By the mid 1900s, zinfandel was undoubtedly my favorite wine type. At the time, my palate was good at identifying flavors so, I know that the combination of full body, fruit, and spice is what I enjoyed the most about zin. Sometime in the last 90s, winemakers began favoring zins with higher alcohol, which actually caused by to venture into other varietals and regions – yet, while keeping zins close to my heart.
Zinfandel is a dark grape with its heritage in Croatia. Yes, in 2001 scientists discovered zin is genetically the same a Croatian grape. The first documented sighting of zin in the US was in the early 1800s (Boston), but the Gold Rush served as the mechanism to move the vines westward.
For a long time, California winemakers commonly used zin for general table/bulk wines, thus not much on its own. Although zin lovers generally dislike white zin with a passion, we recognize that white zinfandel’s popularity may have saved this grape in California.
I think of zinfandel as America’s wine. Cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay may be more popular; one can commonly find these two are commonly in other wine regions throughout the world – but not zinfandel.
Although zin grows in most of California’s major wine regions as Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles (Central Coast), Mendocino, Amador, and Lodi, each region delivers its own unique flavors. For fresh black cherry fruit and pepper, I love the zins from one of my favorite places to visit – the Dry Creek region of Sonoma. Then again, Amador County zins give me a rich flavor or jam and raisins that I adore – which happens to correlate to make affection for port. For value, old vines zins from Lodi are very respectful, thus worth a try.
Zinfandel is a hearty, flavorful red wine that is great with grilled meats and red-sauced pastas. Some of my favorite $10-13 bottles include Ravenswood, Cline, Rosenblum Cuvee (followed by a Roman numeral as XXXIII), and Dancing Bull Winemaker’s Reserve. Marietta makes a delightful zin-based blend that they designate by a Lot number on the label. I even like Plungerhead; and yes, the Kirkland Old Vine Zin (Costco) is a great value!
Take the price up a notch, you can find very good zins from not from those previously list, but also Seghesio, Ridge, Opolo, Sausal, Redwood, Four Vines, Peachy Canyon, Storybook Mountain, Turley, A. Rafanelli, and many others from the previously-mentioned regions. Here’s a list from ZAP.
I am a more daring wine buyer than most – meaning I am not scared to buy something to try. I recommend this because this will help any wine drinker to discover the taste they most enjoy at the price they are willing to pay. A wine distributor recently said the following to me:
Although it is important to like the wine you drink and to drink the wine you like, it is also important to keep an open mind to other fruits from the vine.
Well, that is how I discovered Primitivo from southern Italy, which also happens to be a clone from the same Croatian grape as zinfandel.
Cheers – Zin is wonderful – but also enjoy this short video from the Paso Robles (CA) wine region