A Taste of Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc #DCVSauvBlanc

Last month, I was invited to participate in a virtual wine tasting on Twitter featuring three premium Sauvignon Blanc from Dry Creek Valley. The tasting featured winemakers Tim Bell of Dry Creek Vineyard, Emmett Reed of Gustafson Family Vineyards, and Ed Sbragia of Sbragia Family Vineyards. It was moderated by Michelle McCue, president of McCue Communications

I was delighted to receive the invitation because I’m a fan of Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc.  My wife and I have attended the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley’s annual Passport to Dry Creek Valley a handful of times, and we always find a few standout Sauvignon Blanc when we make the round of wineries.  A couple of perennial favorites that come to mind are produced by Quivira Vineyards and Mauritson.

Dry Creek Valley is most renown for Zinfandel, but what you may not realize is that Sauvignon Blanc is the most planted white grape in Dry Creek Valley. More than 25 wineries in the area produce wines from it, and it is widely recognized as a Dry Creek Valley signature white wine.

From the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley…

Around 1970, David Stare was the first to plant sauvignon blanc in Dry Creek Valley. He first purchased a prune farm, then took out the prune trees to start the winery project that is nowDry Creek Vineyard. When Stare settled in Sonoma County, there wasn’t much enthusiasm for sauvignon blanc in the state of California. In neighboring Napa Valley, Robert Mondavi had begun marketing a dry-style sauvignon blanc by the name of Fume Blanc in 1968. Stare was quick to follow suit, adopting this name for his first Dry Creek Vineyard release, in 1972.

Images courtesy of Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley

Stare’s interest caught the attention of others arriving in Dry Creek Valley. While taking classes at UC Davis, he became friends with fellow student, Lou Preston.  Their vineyard instructor, James Cook, stressed how important it is to match the grape variety to the land and climate on which it grows. Though many harbored doubts about sauvignon blanc’s potential for success, Stare prevailed. He convinced Preston to plant sauvignon blanc in his vineyard. Stare and Preston’s success growing the grape gradually led to national attention and their wines garnered awards.

The three wines were tasted represented the wonderful possibilities for vinifying Sauvignon Blanc,  One wine was 100% Sauvignon Blanc, another was a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvigon Musque (a more aromatic clone of Sauvignon Blanc), and 100 % Sauvignon Musque.  Some of the wine were fermented in stainless steel, others in oak, or a combination thereof.


You can check out a recording of the live feed of the #DCVSauvBlanc tasting below:

My tasting notes follow:

  • 2013 Dry Creek Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc DCV3
    Very pale yellow-green color and nicely aromatic with grapefruit, passionfruit, and hints of grass and pineapple aromas. On the palate, its medium-bodied and between dry and off-dry with very good acidity and a wonderful texture. It shows grapefruit, lime, mandarin orange, and a kiss pineapple flavors with an appealing minerality. Medium finish. 100% Sauvignon Musque. 417 cases produced. Retail – $25 Very good to Outstanding; 89-91 pts
  • 2013 Gustafson Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc Estate Heritage Tree Vineyard 
    Yellow gold color with low-key stone fruit, passionfruit, pineapple and a hint of grassy aromas. On the palate, it’s medium bodied, and fresh with a wonderful texture, and peach, passionfruit, honeydew, vanilla flavors. Medium + finish. Field blend of 80% Sauvignon Blanc; 20% Sauvignon Musque 14.1% alcohol 350 cases produced Retail – $22 Very good; 86-88 pts
  • 2014 Sbragia Family Sauvignon Blanc Home Ranch 
    Pale yellow-green color with pungent gooseberry, grapefruit, green apple and a hint of grassy aromas. On the palate, it light to medium-bodied with bright acidity and grapefruit, passionfruit and lemongrass flavors. Medium finish 100% Sauvignon Blanc. 13.7% alcohol 200 cases produced Retail – $22 Very good; 86-88 pts

It was a delightful tasting!  Though I didn’t have time to enjoy any food during the tasting, Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most food friendly wines.  We always have a bottle on hand!

It pairs well with soft goat cheeses, grilled fish, shellfish, poultry, dishes accented, or dominated by green herbs such as dill, chives, or fennel, olive oil or cream-based pasta dishes (Seafood lasagna anyone?), a wide range of vegetarian fare and challenging to pair spring vegetables like asparagus and artichokes.

Discloure of Material Connection:  I received these wines free from the wineries and Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley as part of #DCVSauvBlanc Twitter Tasting.  I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are entirely my own. 


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. 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 2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

Recap of 2015 Passport to Dry Creek Valley #DCVPassport

My wife, a friend of ours and I attended past weekend’s Passport to Dry Creek Valley. This was the 26th Annual Passport to Dry Creek Valley.  For the uninitiated, here’s a description of the event:

Passport to Dry Creek Valley® was introduced in 1990, by the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley®, as a time every year when the winegrowing community could come together to celebrate the generations of farmers, vintners and families that are the roots of the Dry Creek Valley wine region. Over the 26 years since, the event has become a beloved tradition among wine lovers who enjoy a world-class tasting experience with a festive twist, all within the idyllic Dry Creek Valley.

This is our fourth consecutive year, and sixth overall Passport to Dry Creek Valley. It’s become an annual tradition.  We like it because it’s fun event, and you can’t beat the value when consider the wine, food and entertainment that’s offered.

Over one weekend, Passport guests are welcomed into 45+ wineries throughout Dry Creek Valley, each offering a unique pairing of premium wine, gourmet food and entertainment. Take a vineyard tour for a grape-to-glass look at Dry Creek Valley wine. Sample exclusive vintages, rarely available to taste. Meet winemakers and grapegrowers – the generations of people behind the wine and magical ‘Dry Creek Valley spirit’. Savor exquisite food and wine pairings from acclaimed chefs.  Delight in discovering each winery’s unique Passport “theme,” a tradition of the event. The possibilities are as varied as the wineries themselves and promise a fun, unforgettable weekend. Enjoy!  The event runs from 11:00 a.m. – 4:30p each day.

It turned out to be another gorgeous weekend in Dry Creek Valley.

I thought what I call the “Dry Creek Streak“ was in jeopardy when it rained very early on Saturday morning (I’ve been told by many that it’s never rained during Passport ).  But sure enough, it cleared up by the time Passport started on Saturday and Sunday was even more beautiful!

Recap of 2015 Passport to Dry Creek Valley

As I sit here on the porch of a farm-house we rented for the weekend reflecting on what a fun weekend it was, my wife and our friend are “napping”.


Since I’ve got some time, here’s a recap of  the memorable wines, food and wine pairings and entertainment we experienced.


Since there are so many wineries, you need a plan (check out the participating wineries and/or the map of wineries).

We drove up Friday and finalized our plans while having dinner at the fabulous Chalkboard in Healdsburg, which has a thriving restaurant scene.

Our plan always includes a mix of favorites we visit every year (Seghesio, Rafanelli, Quivira, Kokomo, Papapietro Perry), plus wineries we’ve  either visited intermittently, or haven’t visited before.  The planning was made a bit easier this year, because there were a couple perennial favorites not participating this year for one reason or another – Unti (we dig the wines), and Stephen Walker ( the wines were good, but candidly we went for the last couple of years for the all you can eat oysters).

The Plan for Saturday was to visit:

We typically allow for an hour or so at each winery, so we plan to visit 5-6 wineries a day Then we see how it goes because as Helmuth Carl Bernard Graf von Moltke once said…

“No Battle Plan Survives Contact With the Enemy”

As it turned out things went better than planned on Saturday.  We visited the aforementioned wineries plus (thanks to “one stop shopping” at Family Wineries) the following wineries:


My favorite wines were:

  • 2012 Seghesio Pagani Ranch Zinfandel
  • 2012 Seghesio Marian’s Reserve
  • 2013 Ridge Geyserville
  • 2012 Ridge Lytton Springs
  • 2012 Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2012 Mazzocco Warm Springs Ranch Zinfandel
  • 2014 Kokomo Grenache Rosé Pauline’s Vineyard
  • 2012 Papapietro Perry Pinot Noir Leras Family Vyd

My favorite food and wine pairings were:

  • Seghesio - 2013 Seghesio Barbera paired with Seghesio Panissi;Risotto alla Barbera w/Family Recipe Sausage, Cranberry Beans and Grano Padano Parmesan + 2011 Grenache 1942 Block paired with Linguine w/Wild Mushrooms, Hazelnut Cream Sauce, and Truffled Pecorino!
  • Mauritson – 2013 Mauritson Sauvignon Blanc paired with Mini Crab Cakes w/White Remoulade Sauce + 2013 Rockpile Zinfandel paired with Painted Hills Shredded Beef Sliders
  • Amphora - 2009 Bevill/Wolcott Vyd Petite Sirah paired with Chocolate Truffles with Gold Dust
  • Kokomo – 2012 Estate Malbec paired with Street tacos; Carnitas with mole sauce, roasted corn and chipotle aioli
  • Peterson – 2013 Geyserville Fire Dept 100 yr Anniversary Zinfandel paired with Firehouse Chili.

Other memorable moments:

There was wonderful live music at Seghesio, and Kokomo.  And Amphora offered a back to back tasting of their 2012 Aglianico and 2014 Aglianico (barrel sample). The 2012 was aged in oak, while the 2014 is being aged in an amphora (see photo above lower right corner).  Vintage variation aside, I found the difference between the two wine fascinating.  The 2014 showed more pronounced minerality and a texture I favored.  If you’re ever wondered about the difference between a wine aged in oak v concrete this was a wonderful opportunity to find out!

We didn’t visit any wineries we hadn’t been too before though.  We vowed to rectify that on Sunday!


The plan for Sunday included three wineries we hadn’t visited before (*):


My favorite wines were:

  • 2012 A. Rafanelli Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2013 Quivira Sauvignon Blanc Fig Tree
  • 2012 Quivira Zinfandel Reserve Dry Creek Valley
  • 2013 David Coffaro Lagrein
  • Cast Blanc de Noirs
  • 2013 Cast Estate Zinfandel
  • 2011 Sbragia Cabernet Sauvignon Andolsen Vineyard

My favorite food and wine pairings were:

  • A. Rafanelli -  2012 Cabernet Sauvginon paired with lamb pizza and beef brisket
  • Cast Estate – 2012 Estate Petite Sirah paired with pulled pork sliders
  • David Coffaro – 2014 Rose paired with Ahi Tuna Tartare
  • Kachina  2013 Charbono paired with Yucatan Style Beans
  • Quivira – 2011 Syrah paired with Nonie’s Meatball Brochette with Heirloom Tomato Puree adn Vella Dry Jack Cheese
  • Sbragia – 2012 La Promesa Zinfandel paired Farro & Spicy Salami Salad

Other memorable moments:

The live Jazz of Christian Foley at Cast was wonderful and seemed to be a perfect pairing with their wines and the view from their patio. I could have stayed longer.  The Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin impersonators at Sbargia were very entertaining! were This is the second or third time we’ve finished Passport at Wilson.  DJ Fiznik Rick was rockin’ the house and it’s always a party with Wilson.  It’s become out favorite last stop for Passport.

Insider’s tip:  Unless you check in at A. Rafanelli, get there early. The line to get in is long. But the very hospitable staff comes out to pour wines while your waiting and the Italian Trio that entertains makes the wait bearable.  Once inside, the food totally makes it worth the wait!

We had a fantastic weekend at Passport to DCV!  It’s become an annual tradition for us!

#DrinkPink Rosé of the Week: 2012 Dashe Cellars Vin Gris

It’s that time of year… Yes, it’s Rosé season!. With that in mind, I’ve embarked upon a series of weekly “Drink Pink!“ Rosé tastings.  This week’s Rosé is the 2012 Dashe Cellars Vin Gris.

The Winery

Dashe Cellars, founded by Michael and Ann Dashe in 1996, is an urban winery located near Jack London Square in Oakland, CA. Michael Dashe is the Winemaker, and Anne Dashe is the General Manager. Between the two, they have 40-plus years experience in the wine business, including experience at some big-time wineries such as Ridge Vineyards, Far Niente, Chappellet, Schramsberg Wine Cellars in California; Château Lafite-Rothschild, Château La Dominique in France,and Cloudy Bay in New Zealand. The winery produces about 10,000 cases annually.

The Wine

From Dashe Cellars…To make this Vin Gris we “bled off” juice from tanks of Grenache, Petite Sirah, and Zinfandel fruit from our Dry Creek vineyards. This technique—used in France for generations—allows us to concentrate the flavors in certain lots by reducing the amount of juice in contact with the skins.

Dashe uses native yeast to conduct fermentation. The wine is a blend of 90% Grenache, 6% Petite Sirah, and 4% Zinfandel, fermented dry in separate lots, then blended together.

2012 Dashe Vin Gris

My tasting note follows:

Rose colored with juicy berry, spicy pepper and a kiss of mineral aromas.  On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, fresh, dry and well-balanced  with strawberry, cherry and spicy pepper flavors.  Medium finish. 13.9% alcohol; 107 cases produced; $16 SRP

Rating:  B+:

Pair with: I love this wine with BBQ chicken.  It has the weight to stand up to BBQ sauce, and the spice profile of the wine also complements the sauce.  It works well as both and with food.

Other Related Posts:

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.

Drink Pink! Rosé of the Week: 2012 Quivira Grenache Rosé

It’s that time of year… Yes, it’s Rosé season!. With that in mind, I’ve embarked upon a   series of weekly “Drink Pink!“ Rosé tastings.  This week’s Rosé is the 2012 Quivira Grenache Rosé Dry Creek Valley.

The Winery

Quivira Vineyards and Winery, located in Healdsburg, CA specializes in Zinfandel, Sauvignon, and Rhône varietals.  The Quivira estate is composed of four distinct vineyards in the Dry Creek AVA - Wine Creek Ranch, Goat Trek Vineyard, Katz/Absner Ranch, and Anderson Ranch – a total of 93 acres of vineyards.

In the 16th to 18th centuries, the area we know as Sonoma County appeared on European maps as a mythical kingdom called “Quivira” whose streets were said to be paved with gold. Today, the region’s “gold” is the acres of grapevines that thrive there.

Quivira has been Demeter certified Biodynamic® and organic winery since 2005!  In addition to their vineyards, the estate consists of lush biodynamically and organically farmed gardens, a pond, greenhouse, chicken coop and a solar electric system which has supplies all of their electricity.  Produce from the garden is supplies local markets with fresh produce.  Additionally, Quivira offers estate-grown and estate-bottle olive oil and estate honey in their tasting room.

My most recent visit was during Passport to Dry Creek Valley this past April.  We always make it a point to visit Quivira because we love their wines, the tasting experience and checking out the gardens.

The Wine 

By all accounts, 2012 was a vintage to remember. A near perfect growing season left winemakers with a rare combination of bountiful yields and beautiful fruit. The 2012 rosè offers the first glimpse of just what that means in the bottle. A good harvest meant they could be particularly selective, sourcing the fruit entirely from their organic and biodynamically-farmed vineyards and picking at lower sugar levels (21 to 23 Brix) to keep the alcohol level low and the flavors balanced.  The wine is a blend of 51% Grenache, 32% Syrah, and 17% Mourvedre that underwent sur lie aging in both stainless steel and neutral French oak barrels.

Quivira 2012 Rose 2

My tasting notes follow:

Light red color with grapefruit, strawberry, and watermelon aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, and dry with crisp acidity, and a wonderfully supple mouthfeel. It shows strawberry, watermelon, citrus, and mineral flavors. Medium long finish.  13.5% alcohol | 602 cases produced| SRP-$19

Rating:  A- This is the third consecutive year I’ve purchased a Rosé from Quivira and it seems to get better each year! Definitely a Top 10 under $20 Rosé contender!

Pair with: A versatile, full-bodied rosè that could stand up to spicy, ethnic fare or smoked meats, but is perfectly suited for its familiar role as an aperitif. Try it with Grilled Salmon with Cucumber Dill Sauce.

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.

Recap Of Passport To Dry Creek Valley 2013 – Day One

My wife and I and a couple of friends attended the 24th Annual Passport To Dry Creek Valley held April 27th and 28th.  Dry Creek Valley is a premium wine region in Sonoma County, California. It’s renown for its Zinfandel, but Dry Creek Valley, which is only  sixteen miles long by two miles wide offers a diverse range of vineyards, and world-class wines. The theme for this year’s event was “A Modern Tradition with Century-Old RootsAccording to the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley..

Passport to Dry Creek Valley was introduced in 1990, by the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley, as a time every year when the winegrowing community could come together to celebrate the generations of farmers, vintners and families that are the roots of the Dry Creek Valley wine region. Over the 24 years since, the event has become a beloved tradition among wine lovers who enjoy a world-class tasting experience with a festive twist, all within the idyllic Dry Creek Valley.  Over one weekend, Passport guests are welcomed into 50+ wineries throughout Dry Creek Valley, each offering a unique pairing of premium wine, gourmet food and entertainment.

I’ve been to beaucoup wine events, but what make this event special for me is the combination of wine, food, and entertainment. Check out the list of 52 participating wineries, and activities. The event was held from 11 am to 4:30 pm daily, so it would be virtually impossible to go to all the wineries over a two-day period (unless you decided to sprint from winery to winery and stayed at each winery for less than 15 minutes)  With an event like this with wine, food pairing, and entertainment, I think it’s best to take one’s time, and enjoy it. It’s about quality rather than quality for me!

As far as which wineries to visit, we have a list of perennial favorites (Bella, Mauritson, Quivira, Ridge, and Seghesio) to which we mix in some wineries that are new to us, and leave some room for “audibles” – on the fly changes to the itinerary based on a whim and/or the feedback we get from other attendees.

We started the day with  a vineyard tour of Gustafson Family Vineyards which boasts a spectacular vineyard located 1800 feet above sea level.  The tour was hosted by owner Dan Gustafson and Winemaker & Vineyard Manager Emmet Reed.  The property which used to a sheep ranch. Today it’s both home to the Gustafson family and a winery.  It’s also home to the “Sonoma County Heritage Tree”, a 300-year-old madrone tree that graces the property. It’s the oldest of its kind in Sonoma, and possibly all of California.

The vineyard was planted in 2004. The vineyard at 20 acres is planted to Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling.  Gustafson wines are all produced from estate fruit.

Dan Gustafson and Emmet Reed

Owner Dan Gustafson and Winemaker & Vineyard Manager Emmet Reed

It was a very informative tour.  The passion and pride that Dan and Emmet have for the property was quite evident, and rightfully so.

DCVPassport Gustafson Picnic View

View from the picnic area at Gustafson Family Winery overlooking Lake Sonoma

After the tour, which lasted about 30 minutes, we received a pleasant surprise when Dan informed us wed have the opportunity to taste their wines. I wasn’t expecting that because the event didn’t start until 11 and Gustafson wasn’t our assigned starting winery.

I tasted 4 of the 5 wine offered (I skipped the dessert wine).  My favorite was the 2009 Estate Cabernet.  It was perfectly paired with Flank Steak sliders.

We had a great experience at Gustafson. Aside from the tour, and the very good to excellent wines, the winery itself is beautiful.  And the winery has, hands down IMO, the best picnic area in Sonoma County with stunning views of Lake Sonoma and Mt. St. Helena.

Dry Creek Valley Cal-Italian Style

Our check-in winery was Seghesio Family Vineyards, a perennial favorite. Picnic table was set up in the tree-shaded Grove. The primary tasting was held the spacious, idyllic, tree-shaded area called “The Grove” in front of the winery. There was some Live music by Frobeck

Gamberi and Fregola

Gamberi and Fregola; You could pair with your choice of 2010 Sangiovese, 2011 Barbera, or 2009 Quindici

The theme as “Spring celebration of wine and food ― Italian style!”  They had plenty of food including Old world dishes like  Risi e Bisi, Gamberi e Fregola, Penne Bolognese, plus their family Sausage!  Each dish was superbly paired with Seghesio’s great line-up of wines that included Zinfandels, Barbera, Sangiovese, and Arneis (a lovely crisp refreshing white), plus a real treat, the 2009 Quindici, the first wine by Seghesio Family Vineyards to be produced and bottled in Italy. It’s a blend of 80% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot, and 10% Alicante Bouschet primarily sourced from Montalcino,

After tasting in The Grove, we headed down to the century-old barrel cellar for more tasting including Seghesio’s Old-Vine Zinfandel (great with brownies!), and a library selection the 2003 Omaggio - their Super Tuscan blend. My favorites (it’s impossible for me to pick one) were the 2009 Quindici, and the 2010 Cortina Zinfandel

Brother to Brother

After pulling ourselves away from Seghesio, we called an audible, and decided to check out Manzanita Creek Winery since it pretty close to Seghesio, and we’ve not been there before.

Manzanita Creek winery was founded by brothers Jack and William Salerno in 2001.  The brothers worked in construction and painting, which is unusual for winemakers.     Unlike so many wineries in Dry Creek Valley which are located among the vineyards, Manzanita Creek is located in a light industrial center, hence their tag line, “Great Wines…No Scenery…Never Boring”.  I recognized the label as a brand being sold at Costco, so they’re definitely enjoying some success. When we arrived they were pouring two Zinfandels and a Chardonnay, and serving up steak (and a tasty chimichurri), sausage and pasta salad.  Alas, the schedule live entertainment wasn’t performing while we were there.  My favorite wine tasted was the 2008 Zinfandel Carreras Old Vine

Oysters and wines galore

Next up was Stephen & Walker Trust Winery, just up the street from Manzanita Creek. It’s another winery we’d never before visited. 

They easily won the prize for most wines poured on Day 1. They were pouring 11 wines…

Stephen and Walker Wine-up

and serving up all you could eat oysters from Hog Island Oyster Co.!


Folks, we love raw oysters (an excellent pairing with their 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, Green Valley of Russian River Valley). We parked ourselves in front of the oysters, and slurped ourselves onto the Stephen Walker/Hog Island Oyster Co watch list.  I’m pretty sure there is a picture of my wife and her buddy on a wall somewhere at both places with a warning of some sort;-)

Aside from the oysters, they also served up handmade pizzas from a wood-fired oven, sausage sliders and cinnamon rolls (fantastic with their 2010 Chardonnay, Botrytis).  The Stephen and Walker staff was a friendly and fun bunch.

I can guaran-damn-tee you, if they’re serving oysters next year…we’ll be baaaaack!

I tried 7 of the 11 wines offered including tasting through all their Pinot Noirs, and Howell Mountain Cabs.  My favorite wine was the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain.

Zin Alley

Dry Creek Valley is absolutely beautiful this time of year. The weather was great, the vines are gorgeous.  So after visiting the wineries in town, we were keen to get back out in beautiful vineyards. Our next stop was Talty Vineyards and Winery.


Talty is all about Zinfandel, the grape for which Dry Creek Valley is most well known.   Their estate Zinfandels are sourced from their six-acre vineyard.  They were tasting 4 Zinfandels, which were paired with “Famous TBO Lamb Tacos” (Marinated Rosen lamb with cherry chipotle Zinfandel sauce, Cabot White Cheddar, and Salsa de Cabo). Score!

Lamb Tacos

Live entertainment was provided by “The Aces” band

Great pairing and Zins!  My favorites were the 2010 Dwight Family Vineyard and 2010 William Talty Estate Zinfandel.

The Wine Country Experience

Next up was Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery, which is one of the most beautiful wineries in Dry Creek Valley.  Ferrari-Carano (“F-C”) is best know for its breathtaking Ferrari-Carano Gardens which includes waterfalls, bridges and an amazing array of flowers. 

It’s a great place to visit if you want the “Wine County Experience”.  In addition to the beautiful Italianate-style Vila Fiore, and the Gardens, you’ll find a great gift shop with plenty of wine country gifts, specialty food products, and housewares.

ferrari carano

Ferrari-Carano’s Villa Fiore

F-C was pouring five wines. The wines were poured in their tank room and cellars, so we got a chance to look around the winery a bit  My favorite was the Barrel Room. It was literally and figuratively cool.

FC Barrel Room

The Barrel Room at Ferrari-Carano

Of the five wines tasted, my favorite was the 2010 Siena, a Sangiovese/Malbec blend.  I must also mention the 2010 Baci, a Zinfandel infused with Natural Dark Chocolate.  It was a heavenly pairing with a Cherry Chocolate Biscotti!. Then again all the wines were expertly paired with food at F-C!

Sonoma Love

Our final stop of the day was Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves. Bella is a small winery run by Scott and Lynn Adams who got married in wine country, fell in love with it, and decided their life goal would be pursue their passions for outdoor living and fine wine.  The couple lives with their daughters on a 10-acre vineyard in the Russian River Valley.  Commencing with the 2008 vintage, they established a  independent winery focused on tiny lots of pinot noir and chardonnay from the fabled Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast winegrowing regions. Taking inspiration from their home property, the brand is called “Ten Acre”

I love going to their Wine Caves, which tucked into a steep hillside under their prized Lily Hill vineyard.  The caves were excavated and completed almost 10 year ago, and include 5,200 square feet of barrel storage and working space and an additional 1,500 square feet of entertainment space.

Bella Caves

The theme  brought to mind Alice in Wonderland, and the live entertainment was magical. The food, prepared by Bella’s Michelin Star Chef, Bruce Frieseke was fabulous!

We literally kicked out shoes off, planted ourselves under a shade tree, and sipped their wines (Ten Acre Rosé for me…) while enjoying the entertainers. Perfect end to a great day!  My favorite wine was the 2010 Lily Hill Estate Zinfandel.

Look for my recap of Day 2 soon! 

Related posts you might enjoy:

For more information about the Passport to Dry Creek Valley check out the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley 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.

2013 ZAP Zinfandel Festival Recap!

Last week I attended the 22nd Annual Zinfandel Festival.  It’s hosted by the Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (“ZAP”).  This was my second year attending this mother of all things Zinfandel event.

I attended two of the four events – Epicuria Food & Zin Pairings on Thursday, and the Grand Tasting on Saturday.


Epicuria, a “gourmet adventure”, is a walk around tasting offering samples of diverse culinary delights prepared by a cadre of restaurants and other food purveyors paired with Zinfandel.  What I appreciate about it is that it expands one’s perception of Zinfandel’s affinity for a variety of foods.  In other words, Zinfandel can be so much more than a BBQ, and burger wine!

Embark on a gourmet adventure as you explore the versatile flavors of Zinfandel at ZAP’s informal dine-around event. You have the opportunity to sample sophisticated and whimsical culinary creations from master chefs, perfectly paired with 50 top Zinfandel wines.

I came to the event hungry. Very hungry.  But I knew there would be plenty of food. Top notch food.  And plenty of Zinfandel! Top notch Zinfandel!  You would have had to roll me out of the Concourse Exhibition Center if I’d tried everything, even half of everything offered!

Zinfandel Festival - Epicuria crowd

The epicurean highlights for me were:

  • Harris’ signature steak tartare beautifully paired with Ridge Vineyards 2005 Lytton Springs, and 2007 Lytton Springs.
  • Smoked duck, apple compote, fennel crepe from Taste in Plymouth (fabulous restaurant – highly recommend) paired with 2010 Terra d’Oro Deaver Vineyard Zinfandel.
  • Spicy Thai curry pulled pork on candied jalapeno rafts garnished with cilantro and lime from Le Truc, paired with Rock Wall Wine Company 2010 Hendry Reserve.
  • Lamb merguez and wild boar sausage with mango chutney and sauerkraut from Rosamunde Sausage Grill.
  • Soleil’s African Cuisine; Moroccan Carmoula seafood with couscous Tanzanian coconut fish; plus beans stew (slow garbanzo, red beans in spiced coconut sauce).
  • Chicken croquette with chipotle paired with m2 2010 Old Vine, Soucie Vineyard
  • The little bit of carnivorous heaven on earth pictured below is a “lamb lollipop” courtesy of Ruth’s Chris Steak House.  I’ve never had one before, but let’s just say it was the most delicious, delectable, and delightful lamb that I have ever had the pleasure of consuming! It was paired with 2009 Bonneau Rockpile Zinfandel.

Zinfandel Festival Epicuria - lamb lollipop

Oh and for my sweet tooth, I capped off my Epicuria experience at Healdsburg Toffee Company which had a fabulous selection of sweet treats including chocolate drizzled candied cayenne pecans; cinnamon and nutmeg spice in milk chocolate, dark chocolate cherry bomb; and the peanut butter crisps pictured below:

Zinfandel Festival Epicuria -dessert

But the best of the bunch for me was the bacon-dipped chocolate bites! My sweet goodness!

Grand Tasting

ZAP’s Zinfest is very well-organized.  I especially appreciated the Tasting Program and Tasting Map.  In addition to tasting hundreds of Zinfandels and Zinfandel blends, Saturday activities also featured Winemaker Workshops, ZinKitchen Seminars, and new for 2013, a Terroir Tasting area.  One thing I did miss from last year was the Media Lounge – a quiet area set aside for media and trade folks lined with bottles almost every producer.  It was great to be able to adjourn to the Media Lounge  and taste at one’s own pace once the main floor got crowded mid-afternoon when the general public is admitted (there is a 4 hour window between 10 am-2 pm for media and trade). Once the general public is added to the mix, the event turns into a writhing sea of humanity.

Zinfandel Festival - ZAP barrels

And speaking of bodies of water…check out the young man on bucket brigade below emptying dump buckets from the ocean of Zinfandel!


The Grand Testing featured 193 wineries scheduled to participate (probably 400 wines).  Since it was impossible for me to taste all the wines, my strategy was to try 25 producers that were new to me. That strategy creates a dilemma for me.  That’s because on one hand, it means skipping some of my favorite perennial top-notch Zinfandel producers like Bedrock Wine Co.Black SearsCarlisleCarol SheltonDashe CellarsJC CellarsRidge VineyardsRobert BialeSeghesioTurley and Valdez Family.  On the other hand, I dig uncovering new gems.  Of course the “right” answer for me was do both.  I tasted wines from 25 new to me producers.  Then at the end of the day did my “taster’s choice” when I stop by some favorites to do a little tasting!

I ended up tasting 75 wines before tapping out mid-afternoon,and doing my “taster’ choice”.

My favorite new to me wines, which I rated “outstanding” – 90 points or higher were (in alphabetical order):

  • 2011 Brown Estate Vineyards Zinfandel Chiles Valley ($50)
  • 2011 Brown Estate Vineyards Zinfandel Napa Valley ($42)
  • 2010 Charter Oak Winery Guido Ragghianti Old World Field Blend ($58)
  • 2010 Charter Oak Old Vine Monte Rosso, Sonoma County ($48)
  • 2009 Grgich Hills Zinfandel Estate Grown ($35)
  • 2010 Klinker Brick Zinfandel Old Vine Old Ghost ($37)
  • 2010 Limerick Lane Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley ($40)
  • 2010 Limerick Lane Zinfandel Russian River Valley ($44)
  • 2010 Ottimino Zinfandel Biglieri Vineyard ($38)
  • 2009 Ottimino Zinfandel Rancho Bello ($30)
  • 2010 Puccioni Zinfandel ($29)
  • 2011 Ravenswood Zinfandel Teldeschi $35) (barrel sample)
  • 2009 Scott Harvey Vineyard 1869, Napa Valley ($45)
  • 2010 St. Anne’s Crossing Serracino, Dry Creek Valley ($50)
  • 2010 St. Anne’s Crossing Zinfandel King City ($36)
  • 2010 Storybrook Mountain Zinfandel Mayacamas Range ($36)
  • 2010 Talty Winery Zinfandel Dwight Family ($30)
  • 2009 Talty Winery Zinfandel Estate William Talty Vineyards ($38)
  • 2010 Three Wine Company Zinfandel Evangelho Vineyard ($32)
  • 2009 Vino Noceto Zinfandel OGP Grandpère Vineyard ($29)
  • 2009 Woodenhead Zinfandel Guido Venturi Vineyard ($34)
  • 2010 Woodenhead Zinfandel Leras Ranches Bertoli ($30)

In terms of my favorite perennial top-notch producers, I was only able to get to a few because it got to be too crowded.  The wines from that bunch that stood out for me were:

  • 2010 Black Sears Estate, Napa Valley
  • 2011 Carlisle Winery Monte Rosso Vineyard, Sonoma Valley ($45) 
  • 2010 Dashe Cellars Florence Vineyard, Dry Creek ($35)
  • 2011 Ridge Vineyards Primitvo (barrel sample)
  • 2010 Valdez Family St. Peter’s Church Zinfandel

Whenever I go to ZAP’s Zinfest, I’m reminded of my epiphany wine.  It was 1999 Lolonis Redwood Valley Zinfandel.  So my old friend Zinfandel…until our next reunion…I’ll drink of you often! Cheers!

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Wine Of The Week; 2007 Rosenblum Cellars Zinfandel Rockpile Road Vineyard

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 Rosenblum Cellars Zindandel Rockpile Road Vineyard

The Winery

Rosenblum Cellars is an urban winery located in Alameda, CA.  It was founded by Kent Rosenblum, a veterinarian in 1978.  In 2008 it was sold to beverage giant Diageo.   Rosenblum made their reputation making premium Zinfandel but they also make Rhone varietals.  Their 2003 Rockpile Road Zinfandel was the #3 wine in the Wine Spectator Top 100 wines of 2005 when Jeff Cohn (who went on to found JC Cellars) was the winemaker.  It was an amazing accomplishment because before then no Zinfandel from California had cracked the Top 10!

I don’t recall how my wife and I discovered Rosenblum, but we were in the Rosenblum Cellars wine club for years. It was our first wine club, so I have many fond memories.  It’s where my wife learned to love Petite Sirah (she used to be like Miles in “Sideways” except it as…”I am not drinking Petite Sirah!!”, instead of Merlot), and the wine club release parties were fantastic…they busted out all their wines ( I remember going to one release party where there must have been 25-30 wines to try!  One might say Rosenblum is also where I learned to pace myself!).  We also made some enduring friendships (Kenny, Miguel and others) there.  Not too long after the winery was sold to Diageo though, we decided to leave the wine club.  It was a combination of factors, but I mostly chalk it up to our palate’s evolving, and being in the ‘promiscuous” phase of our wine journey.

The Wine

The grapes for this wine were sourced from Rockpile Road Vineyard, an iconic Zinfandel vineyard situated in the Rockpile AVA, and owned by Jack Florence, Jr

The vineyard sits at 1,100 feet above Lake Sonoma, and is situated in a unique microclimate with moderate temperatures, high winds, and lack of fog, all of which present an optimal environment for producing great Zinfandel fruit. .

Here’s what Rosenblum Cellars says about the wine…

A deep, purple hue leads ultra-ripe blackberry, boysenberry, briar and cocoa aromas in our 2007 Rockpile Road Zinfandel. Across the midpalate, a complex layering of rich, dark fruit develops, balanced by complex wood tannins that flank the tongue and pick up bright currant notes through the lengthy finish. “A wine with shoulders…”

Alas, this is my last bottle from the stellar 2007 vintage!

Wine of the Week; Rosenblum Cellars 2007 Rockpile Zinfandel

Rosenblum Cellars 2007 Rockpile Zinfandel

My tasting notes follow:

Nearly opaque violet color with kirsch, vanilla spice, and a hint of violet aromas. On the palate, it’s fruity, but well-balanced and silky smooth with sweet soft tannins, and surprisingly good acidity. It’s medium-bodied with black cherry, blackberry, cassis, vanilla spice and a hint of chocolate flavors Medium-long finish

Rating: Highly Recommended. It’s drinking beautifully now!

Pair with: Carne Asada Tacos, Fajitas, Red bean and rice, burgers, BBQ, grilled pizza  or for a twist smoked Ahi Tuna!

The Wine Geek Stuff:

  • Alcohol: 15.3%
  • Closure: Cork
  • AVA: > CaliforniaSonoma CountySonoma Valley>Rockpile
  • Grape Varieties: 100% Zinfandel
  • Cooperage: 40% French oak; 60% American oak – 40% new for 14 months
  • Retail: Unknown – I purchased for $28
  • Cases produced: Unknown
  • Drink: now – 2015

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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


Wine Of The Week; 2011 Dashe Cellars Les Enfants Terribles Grenache

My wine of the week for September 15-September 21 is the 2011 Dashe Cellars Les Enfants Terribles Grenache, Dry Creek Valley.

The Winery

Dashe Cellars, founded by Michael and Ann Dashe in 1996, is an urban winery located near Jack London Square in Oakland, CA.   Michael Dashe is the Winemaker, and Anne Dashe is the General Manager.  Between the two, they have 40-plus years experience in the wine business, including experience at  some big-time wineries such as Ridge Vineyards, Far Niente, Chappellet, Schramsberg Wine Cellars in California;  Château Lafite-Rothschild, Château La Dominique in France,and  Cloudy Bay in New Zealand.   The winery produces about 10,000 cases annually.

The Wine

Grenache (both Grenache Noir – used to produce red wine such as this, and Grenache Blanc – used to produce white wine) is a wine on the upswing.  It’s finding favor with consumers because it’s packed with juicy red fruit flavors like cherry, and strawberries, and its luscious texture. Not only that, it’s priced well too. It’s easy to find a great bottle of Grenache between $10-$30.

Grenache is a malleable grape that can be made in a lighter “Beaujolais” style, or a more full-bodied, higher alcohol, more tannic style depending on the vessel in which it is aged (typically stainless steel, new, or depending on the style the winemaker seeks), and how long it is aged.  For decades Grenache has been a blending grape used in jug wines or part of a “GSM” (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) blend. But I’m seeing more and more stand-alone varietal bottlings of Grenache.

The 2011 Dashe Les Enfants Terribles (Wild Child in French) Grenache is a great example of Grenache  made in the lighter, Old-World “Beaujolais” style.  It’s made with low sulfur and native yeasts found naturally growing on the grapes.  After 12 hours of fermenting some of the wine was “bled off”  and used to make the Dashe Vin Gris, a technique that simultaneously concentrates this wine.  The wine is unfined.

2011 Dashe Cellars Les Enfants Grenache, Dry Creek Valley

2011 Dashe Cellars Les Enfants Grenache, Dry Creek Valley

My tasting notes follow:

Strawberry red color with strawberry, cherry, white pepper, spice and a bit of hard candy aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied  and lush with pure strawberry, cherry, spice and mineral flavors. Medium+ finish.  - 90pts

This is a very good food wine. It drinks well as an aperitif, and with light meals.   I’ve enjoyed it with a wide variety of foods including charcuterie, paella, barbeque (it takes a chill very well), and pizza.

The Wine Geek Stuff:

Alcohol: 13.1% alcohol.

Closure: Cork.

AVA:  > California> Sonoma> > Dry Creek Valley

Varietal(s): 100% Grenache

Cooperage: 5 months in 100% older French Oak 500 Liter barrels

Retail: $24

Cases produced: 187

Ageability: Drink now, or hold for 2-3 years

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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


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


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


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!