Last week, in my article called “The Joys of Zinfandel,” I looked at the origin of the Zinfandel (Zin) grape and some of its key characteristics. This week, I’m happily talking about tasting of the grape. As some of you know, I’m a member of a tasting group that gets together every 4-6 weeks. Each tasting is focused on a specific grape, a specific region, a specific vintage or something else. Yesterday, we had the pleasure of doing a Zin tasting. I hope you enjoy the fun we had by reading this article.
The Setup for the Tasting
Because we had 11 people we had 11 bottles of wine! Because Zin is a high-alcohol wine (the wines we tried ranged from 14.4% to 16.1%, with the port being 18.5%!), when you’re talking about 11 bottles, you’re talking about a lot of alcohol! Thankfully, our tasting lasted 6 hours. So, all was good. We did the first 5 wines with appetizers, the next 5 wines with the meal, and the final wine with dessert. Yum!!!
A Quick Review of Zin
In my article last week, I talked about California Zins having three key characteristics:
- Over-ripe jam: blueberry, cherry, plum, boysenberry, cranberry
- Black pepper: a good complement to the sweetness of the jam
- Alcohol: Zin is one of the highest alcohol wines, especially in CA, where the grapes have a boatload of sugar, which turns into a boatload of alcohol
We definitely got a lot of these wonderful characteristics during our tasting.
Our First Four Zins
- 2015 CrissCross from Lodi. We found the wine to be very sweet with very little pepper. Tasty but not memorable.
- 2015 Zinnia from Napa. This wine was rich and intense, with red berry, cedar and vanilla. More tasty but still not memorable.
- 2016 Outpost Howell Mountain from Napa. This $60 bottle of wine was amazing. For a number of us, it was our favorite. Vinous gave this wine 94 points and said, “The 2016 Zinfandel is another superb wine from Outpost. Dark, ample and full-bodied, the 2016 is imbued with tremendous character as well as complexity. Dark cherry, plum, chocolate, leather and smoke all build as this super-expressive Zinfandel shows off its personality. In 2016 the Outpost Zinfandel is outrageously beautiful, not to mention a huge overachiever.”
- 2015 Castoro Cellars Reserve Zinfusion from Paso Robles. Here are the winemaker’s notes on this lovely wine: “This Paso Robles Zinfandel is a marriage of our SIP Certified (Sustainability in Practice) Estate Grown vineyards chosen because of their intense fruit character due to their location and excellent viticulture practices showcased. This ruby wine explodes with raspberry jam, cherry pie, and wild strawberries. The vibrant, fruity body is balanced perfectly with the chalky tannins and a peppery spice finish.”
The Next Four Wines
- Scott Harvey Vineyard 1869 from Amador County. This wine comes from 148-year-old vines, which are the oldest documented Zin vines in the United States! We found this wine to be very drinkable and elegant but not huge. We classified it as old-world style.
- 2015 St. Amant Marian’s Vineyard from Lodi. This was another old-vine Zin. We enjoyed it and thought it tasted like a classic Zin.
- 2014 Ravenswood Big River Vineyard from Sonoma County. This was another classic Zin, made by a winery who is famous for this grape.
- 2013 Ridge Vineyards “Three Valleys” Zinfandel Blend from Sonoma County. This was our one blend of the evening. It had 80% Zin, 11% Carignane, 8% Petite Sirah and 1% Alicante Bouschet. We all love Ridge wines but felt that this wine, even though it had 80% Zin, was missing the punch you look for from a Zin.
The Final Three Wines
- 2009 Plavac Mali Zin from Croatia! We were so excited to try this – from Zinfandel’s original country! The label was really long and not meaningful to me. Here are the first few words, in case it has meaning for you: VRhunsko Vino Suho Vinogorje Pejesac. The people who brought this wine loved it. The rest of us were challenged by it.
- 2005 V. Sattui Ramazzotti Vineyard Dry Creek Valley from Sonoma County. While this one was a little past its prime, it was a favorite of a number of ours. Here are Wine Enthusiast’s notes: “A rich, balanced Zin that shows the variety’s brambly side. Tastes like freshly picked wild blackberries and raspberries, crushed into wine and seasoned with white pepper, cinnamon and a drop of balsamic.”
- 2006 Rutherford Hills Zin Port from Napa Valley. This was to die for!
We had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed the wide range of wines we tried. Everybody loved the Port. For the other wines, Outpost was the favorite followed by V. Sattui and Scott Harvey followed by the Croatian wine and St. Amant followed by Zinnia. A good time was had by all!
If you’ve tried any of these wines, please let us know your thoughts. If you have other favorite Zins, I’d love to hear about those too. Cheers!
As an independent wine consultant with WineShop At Home, I absolutely enjoy bringing a taste of the Napa wine country home to you one sip at a time. Whether you simply love to drink wine, seek a special personalized wine gift, or are in search of a new wine jobs opportunity as a wine consultant, feel free to contact me for a truly unique wine tasting experience!
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