Get Your Zinfandel On At The 2015 Zinfandel Experience!

I don’t know about you, but I always look forward to turning the page on a new year!  It always feels like a “fresh start” for me on many levels.  Not only is it a time for me to recommit to various goals, it’s also a time for me to look ahead and do some planning, especially when comes to various wine events.  And at the top of my list every year, is the annual Zinfandel Experience held in January. This year’s event is being held January 29th through 31st in San Francisco.

I have a soft spot in my heart for Zinfandel.  Not only was a Zinfandel was my “epiphany” wine, it’s also the quintessential California grape variety.

My palate has evolved since that epiphany wine oh so many years ago, but I feel like Zinfandel has also evolved.  It’s been interesting to experience the evolution of Zinfandel, and attending this event the last several years, with its diverse selection of wines and styles from renowned and emerging producers alike, has made me appreciate the evolution all the more.


Old Vine Zinfandel in Lodi

Attracting Zinfandel lovers from around the world, the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (“ZAP”), Zinfandel Experience is celebrating its 24th anniversary.  It’s the largest single varietal tasting of its kind, bringing together top winemakers and wine enthusiasts to celebrate America’s grape.

Set at both the historic Presidio overlooking the San Francisco Bay and the iconic Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco, there are four festive celebratory events over three days.

Epicuria — Thursday, January 29 from 6pm to 8:30pm at the Golden Gate Club in SF’s Presidio

Love Zinfandel, but looking to expand your repertoire beyond Zinfandel and BBQ?  Epicuria is wonderful opportunity to sample a diverse and creative selection of small bites.  And don’t let the “small bites” thing fool you.  You’ll leave with a full belly and a smile. There will be over 30 winery and restaurants combinations.  One of my favorite unexpectedly good pairing from this event in the past was Zinfandel paired Smoked Ahi Tuna!

Flights! Forums of Flavor — Friday, January 30 from 10:30am to 1pm at the Four Seasons Hotel in SF
Flights is a seated tasting seminar featuring 15 highly allocated, limited production Zinfandels.  It’s a great opportunity to learn insights from the experts and experience the range, depth and character of the wines. ZAP will once again partner with the Historic Vineyard Society to present wines from exceptional old Zinfandel vineyards. Three flights of five wine from   Contra Costa County, Amador County and Dry Creek Valley will be presented.  This event always sells out, so get your tickets sooner rather than later!

Winemakers’ Dinner, Reception and Auction — Friday, January 30 from 5:30pm to 10pm at the Four Seasons Hotel 
The theme for this years reception, dinner and auction is Mad Men. The reception will feature winemakers ‘pouring it big’ with magnums and reserve offerings. You’ll experience an intimate dinner hosted by celebrities of the wine world and a customized menu that boasts the best in farm-to-table cuisine. The live and silent auctions will feature one-of-a-kind lots, rare bottles, winery experiences and so much more, with proceeds benefiting ZAP’s programming, education and Heritage Projects.

The Tasting — Saturday, January 31 from 11am to 5pm at The Presidio 
The centerpiece of the 2015 Zinfandel Experience is The Tasting.  There will be over 100 wineries pouring! It’s an opportunity for wine lovers engage in personal conversations with winemakers while exploring the flavors of Zinfandel blends, single vineyards and old vine Zinfandels.  If  you’re feeling wine-geekish, check out the complimentary Sommelier & Winemaker Terroir Workshops. There you’ll get to experience Zinfandel from the perspective of sommeliers.  Holders of VIP and All-Day tickets will also get to try barrel samples and reserve wines.

For tickets and/or more information, check out the Zinfandel Experience website.

Remember, in order to maximize your enjoyment and learning at public tastings:

  • Wear dark, comfortable clothes
  • Hydrate
  • Spit
  • Skip the perfume and cologne

Hope to see you there!


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 Copyright 2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

Recap of ZAP’s Zinfandel Experience Trade Tasting

I recently (ok – it was a couple of weeks ago) had the pleasure of attending the 2014 ZAP “Zinfandel Experience Trade and Media tasting, which was held at Rock Wall Wine Company.  It was my third consecutive year attending the event.  It’s hosted by the Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (“ZAP”), which billed the event as “All New”  because it was held at a new location and had a new format.

Another new thing about the event was that ZAP referred to it as an “experience” rather than a “festival” as it has been referred to in the past.

We chose to name the event Experience rather than Festival to carry forward the intention of our guests receiving a more interactive and significant, value-added opportunity from their participation

The pre-event Trade and Media tasting consisted of two parts – a Trade/Media Tasting Seminar, and the Trade/Media Tasting.  The main event was held Jan 23-25.

The seminar was held in the Geodesic Dome at Rock Wall.  And when I sat down at my table…

What to my heart’s delight did appear?

But six shiny wine glasses…filled with Bedrock, Carlisle and Turley my dear!!  To wit…

  • 2009 Bedrock Wine Co. Zinfandel O Brother! Bedrock Vineyard
  • 2011 Bedrock Wine Co. Bedrock Heritage Wine
  • 2009 Carlisle Zinfandel Papera Ranch (N/A)
  • 2011 Carlisle Zinfandel Bedrock Vineyard (N/A)
  • 2009 Turley Zinfandel Zampatti Vineyard
  • 2011 Turley Zinfandel Rattlesnake Ridge

Note: my scores for each wine are may be found below in as all were among my favorites:

Yup..the ZAP folks could give a lesson or two on how to run a seminar – Sip some great wines while listening to three of the best winemakers California has to offer chop it up about all things Zinfandel!

The wines, which were essentially an ice-breaker, were from the 2009 and 2011 vintages and initially the discussion was around the differences between the two vintages.  But it quickly took off in a more interesting directions.

Recap of ZAP Zinfandel Experience Media/Trade Tasting

Photo by Martin Redmond

The official topic for the Trade Tasting Seminar was “Zinfandel’s Renaissance – California’s quintessential wine is growing beyond its cult status and entering the big time” (or as Tim Fish of the Wine Spectator, who expertly moderated the panel put it – “Taking it up a notch”.

The panel featured winemakers Morgan Twain-Peterson (Bedrock Wine Co.), Mike Officer (Carlisle Winery and Vineyards), and Tegan Passalacqua (Turley Wine Cellars).   .

Recap of ZAP Zinfandel Experience Trade/Media Tasting

Photo by Martin Redmond; L-R – Tegan Passalaqua, Mike Officer, Morgan Twain-Peterson, Tim Fish

A variety of topics were discussed including stuff you would expect winemakers to talk about like vintage variation, cooperage, alcohol levels, pH, and the importance of farming, but some of the more interesting takeaways for me were:

  • The importance of differentiating between grape growing and wine growing (preferred) for quality fruit
  • Vintage variation as a good thing because specific vintages can take us back to events, and milestones in our lives, and that’s part of what makes wines special for wine lovers – a bottle of wine can evoke memories of special times in our lives.
  • Zinfandel blends that include mixed black grapes make a more complete and complex wine
  • Zinfandel is getting better and better for a variety of reasons including 1.) the experience of winemakers with the grape, 2.) clonal selection

After the  seminar, which I thoroughly enjoyed, it was on to the tasting…

The tasting featured close to 100 wineries (and I’m sure there were even more on Saturday!).  It was a wonderful opportunity to explore (mostly) new releases, and chat with the winemakers about their wines.

By my count…there were nearly 250 wines available for tasting…Based on the sheer quantity of wines available, I decided to forego the detailed tasting notes this time around and simply score the wines. Doing so enabled me to taste more wines!

Initially, I targeted new (to me) wineries. That’s one of the best things about attending a big tasting like this, discovering new wineries you otherwise would not get a chance to taste.  Of course, that which meant skipping some perennial top-notch producers like Dashe Cellars, Jeff Cohn Cellars, Ridge and Seghesio. But I always find some time at the end for “taster’s choice” so I can get taste some favorites that are just too good to pass up!

I tasted 67 wines, including many new (to me) wineries, several of which made my list of favorites.  My All-Stars (at least 3 wines I rated at least 90 points were Bedrock Wine Company, Brown Estate,  and Chase Cellars) My complete list  of my favorite wines ( rated at least 90 points)  follows:

  • 2011 Accademia dei Racemi Zinfandel Primitivo di Manduria Sinfarosa ($25) – 90
  • 2010 Ancient Oak Cellars Zinfandel Pagnano Vineyard ($32) – 90
  • 2009 J. Baldwin Wines Zinfandel Rattlesnake Ridge Vineyard (N/A) – 90
  • 2011 Beekeeper Cellars Zinfandel Madrone Spring ($65) – 92
  • 2009 Bedrock Wine Co. Zinfandel O Brother! Bedrock Vineyard (N/A)- 91
  • 2011 Bedrock Wine Co. Bedrock Heritage Wine (N.A) – 92
  • 2012 Bedrock Wine Co. Zinfandel Old Vine ($25) – 91 
  • 2012 Bedrock Wine Co. Heritage Wine Evangelho Vineyard ($35) – 92
  • 2012 Bedrock Wine Co. Lorenzo’s Heritage ($45) – 93
  • 2012 Beltane Ranch Zinfandel ($44) – 90
  • 2012 Robert Biale Zinfandel R.W. Moore Vineyard ($50) – 92
  • 2012 Robert Biale Zinfandel Rocky Ridge ($50) – 93
  • 2012 Brown Estate Zinfandel Chiles Valley ($42) – 92
  • 2012 Brown Estate Chaos Theory ($40) – 91
  • 2012 Brown Estate Zinfandel Rosemary’s Block ($55) – 90
  • 2009 Carlisle Zinfandel Papera Ranch (N/A) – 92
  • 2011 Carlisle Zinfandel Bedrock Vineyard (N/A) – 91

photo 4 (2)

  • 2009 Chase Zinfandel Hayne Vineyard ($45) – 90
  • 2010 Chase Zinfandel Hayne Vineyard (($45) – 90
  • 2010 Chase Zinfandel Reserve Hayne Vineyard ($75) – 91
  • 2009 Deering Zinfandel ($42) – 90
  • 2011 Harney Lane Zinfandel Old Vine Lizzy James Vineyard ($35) – 90
  • 2011 Ottimino Zinfandel Ottimino Vineyard ($32)- 90
  • 2011 Ottimino Zinfandel Biglieri Vineyard ($34) – 91
  • 2010 Carol Shelton Wines Zinfandel Rocky Reserve Rockpile Ridge Vineyard ($35) – 90
  • 2009 Turley Zinfandel Zampatti Vineyard – 90
  • 2011 Turley Zinfandel Rattlesnake Ridge – 91


It was a great afternoon!  I enjoyed the new venue, and the event was well run. Both the seminar and of course the tasting were fantastic.

My take on the state of Zinfandel?  The quality of wines made from America’s heritage grape variety has never been better. Compared to prior tastings, I found more depth and sophistication across the board this year than in prior years.

Related posts you might like:


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 Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

Prepare to be ZAP’d – The 22nd Annual Zinfandel Festival Coming Soon!

For all my wine loving friends, and in particular my Zinfandel loving friends, the 22nd Annual Zinfandel Festival is around the corner.  It is being held January 31 – February, 2013 in San Francisco at the historic Concourse Exhibition Center.  The event is hosted by the Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (“ZAP”), and as Robert Biale, President of ZAP put it…

The ZAP Festival is one of the wonders of the wine world.”

Amen brother!

The Zinfandel Festival features four events over the 3 day period – follow the links for more information and to purchase tickets:


I attended the Zinfandel Festival for the first time last year. It was one of the wine event highlights of the year for me – both education and fun!  Last year was also the first time the event was held at the Concourse Exhibition Center.  What I really appreciate about Concourse location is it’s proximity to public transit and the delights of The City.  We went to a killer burger joint after the event last year!

I attended 3 of the 4 events (didn’t make it to the Winemakers Dinners, but it’s on my wish list!).  My favorite of the 3 events was Epicuria – a “gourmet adventure”.  It’s a walk around tasting of offering samplings of diverse culinary delights prepared by a cadre of restaurants and other food purveyors paired with Zinfandel. It demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt how Zinfandel can be so much more than a burger and BBQ wine for me.  For example, one of my favorite pairings Mojama (Cold-smoked Ahi Tuna) from Wine & Roses Hotel Restaurant, Spa paired with McCay Cellars 2008 Equity Zinfandel!

Check out this year’s list of participating wineries and restaurants

If Epicuria is the “appetizer”, then the Grand Tasting is the main course. Last year over 200 Zinfandel producer poured at the event!

Check out the list of this year’s wineries participating in the Grand Tasting 

This is a huge wine event.  Here’s my advice for maximizing your enjoyment:

  • Get there as early as you can.  It’s get crazy in the afternoon in terms of the sheer number of folks and the number of folk who have overindulged in Zin
  • Pace yourself.  It’s not a race.  Take some breaks.
  • Stay hydrated
  • Use dump buckets or spit- liberally!
  • Don’t wear perfume of cologne
  • Wear dark clothes

To get a feel for my experience at last year’s event check out my recap of last year’s event:

2012 ZAP Zinfandel Festival Recap 

East Bay Wine And Food Events For August 10th-12th

One of the reasons I love living is the Bay Area is its proximity to so many great wine regions – Sonoma, Napa, Santa Cruz Mountains to name a few.  But I also dig that I don’t have to get in the car and drive for 60-90 minutes to get to some great wineries, and wine events.  There are lots of urban wineries in the East Bay, and the Livermore Valley wine region is only about a 20 minute drive for me.

I was doing some planning for my birthday next weekend, August 10th-12th, and noticed there is a trio of great East Bay wine and food events on tap.

Friday – August 10th

Rock Wall Wine Company in Alameda is going to be the place to be.  On Friday evening from 5-9P, they are hosting Rock Wall Food Truck Frenzy (click here to find out more and buy tickets).  Besides some great wines, Rockwall is a great venue for events.  Check out what they say…

Rock Wall is located in a 40,000 sq. ft. airplane hangar on the former Alameda Naval Airbase and our winery and tasting room boasts spectacular views of the San Francisco skyline.

Some of the Bay Area’s best food trucks will be on hand to dish some great gourmet street food.  A DJ will be dropping the beats, and of course there are the great Rockwall wines served by the glass! I’ve been to a couple of these.  You will NOT leave hungry, and they’re big fun!

Saturday – August 11th

Rock Wall is the place to be again on Saturday for ZAP Grill-O-Rama, the quintessential Zinfandel and BBQ-a-palooza! (click here to find out more and buy tickets) hosted by The Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (“ZAP”).

Image courtesy of ZAP – Zinfandel Producers & Advocates

This is the “Big Dog” of the three events!  According to ZAP…

Attendees will discover the distinct flavors of Zinfandel from up and down California including the Bay Area, Lodi, Napa, Paso Robles, Sierra Foothills, and Sonoma: this is an opportunity to taste and compare 30 different Zinfandels from 9 growing regions. 4 savvy chefs—Chef Tyler Stone, Chef John Ledbetter of Bocanova, Chef Dawn Wofford of Sonoma Smokehouse and Chef Sophina Uong of Pican—will fire up the grills to create tantalizing tastes served alongside the wines. A “People’s Choice” award will be chosen by the attendees.

The weather forecast for next weekend is looking great, so look for the hangar doors to be open, with those fantabulous views in full-effect at Rock Wall!  Of the 30 or so wineries on hand a few of my East Bay favorites, Dashe Cellars, JC Cellars and of course Rock Wall will be pouring their Zins.  Hit me up in the comments if you’d like my recommendations from Lodi, Napa, and Paso…

Sunday – August 12th

And last, but not least there’s the Nile Canyon Railway Livermore Valley Wine Tasting Special (click here to find out more and buy tickets). It’s Livermore Valley’s version of the Napa Wine Train.  You’ll learn about the historic Niles Canyon Railway, which has been rolling through Niles Canyon since 1869, and taste Livermore Valley wines paired with hors d’oeuvres.

It’s going to be a great weekend for wine and food events in the East Bay! Check ’em out!

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!

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”?


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)

Zinfandel Lovers Rejoice…Global #Zinfandel Day!

My travels through “Winedom” has lead me to many interesting wines, places, and people.  The time has come for a new adventure in “Winedom”.  Social media and wine.  Admittedly it is with some trepidation I approach combining social media and wine.  Sure, I have dabbled in social media.  I have various FB “Likes”, and “Friends” that are wineries, or otherwise related to the wine industry.  I’m also active on Twitter where I follow various wineries, wine bloggers, and post reviews of the wines I drink via  But to date, I haven’t combined my love of wine and social media, mostly I suppose, because I wasn’t sure how it worked.  But I’ve already missed a couple of opportunities to further immerse myself in social media and wine.  Both Cabernet Day and International Grenache Day were held in September.  With Global #Zinfandel Day coming up this Friday, November 19th, I can no longer resist the urge to take the plunge!  I hope you will to!

Since a picture is worth a thousand words… click here for a video invitation.

In addition to posting to social media, tweet ups, and meet ups, there may be wineries in your area hosting an event and/or offering specials on Zinfandel, be it a sale, or low/no – cost shipping.

Not sure about all this?  I recommend using Facebook where you can simply “like”  the  ZAP – Zinfandel Advocates and Producers Facebook page and participate.

So here’s what we’re going to do…we’re going to open up a bottle of  2005 Rosenblum Cellars Monte Rosso Reserve Zinfandel that we’ve holding on to for a couple of years and invite some friends by.  If you’re in the area, bring a bottle of Zin and join us as we sip and socialize, virtually and live!