaps a not so gentle reminder to serve reds at the appropriate temperature, especially as the weather warms up!

Pair with: A full-bodied wine such as this would pair well with robust dishes such as roast lamb, meat stews, hearty pastas, or barbequed dishes.  And this Zinfandel is more food friendly than most because of its lively acidity!

Sample purchased for review

Ratings Key:
(A+) – 98-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 94-97/Outstanding
(A-) – 90-93/Excellent
(B+) – 86-89/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2013 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

Wine of the Week; 2007 Bradford Mountain Zinfandel

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  For this week, my Wine Of The Week is the 2007 Bradford Mountain Zinfandel.

The Winery

Bradford Mountain Winery is located in Healdsburg, CA. The label was started by George Hambrecht just out of college, in the late ’90s. The first crush was in October 1998, and produced about 1,800 cases of wine.

According to Bradford…

Over the years, our fruit has been purchased by such luminaries as Turley, Gary Farrell, Quivira, and Alysian, as well as other well-known producers.

I was referred to Bradford Mountain a few years ago by a friend who works in the wine business.  He was kind enough to set up a private tasting for my wife and I.  When we arrived at the address, we noted that it was (at the time) C. Donatiello winery. Today, it is  VML winery. Since Bradford Mountain, and VML share an address, I believe that’s where you can purchase the Bradford Mountain wines (by the way VML is a great spot for tasting – they focus on Pinot, and Chardonnay).

It was a bit of an unusual tasting in that we were ushered to the back of the winery to do the tasting.  I vividly recall the tasting because it was a hot day, and there were fruit flies everywhere!  Setting aside the fruit flies and the heat it was a great tasting. We picked up a few bottles of this wine and their Grist Vineyard Syrah.

The Wine

This wine is a combination of fruit from Grist Vineyard, which located on Bradford Mountain –  the highest point on Dry Creek Valley’s western edge (click here for video profile), and vineyard on the Dry Creek valley floor.  The Grist Vineyard is located on a hilltop plateau 1100 feet above the valley floor, and was planted to Zinfandel nearly 100 years ago.  The fruit for this wine is from vines are between 10 and about 40 years old.

The vineyard soil is rugged red decomposing volcanic rock, and I believe that results in the distinctive mineral component of this wine.

2007 Bradford Mountain Zinfandel

2007 Bradford Mountain Zinfandel

My tasting notes follow:

Garnet color with dark fruit, licorice, and spice aromas. On the palate, it’s medium bodied and fresh with a silky texture I don’t recall ever experiencing at this point, good balance, and soft well-integrated tannins. It shows flavors of mixed berry, hints of cassis, spice, dark chocolate and mineral flavors with a medium-long finish – 91pts

Rating: Highly Recommended.  This wine drinks like many a $35-$45 Zins I’ve had. Off the chart QPR! It’s aged well, I last had a bottle about a year ago

Pair with:  Seared Ahi Tuna, Ciopppino, BBQ Spareribs, Burgers or Rack of Lamb!

The Wine Geek Stuff:

  • Alcohol: 14.2
  • Closure: Cork
  • AVA: > CaliforniaSonoma CountyDry Creek Valley
  • Grape Varieties: 100% Zinfandel
  • Cooperage: 14 months in French, Hungarian, and American oak barrels; 40% new oak
  • Retail: $18
  • Cases produced: Unknown
  • Drink: now – 2014

This above wine was purchased for review

 

Seafood Gumbo and Wine Pairings for Soul Warming #SundaySupper

This week’s #SundaySupper theme is all about soul warming foods.  You know, those soups, chili, stews, and other soul warming treat we seek when the weather turns cold.

When I first saw the theme, my first thought was of “Soul Food”. I’d  bet that “Soul food” is one of those phrases that if you ask 10 people what it means, you’d get 10 different answers!  Soul Warming foods and Soul food are one in the same to me, and when I think of Soul food, the first dish that comes to mind is Gumbo!  We have a tradition in our family of making Gumbo each New Year’s day, but it’s  a soul-satisfying meal whenever there’s a chill in the air.

Since I’m a Wino with latent foodie tendencies, I decided let my foodie nature rise up, and do a dish, and wine pairings this week!

Here’s my Seafood Gumbo (we …OK make that “I”, call it “Yumbo” – lame right?..but I like it!)

Seafood Gumbo

Seafood Gumbo

For me, there are two things you’ve got to get right to make a gumbo – the “roux” (I prefer mine to be dark brownish), and you must have stock that is chock full of flavors.  Sure you could take a short-cut, and go with store-bought (I’ve done that for a  ” quick and dirty” version of this dish, but the flavors are not as complex and intense for me. If you get those couple of things “right”, it’s clear sailing thereafter!

Seafood Gumbo and Wine Pairings for Soul Warming #SundaySupper
Author: 
Recipe type: Stew
Cuisine: Cajun
Serves: 10-12
 
Adapted from Emeril's Classic Seafood Gumbo recipe
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups finely chopped onions
  • ¾ cup finely chopped green bell peppers
  • ¾ cup finely chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • One 12-ounce bottle amber beer
  • 6 cups Shrimp and Crab Stock
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 small Dungeness crabs
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon Emeril's Original Essence
  • 2 cups shucked oysters with their liquor
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ cup chopped tender green onion tops
Instructions
  1. Follow directions for cleaning and prepping crab to be cooked (click here, except remove crab legs and claws. Follow directions for Shrimp and Crab stock, except add crab shell and crab butter (roe) along with shrimp.
  2. Place an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, and add the oil. Allow the oil to heat for about 5 minutes, then add the flour to the pot. Stir the oil and flour together with a wooden spoon to form a roux. Continue to stir the roux for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the color of milk chocolate. Add the onions, bell peppers, and celery to the roux and stir to blend. Stir the vegetables for 5 minutes, then add the garlic. Cook the garlic for 30 seconds before adding the beer and Shrimp and Crab Stock to the pot. Season the gumbo with the thyme, bay leaves, crabs legs, Worcestershire, salt, and cayenne. Bring the gumbo to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Continue to simmer the gumbo for 1 hour, skimming the foam and any oil that rises to the surface.
  3. Season both the shrimp with 1½ teaspoons Essence. Stir the shrimp into the gumbo and cook for 2 minutes. Add the oysters to the pot and cook, stirring often, for an additional 5 minutes. Taste the gumbo and season if necessary.
  4. Garnish with the parsley and green onions and serve in shallow bowls over white rice.
Notes
Recommended Wine Pairings - I paired this with the Navarro Vineyards Edelzwicker, a blend of Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris. It would also pair well with Viognier, a dry Rosé, or White Zinfandel. If you elect to go with a less spicy version try a Pinot Noir!

 

Take a look at the culinary cornucopia the #SundaySupper team has put together for this week’s gathering around the #SundaySupper table! My recommended wine pairings (click on the name of the wine to find out where to purchase) are italicized.

Main Entrees: 

Pair these main dishes with Pinot Noir.  Look for the 2010 Davis Bynum Pinot Noir. It’s a silky smooth Russian River Valley Pinot Noir with a core of raspberry  and spice aromas and flavors, with caramel edge. Why it works: Pinot goes with just about everything.  It’s a white wine, in red wine clothing, which makes it incredibly flexible with dishes and methods of prep.  Pinot is sublime with poultry, and complements foods that are slow roasted, or braised.

I recommend a Chardonnay for these dishes.  Look for the 2009 MacMurray Ranch Chardonnay Sonoma Coast. It’s a medium-full bodied Chardonnay that’s undergone malolactic fermentation, that’s moderately oaked.  The oak aging brings vanilla and caramel notes to the party to go along with its ripe apple, tropical fruit and lemon cream character.  Why it works: The texture, and weight of wine complement the dish, and it has enough acidity to “cut” the dish a bit and prepare the palate for the next mouthwatering bite.

Pair this dish with a Tempranillo from Rioja Spain.  I really like the 2007 Viña Eguia Reserva. It’s shows great balance between oak and fruit with a cherry, dried herb, spice, leather and vanilla character.  Why it works: Tempranillo is an underrated food pairing partner.  It’s tends to be a light-medium bodied earthy red wine. It’s between a Pinot Noir and Cab.  It’s fruity with moderate tannins, and acidity making it a good fit for somewhat spicy fare like Spanish, Mexican and similarly spiced fare.  

Pair this classic Italian dish with Sangiovese.  Try the 2010 La Mozza I Perazzi Morellino di Scansano. It’s a blend of 85% Sangiovese, 5% Syrah, 5% Alicante, plus a couple of other indigenous Italian grape varieties from Tuscany  It shows juicy red and black berries, with some licorice and spice notes supported by soft dusty tannins.  Why it works: The food of a place and the wine of a place is always a good place to start when pairing wine and food.  On top of that, its high acidity, together with its medium-bodied character enable it to stand up to more substantial dishes.  Sangiovese is a wine that loves dished prepared with fresh herbs, rich thick soups, mushrooms and tomato based dishes

Pair this dish with an Edelzwicker, a blend of the “noble” Alsatian varietals of Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris.  Look for the 2011 Navarro Vineyards Edelzwicker. It’s an aromatic white wine with a stone fruit, spice, and hint of citrus character. Why it works:  The spicy character of the wine, along with some sweetness (spicy likes sweet) and acidity make a great match!

Chili/Stews:

Pair these hearty dishes with Cabernet Sauvignon.  One of my favorites is the 2010 Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon “H3″  It’s from Washington State, and is a bold wine that delivers delightful floral, dark fruit, cocoa aromas followed by plum, black cherry, vanilla and cocoa flavors. Why it works: Cab works well with red meats, dishes with earthy, herbal elements.  This youthful wine has plenty of fruit which make it a nice complement to longer cooked meats and stews.

Try these dishes these with a Cru Beaujolais (not to be confused with Beaujolais Nouveau hitting the store shelfs soon), a wine from France made from the Gamay grape. Look for the 2010 Georges Debœuf Moulin-à-Vent with a wild red fruits, and white pepper character that a juicy easy drinker.  Why it works: Like Pinot Noir, the Gamay grape is naturally high in acidity, and is light-medium bodied with low tannins. It pair well with dishes with veggies,earthy flavors. Great picnic wine too! Er..but I digress;-)

Syrah is a good match for these hearty flavorful dishes.  I like the 2009 Jacob’s Creek Reserve Barossa Shiraz from Australia. It’s has a fruity core of black cherries, plums, baking spices, and vanilla that balanced by some oak.  Why it works: Syrah is an ample full-bodied wine that likes thicker, fuller dishes like slow braises, stews (especially tomato-based), and one-dish meals.

Pair these dishes with the Sangiovese noted above:
Pair these dishes with the Pinot Noir noted above:
Pair this dishes with the Tempranillo from Rioja noted above:

Soups:

Pair these soul-warming soups with a Sauvignon Blanc from the Pouilly-Fumé region of the Loire Valley in France. Look for the 2011 Patient Cottat “Le Grand Caillou” Sauvignon Blanc.  It has a lovely tropical fruit, citrus, spice and mineral character with a tangy acidity.  Why it works: Sauvignon Blanc with its “green” (gooseberries, lime, green olive, papaya character and a mineral component attributable to the terroir of the Loire Valley make this a good match for vegetarian soups, spicy (hot) fare, dishes with acidic ingredients.  It’s a very versatile food pairing partner in that it work nicely as a complement or a contrast.

Pair these satisfying soups with Pinot Gris.  I recommend the 2011 King Estate Pinot Gris Signature Collection from Oregon. It has juicy lemon-lime, stone-fruit, green apple, pineapple and spice character.  Why it works: Pinot Gris likes ethic foods, especially coconut-milk based curries. 

Pair the rest of the soups with the aforementioned wines as noted in parentheses:

Desserts/Beverages:

Pair this Hot Fudge Pudding Cake (That Skinny Chick Can Bake) with the Terra d’Oro Zinfandel “Port”, a dessert wine made for chocolate! I like the what the Wine Enthusiast says about it…”The first duty of a Port-style wine is to be dazzlingly rich and sweet yet balanced in acidity, and this bottling is all that. Waves of blackberry jam, cassis and dark chocolate are brightened with zesty acidity

  • White Hot Chocolate with Orange – GirliChef

Join on us on Twitter throughout the day during #SundaySupper.  And join us at 7pm EST, for our live weekly #SundaySupper chat.   All you have to do is follow the #SundaySupper hashtag or you can follow us through TweetChat.

And be sure to check out the #SundaySupper Pinterest board. We’d love to feature your Sunday Supper Soul Warming Recipes and share them with all of our followers.

What Are The Most Food Friendly Wines?

It’s my pleasure to share this post of mine recently published by 12most.

12 Most Food-Friendly Wines

In my recent post entitled “12 Most Practical Wine and Food Pairing Guidelines”, one my recommendations for sensibly pairing food and wine is to get to know “food-friendly” wines. Food-friendly wines have three primary characteristics 1) Palate-cleansing acidity, 2) Lots of fruitiness with low tannins, and 3) Balanced components (i.e. fruit, acidity, and tannins).

Try these wines for those times you don’t want to put a lot of thought into what wine you’re having with weeknight meals, or more casual gatherings. There’s something here for everyone — Whites, Reds, Sparkling and Rosé. Keep in mind that each of the wines come in broad range of styles. Let your palate be your guide for the style you prefer.

Reds

1. Beaujolais

This wine, made from the Gamay grape is named for the region from which it hails. Think Beaujolais when you want a red that you’d normally have with a white wine. Many top crus go for around $20
Recommended Region(s): France – Cru Beaujolais (non-Nouveau)
Profile: Light-bodied with moderate to high acidity, and low tannins with aromatic red plum, cherry, raspberry, hints of black pepper aromas/flavors.

2. Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is the most well-known food friendly red wine.
Recommended Region(s): France – Burgundy, California, Oregon, and New Zealand
Profile: Light/medium-bodied with high to very high acidity with aromatic with floral, cherry, red currant, raspberry, and sometimes gamey aromas/flavors when young, aging to vegetal and mushroom when mature

3. Sangiovese (san-jo-veh-zeh)

Generally speaking, Italy makes a plethora of food friendly wines, especially reds. Sangiovese is the most planted red grape in Italy, and the most important grape used in the great wines of Tuscany. It is one of the wine world’s great gifts to the culinary world! It’s a natural for dishes containing tomatoes, or acidic tomato sauces
Recommended Region(s): Italy (Tuscany), California
Profile: Light/medium-bodied with high to very high acidity with black cherry, spice, smoky, herbal savory aromas/flavors.

4. Zinfandel

Zinfandel can go far beyond burgers and BBQ. I’ve enjoyed with Mexican, and Pakistani dishes. The style of Zinfandel is crucial for matching it with food. Look for lighter “Beaujolais” style Zinfandel at around 14% a.b.v, and “Claret” style between 14% and 15% a.b.v. for maximum food pairing versatility. If prefer “bigger” Zinfandels, then opt for pairing with richer foods.
Recommended Region(s): California
Profile: Medium/Full bodied moderate to high acidity, and strawberry, raspberry, plum, blackberry, pepper, bramble, and spice aromas/flavors

5. Syrah

Syrah and Syrah based blends do a great job of striking a balance between finesse and power. It can be full-bodied and complex like Cabernet Sauvignon, but tend to be less tannic. Cool climate Syrah is especially food friendly. And many very good examples can be found for less than $20.
Recommended Region(s): France (Rhône), California, Washington, and Australia
Profile: Medium/full-bodied with moderate to high acidity, with blackcurrant, plum, blackberry, earthy, herbal, chocolate, and violet aromas/flavors

Whites

6. Riesling

Riesling is the most well-known white food friendly wine. Thanks to its food loving nature, it’s on the upswing. If you’re looking for one wine to serve with many dishes, Riesling is an excellent choice, especially if you’re not into red wine. Look for dry and off-dry styles
Recommended Region(s): Germany, France (Alsace) Washington, New York, California
Profile: Light-bodied with high to very high acidity, and Intensely aromatic with floral, green apples, light spice aromas/flavors when you ageing to petrol and honey when mature

7. Sauvignon Blanc

Stylistically, Sauvignon Blanc tends to be the opposite of Chardonnay. That’s because it tends not to see as much oak as Chardonnay and its acidity is more apparent. It’s very versatile food wine, especially with dishes emphasizing, or enhanced with fresh herbs. Try it with guacamole!
Recommended Region(s): France (Loire, and Bordeaux), U.S., New Zealand,
Profile: Light-bodied with high to very high acidity, and aromatic, grassy, herbaceous, tropical, citrus, and gooseberries aromas/flavors

8. Grüner Vetliner

Grüner Vetliner (GROO-ner FELT-leen-ner) is indigenous to Austria, where it accounts for about a third Austria grape production. It’s a favorite of many sommeliers because of its versatility with foods. Here in the US we often reach for red wine to accompany meat dishes, but in Austria, Grüner is served with game, beef, pork, poultry and veal. Looking for a wine for tough food matches like asparagus, and artichokes? Try Grüner. And it’s great with fried chicken!
Recommended Region(s): Austria
Profile: Light/medium-bodied with high to very high acidity, with vanilla-dipped peach, grapefruit, and aromas/flavors with a distinctive spicy finish.

9. Chardonnay

This most popular wine has very good “foodability” if it is not overly oaked. In fact, more unoaked Chardonnay is being produced these days. While unoaked Chardonnay may be a bit more versatile food partner, oaked (used judiciously) Chardonnay typically makes a more full-bodied wine.
Recommended Region(s): France (Chablis, and Burgundy), California, Australia, Chile, and Argentina
Profile: Light/Medium-bodied with high to very high acidity, and floral, ripe apple, pineapple, butterscotch, lemon, vanilla, and custard aromas/flavors.

10. Sherry

Hear me out on this one. I’m not referring to your grandmother’s Cream Sherry. I’m referring to dry Sherry. And thanks to adventurous wine geeks, and passionate sherry lovers, this fortified wine is gaining in popularity because of its food friendly nature and exceptional quality/price ratio.
True Sherry, is only produced in Spain’s “Sherry Triangle”. It’s a singularly unique beverage because of its terroir, and the method by which it is produced. With its unique tangy, sometimes oxidative and saline flavors, it can be polarizing. It was a bit of an acquired taste for me, but I think it’s fabulous with food!

The principles of pairing Sherry with food are like other wines, according to weight and texture. For Fino and Manzanillo think appetizers, seafood, and sushi, and sashimi. Pair Amontillado, with its rich nuttiness, with stronger flavored foods (including spicy foods) like oily fishes and chicken dishes. Serve chilled.

Recommended Region: Spain

Profile: The main styles of Sherry are light-bodied, straw colored, dry Fino, and fuller bodied darker Oloroso. Between Fino and Oloroso in body, and dryness are Manzanillo, and Amontillado.  Typical aromas and flavors of Finos are yeasty, toasted almond, green apples, and slightly oxidative.  Oloroso tend to be more aromatic with fresh mixed nuts, dried fruit, and citrus peel.

11. Rosé

Rosés (in particular dry Rosé) combine the best of white and red wines, while maintaining their own unique charm. They possess the crisp acidity, delicacy and freshness of white wines, and the body, and flavors of red wines. Rosés are diverse bunch, produced from a wide range of grapes, in various styles ranging from simple quaffable wines to complex gems in a wide palette of colors. Don’t relegate these babies to warm weather months. Because of their versatility they’re wonderful year-round!
Recommended Region(s): France, Spain, Italy, and U.S.
Profile: Light/medium bodied with strawberry, melon, and cherry aroma/flavors

Sparkling

12. Sparkling Wines

Sparkling wines are very versatile and food friendly because of their innately high acidity levels, and their palate cleansing “scrubbing bubbles” effect. They can be served throughout the day, and throughout a meal too. The driest ones are excellent as an aperitif and with shellfish and caviar. Off-dry bubbly is suitable for brunch, lunch, salads, and many dinner entrees. The sweeter ones pair nicely with fruit- based desserts.
Recommended Region(s): France, US, Spain (Cava), Italy (Prosecco)

Profile: Light to medium-full bodied, and bone-dry Extra Brut to sweet “doux”.  Typical aromas and flavors are yeast, apple, citrus, stone fruit, and cherry depending on the blend of grape varieties used

With these 12 wines in your vinous arsenal, you’ll overcome many a gastronomic challenge! Are there any favorites of yours that I left out?

Featured image courtesy of jinhai via Creative Commons.

2012 ZAP Zinfandel Festival Recap!

Thanks mostly to the 1 Wine Dude 2012 Zinfandel Festival Giveaway, I had the pleasure of attending my first Zinfandel Festival, an unabashed three-day Zinfandel spree, put on by the Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (“ZAP”).  I say mostly because, I won (guess I can’t say I NEVER win anything anymore) tickets for two to two of the four events put on by ZAP – Epicuria; Food & Zin pairing, and the Grand Tasting, which I attended with my wife.  Since I attended with my wife, fun was in order, so no tasting notes for those two events (It’s a lot more work, than fun to taste and write up a bunch of tasting notes at such events).  I also attended Flights - a seminar style tasting, which explored the different styles of Zinfandel.

For this, the 21st annual Zinfandel Festival, Flights  and the Grand Tasting were held at a new venue – The Concourse in San Francisco.

You’ll find a few of my favorites wine and food pairings from Epicuria, detailed tasting notes from Flights, and my recommended Zinfandel producers from the Grand Tasting.

Epicuria – Food and Zin Pairings

Zinfandel is a grape with naturally moderate to high acidity, yet it’s not typically considered among the pantheon of food friendly wines.  But my personal experience is that  Zinfandel has very good “foodability” (new phrase picked up at ZinFest;-) It’s so much more than a burger and ribs wine!  The event featured pairings of 50 Zinfandel wines with creations from master chefs.

My favorite Food and Zin pairings were:

  1. Duck prosciutto, pistachio goat cheese mousse and citrus from Taste Restaurant paired with Terra d’Oro 2008 125 Year Old Vines, Deaver Vineyard, Amador
  2. Tortellini Porcini with Black Truffle Cream from Il Davide Cucina paired with Starry Night Winery 2009 ,Alexander Valley, and 2009 Old Vine, Nervo Station Vineyard, Alexander Valley
  3. Mojama (Cold-smoked Ahi Tuna) from Wine & Roses Hotel Restaurant, Spa paired with McCay Cellars 2008 Equity Zinfandel, Lodi


Flights – Forum of Flavors

Flights was an educational tasting to showcase different styles of Zinfandel.  There were three flights of wine, each representing a different style of Zinfandel, and each having a separate panel of winemakers.  The panels were moderated by Joel Peterson, Winemaker Ravenswood Winery, founding BOD and 2-time President of ZAP.

Joel Peterson stated that Zinfandel is the “Rodney Dangerfield” of wines.  In many respects that’s true.  It’s frequently characterized in the press as a high alcohol, ripe and overly jammy “monolithic” beverage. In my mind Zinfandel is no different that other wines in that its produced in a variety of styles.  My other take-aways from the panel discussions were as follows:

  • Zinfandels are great weeknight wines
  • Zinfandel a very tough grape to grow because of uneven ripening
  • The lower alcohol style of Zinfandel are more versatile food partners
  • The higher alcohol style of Zinfandel may not be as food friendly, but again like other wines, sometimes the wine is the treat, and consumed either before or after a meal
  • Finesse style Zinfandels around 14% ABV may be thought of as comparable to Cru Beajolais in style
  • Moderate style Zinfandels between 14-15% ABV comparable to Italian Tuscans in style
  • Big style Zinfandel over 15% may be thought of as comparable to Southern Rhone style.
  • Big Zins love simple foods
  • High alcohol wines not necessarily unbalanced wines.  Dave Phinney mentioned an 18.1% ABV dry Grenache from France that was very balanced.  He submitted that his wife, who is sensitive high alcohol wines, enjoyed it.
  • Zinfandel does so well in California does well because it’s planted in the best spots
  • Old Vine love is more about the intrinsic value of these historic vines than economics

The “Finesse” Flight – Around 14% ABV

Panelists:

Chris Leamy – Winemaker; Terra d’Oro

Doug Nalle – Winemaker/Founder Nalle Winery

Julie Johnson – Owner/Winemaker Tres Sabores Winery

  • 2008 Montevina Zinfandel Terra d’Oro - USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County
    Light garnet color with fruity, spicy red fruit aromas. On the palate light-bodied, with good acidity, and raspberry, strawberry, and baking spice flavors. Medium finish. 13.5% ABV Suggested retail $11.99 (86 pts.)
  • 2009 Nalle Zinfandel - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Light garnet red color with sweet red cherry, pomegranate, dust, and pepper aromas. On the palate, light-medium bodied with cherry pomegranate, and spice flavors, and well integrated fine tannins. Good balance with a medium finish. 87% Zinfandel, 9% Petite Sirah, 3% Carignan, 1% Mourvedre, 1% Alicante Bouschet and Golden Chasselas. 13.6% ABV Suggested retail = $36 (87 pts.)
  • 2009 Frog’s Leap Zinfandel - USA, California, Napa Valley
    Light-medium garnet red color with spicy savory red fruit aromas. On the palate light-medium bodied with raspberry, boysenberry, red currant, and spice flavors. Approaching medium finish. 77% Zinfandel, 22% Petite Sirah, 1% Carignan. 13.6% ABV Suggested Retail = $27. (86 pts.)
  • 2009 Tres Sabores Zinfandel Rutherford Estate - USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
    Medium ruby color with mixed dark fruit, pepper, and spice aromas. On the palate medium-bodied refined, and deftly balanced with boysenberry, raspberry, faint white pepper, and bramble flavors. Medium-plus finish. 14.2% ABV Suggested Retail = $35 (89 pts.)

The “Moderation” Flight – Between 14-15% ABV

Panelists:

Tim Bell – Winemaker; Dry Creek Vineyard

Randle Johnson – Winemaker; Artezin

Dr. J Bernard Seps – Tractor Driver/President/G.M./Winemaker Storybook Mountain Winery, and founding ZAP member

These Zins are the predominant style and alcohol levels in the marketplace. This style is sometimes referred to as the “claret” style.

  • 2008 Ravenswood Zinfandel Teldeschi - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Medium ruby color with dark fruit, spice and cedarwood aromas. On the palate medium-bodied, with a nice vein of acidity balancing out the fruit and tannins with black cherries, cassis, and vanilla spice,flavors. Medium + finish 75% Zinfandel, 20% Petite Sirah, 3% Carignan, 2%Alicante Bouschet. 14.5% ABV Suggested Retail =$35 (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Dry Creek Vineyard Zinfandel Spencer’s Hill Vineyard - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Medium ruby color with fruity cherry, cranberry, and white pepper aromas. On the palate medium-bodied with black cherry, black raspberry flavors supported by firm tannins. Short-Medium finish. 80% Zinfandel, 9% Petite Sirah, 8% Syrah, 3% Grenache. 14.9% ABV. Suggested Retail = $38 (87 pts.)
  • 2010 Artezin Zinfandel Mendocino County - USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino County
    Deep ruby red color with dark red fruit, spice and pepper aromas. On the palate, medium-bodied with supple but firm tannins and raspberry, dark cherry, and spice flavors. Medium+ finish. 89% Zinfandel, 10% Petite Sirah, 1% Carignan. 14.5% ABV. Suggested Retail = $18 (87 pts.)
  • 2009 Storybook Mountain Vineyards Zinfandel Estate Reserve - USA, California, Napa Valley
    Dark ruby-red color with tight red fruit, baking spice and a hint of chocolate aromas. On the palate medium-bodied with tart raspberry, and pomegranate flavors. This on is still young. Short-medium finish. 14.7% ABV. Suggested Retail = $60 (86 pts.)
  • 2007 Dashe Cellars Zinfandel Old Vines Louvau Vineyard - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Deep dark garnet black color with aromatic mixed berries, and sweet oak aromas. On the palate, medium bodied, intense, smooth and structured with well-integrated fine tannins and blackberry, red currant, black raspberry, and clove. Medium-long finish 98% Zinfandel, 2% Petite Sirah. 14.8% ABV Suggested Retail = $32 (91 pts.)

The “Big” Flight – Above 15% ABV

Panelists:

Dave Phinney – Owner/Winemaker; Orin Swift Cellars, and Flying Winemaker

Tegan Passalacqua – Winegrower; Turley Wine Cellars, and founding member of Historic Vineyard Society

Jeff Farthing – Asst. Winemaker; Michael David Winery

These are the “Big Boys” of Zinfandel big, bold, ripe and intense which are often scored 90+ points

  • 2009 Seghesio Family Vineyards Zinfandel Rockpile - USA, California, Sonoma County, Rockpile
    Dark garnet color with dark red fruit, sweet oak, earth, and dust aromas. On the palate medium-full bodied, intense with black cherry, pepper, and a touch of vanilla spice. Medium finish. 15% ABV. Suggested Retail = $38 (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Orin Swift Zinfandel Saldo - USA, California
    Dark garnet color with strawberry black cherry and a touch of funk aromas. On the palate full-bodied, voluptuous supple tannins and dark cherry, blackberry, chocolate flavors. Long finish. 80% Zinfandel, 9% Petite Sirah, 8% Syrah, 3% Grenache. 15.5% ABV. Suggested Retail = $28 (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Robert Biale Zinfandel Aldo’s Vineyard - USA, California, Napa Valley, Oak Knoll
    Dark black-red color with aromatic dark red fruit, dust and baking spice aromas. On the palate full-bodied, with velvety mouthfeel, and black cherry, boysenberry, and baking spice flavors. Medium-long finish. 98% Zinfandel, 2% Petite Sirah. 16.1% ABV. Suggested Retail = $75 (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Turley Zinfandel Mead Ranch - USA, California, Napa Valley, Atlas Peak
    Dark garnet color with tight aromas of fresh dark red fruit. On the palate intense, brambly, and hedonistically creamy with blackberry, plum flavors. Medium-long finish. 16.1% ABV. Suggested Retail = $35(88 pts.)
  • 2010 Michael-David Vineyards Zinfandel Earthquake - USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi
    Deep carmine color with dark red fruit, cedarbox, and chocolate aromas. On the palate medium-full bodied with dark cherry, blackberry, pepper and vanilla flavors. Medium-long finish. Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. 16% ABV. Suggested Retail = $26 (89 pts.)
  • 2008 Rosenblum Cellars Zinfandel Reserve Monte Rosso Vineyard - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
    Dark nearly opaque black red color with dark fruit, clove, and sweet oak aromas. On the palate medium-full bodied with vivid fruit flavors of boysenberries, vanilla and spice with a long, smooth finish. 16.4% ABV. Suggested Retail = $45 (90 pts.)

Grand Tasting – From A to Zin

The Grand Testing featured 197 wineries (probably 400 wines). All were from California, which isn’t surprising given that Zinfandel is California’s heritage wine, except three, one each from Arizona, Italy and South Africa.  I tried 75 wines before tapping out.  I highly recommend the following producers, whose lineup I tasted through and found all to be excellent:

The Usual Suspects - Bedrock Wine Co., Dashe Cellars, JC Cellars, Ridge Vineyards, Robert Biale, and Woodenhead

New to me - Black Sears Estate Wines, Tres Sabores, and Valdez Family

This was a fun and educational event.  It’s been my experience that Zinfandel’s “foodability” is vastly underrated, so it was great to see it paired with a wide range of foods.  Flights gave me a chance to experience the “rainbow” of Zinfandel styles, and learn a few things about making Zin,  and the Grand Tasting was  like a great reunion with my epiphany wine!

Lodi Old Vines….

Recently, while on our way back to the Bay Area from Sacramento, we made a stop in Lodi, which is a small AVA northeast of the Bay Area, to do some wine tasting. Lodi is most acclaimed for its Old Vine Zinfandels. It was a beautiful winter day so, between wineries, we stopped to take some photos of the vineyards. One of the things I appreciate about the “wine lifestyle” is the opportunity to see the seasons manifest in the vineyards. And, unless we taste at urban wineries, the vineyards and the surrounding countryside always provide such a beautiful backdrop to wine tasting.

Certainly, the vineyards are beautiful in spring and summer when in full bloom, but I also find something hauntingly majestic about vineyards when they are at rest in the winter. There is a stark contrast between gnarly “Old Vines” as pictured below, and the neatly trellised vines so often seen in wine country.

Lodi, CA - Old Vines - Photography by Martin Redmond

While there, we bought a bottle of 2008 Klinker Brick Old Vine Zinfandel (Vines average 85 years old – I’d say that qualifies ;-)

I think it’s important to note there is no objective definition of “Old Vines”. When I’ve posed the question at wineries that produce Old Vine Zinfandel, the most consistent answer has been vines more than 40 years old (at least here in California). That sounds about right to me. And that’s my personal standard for evaluating whether a wine with the “Old Vine” designation is a pretender or a contender.

So what’s the difference between Old Vines and young vines? According to Matt Kramer of Wine Spectator…

“The deep roots of old vines are their greatest asset. In a rainy harvest, a young vine’s shallow root system sucks up surface water, bloating the grapes and diluting the juice. Yet old vines are often surprisingly unaffected, as their deeper roots are untouched by the passing rainstorm. And in drought conditions those same deep roots can tap into water reserves in the subsoil unreachable by younger vines.

That deep root system also results in consistent production of evenly ripened grapes from vintage to vintage. And presumably Old Vines produce smaller yields which results in wines of greater structure, concentration, and complexity. Some would say Old Vines wines also age better, developing a more layered complexity over time. Unfortunately, I may never know. Whenever I purchase an Old Vines wine it never lasted longer than a couple of years in my cellar!

I believe Old Vines can make a positive difference provided the vines are in a good site, and the winemaker skillfully makes the wine. What do you think? Have you had wine sourced from “Old Vines”?

Cheers!

You might also be interested in:

If It Says “Old Vines,” Will You Buy? (Wine Spectator)

Old Vines, What’s the big deal? (Barossa Dirt…True Tales and Twisted Vines)

BBQ Spaghetti and Zin

After what has been an inordinate amount of rain, and cooler than usual temperatures in sunny California, we finally had nice sunny weather this past weekend.  No rain, sunny, and close to 70 degrees both days!  I’d plan to watch some Championship Sunday football, and wanted some BBQ.  But I wasn’t motivated enough to take the cover off the grill, roll up my sleeves, and get busy cleaning.  In other words, I was in an “Easy like Sunday morning” state of mind.  I was looking for something with BBQ flavor, but easy to prepare.  After a quick review of the God-made database, I decided on BBQ spaghetti courtesy of the Food Network’s Neely’s (after all they are famous for their BBQ!).

As advertised, it was easy to prepare and delicious!  My only quibble is that was too sweet for my tastes based on the recipe.  After a bit of calibration we brought down the sweetness a bit.  Next time, I’ll probably use only half the sugar.  My only other deviation from the recipe as stated, was that I used ground beef rather than cooked, chopped BBQ’d meat (I refer you back to my “Easy like Sunday morning state of mind”;-)

Hmmm…what wine to serve?  What better wine to enjoy with football, the All American sport, than Zinfandel the All-American wine. No brainer there, Zinfandel and BBQ go together like peanut butter and jelly, especially a sweet and spicy BBQ sauce!

I chose the 2006 Rosenblum Cellars Annette’s Reserve Zinfandel (Click here for my review).

As I hungrily dug into my BBQ spaghetti, then took a sip of the Zinfandel, I was reminded of the best description  of wine and food pairing I’ve seen.  It’s from the blog of one of my favorite wineries Ridge Vineyards:

“As far as food & wine pairing goes, … there to be essentially four tiers:

1. The pairing is so bad it actually makes two independently tasty options taste terrible when tasted together.

2. The pairing is essentially neutral; they don’t clash, but neither do they harmonize, they simply co-exist.

3. The pairing is a good one; the two components interact effectively, and complement one another’s respective profiles.

4. The pairing is magic! A pure case of the total being greater than the sum of the parts; what you end up tasting is neither the wine nor the food per se, but rather, some new third taste that doesn’t independently exist without the cojoinment of the components. When, like true love, each independent entity dissolves and disappears into the other, and from this miasma emerges something ever more stronger altogether.”

The  BBQ Spaghetti and Zinfandel didn’t quite make it to #4, but was definitely #3!  The  Annette’s was fruit forward enough to balance out the sweetness of the BBQ sauce, while at the same time playing well with the acidity, and slight piquantness of the sauce.   Each made the other taste better.

While I really enjoyed this pairing, I’m looking to elevate my game for the Super Bowl.  Rather than ground beef, I’m going to braise a pork shoulder, shred it, then pan-fry the pork in olive oil until it’s well browned and a bit crispy.   I’m also thinking of trying it with a Petite Sirah.  I’m feeling a BBQ Spaghetti Zinfandel/Petite Sirah smackdown coming on!

As always, I look forward to your comments….

Cali Zinfandel Flavor Characteristics

According to Wikipidia:

California regions

In California, 20% of the Zinfandel-growing counties hold 80% of the Zinfandel growing area; however, major producing areas such as San Joaquin County, Stanislaus County, and Madera County produce Zinfandel primarily for blends or jug wine.

Certain California regions are regarded as “exceptional” for Zinfandel, each with identifiable flavor characteristics.

  • Amador has a reputation for big, full-bodied Zinfandel. These extra-ripe wines have been called jammy, briary, and brambly, having aromas of sweet berries.
  • Although the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA in Santa Clara Valley produces Zinfandel from just 9 acres (3.64 hectares), the Zinfandel from that region is known for its complexity and depth.
  • Sonoma county has a Zinfandel-producing land area second only to that of San Joaquin County. The county contains the warm Dry Creek Valley AVA, known for its juicy Zinfandel with bright fruit, balanced acidity and notes of blackberry, anise and pepper. Dry Creek Valley produces Zinfandel in a variety of styles ranging from the high-alcohol Amador style to balanced, spicy wines.
  • San Luis Obispo, particularly the Paso Robles AVA with its hot days and cool maritime evenings, produces Zinfandel known for being soft and round.
  • While the Napa Valley AVA is known primarily for its Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah, Napa also produces Zinfandel wines described as plummy and intense, tasting of red berry fruits with cedar and vanilla. Zinfandel in Napa tends to be made in a claret style like red Bordeaux.
  • The Russian River Valley generally produces well during warm vintages. Otherwise, the grapes do not fully ripen, leaving the wines with excessive acidity. The area has mostly “old vine” Zinfandel, characterized as spicy and somewhat lower in alcohol than Zinfandel from other regions.
  • Mendocino County Zinfandel wines have been considered high quality, but they are less known because they are not heavily marketed.
  • Lodi has some of the oldest Zinfandel vines in California. While often used for White Zinfandel production, in the red style, Lodi Zinfandels have a reputation for being juicy and approachable.