Zinfandel: Varietal of the Month

Marcy Gordon on Jul 1, 2020

It’s getting hot in here! So let’s open up all the Zin’s! Although Zinfandel originated in Croatia where it’s known as Tribidrag—the grape is embraced as All-American and has been grown and cultivated in California since the 1800’s. This medium-bodied dry red wine has a range of flavors that include raspberry, blueberry, red and black cherry, plum, tobacco, brambles, hickory and spice. Medium tannins make it a versatile food pairing wine, with flavors ranging from juicy and jammy to lean and elegant depending on climate.

Here are capsule reviews of Zinfandel wines you may find along the Wine Road.

ACORN 2016 Hertiage VInes Zinfandel with vines in background

ACORN 2016 Zinfandel Heritage Vines Alegría Vineyards, Russian River Valley  

ACORN has a long tradition making field bends, which consist of multiple varieties planted and harvested together. This lovely 2016 Heritage Vines Zinfandel from the Alegría Vineyards is 78% Zinfandel, 11% Alicante Bouschet, 9% Petite Sirah—and the remaining 2% is comprised of a mind-boggling array of Carignane, Trousseau, Sangiovese, Petit Bouschet, Negrette Plavac Mali, Syrah, Tannat, Muscat Noir, Peloursin, Cinsaut, Béclan, and Grenache. Wow! But can those minute percentages that comprise the remaining 2% really matter? I think so. The proof shows up on the palate in a graceful interplay of juicy raspberry, blackberry and spice, with soft diffuse tannins. Each sip delivers a new facet to savor with a light touch of white pepper and sassafras that deepens throughout the long, satisfying finish.

BACA Wines 2017 Zinfandel Tug O’ War, Maffei Vineyard, Russian River Valley

Baca is Latin for berry and there’s a whole lot of berry going on in this delicious Baca Wines 2017 Tug O’ War, Zinfandel. On the nose, an alluring bouquet of blackberry pie, crushed violets and sandalwood. Cool nights in the vineyard give this Zin a tremendous zip of acidity, with rich dark fruit flavors and savory notes of tobacco and cocoa. Structured and elegant, it’s a harmonic convergence of fruit, acid and tannin. A versatile food wine – it can pair with backyard BBQ ribs or rise to the occasion to complement an elegant Crown Rib Roast.

Zinfandel bottles leaning against a toy fire truck

Christopher Creek 2016 Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley

Bold and balanced the 2016 Christopher Creek Zinfandel is a classic California example of the beloved grape. On the nose, a pretty bouquet of spicy carnation and blackberry jam with a touch of smokiness. On the palate bright juicy plum, raspberry jam, chocolate covered blueberries and white pepper. The close-knit tannins spread evenly over the palate with a hint of sweet tobacco on the finish. Pair with a spicy chicken curry or garlic shrimp scampi.

Harvest Moon Zinfandel 2016 Pitts Home Ranch Estate Zinfandel Russian River Valley

There’s something bewitching about the 2016 Harvest Moon, Pitts Home Ranch Estate Zinfandel. From the heady bouquet of wild berries, sweet briar and cigar leaf, to the deep flavors of Santa Rosa plum, black cherry and blackberry—it’s a primal scream of deliciousness grounded in rich fruit flavor. A trace of Rooibos weaves throughout the light tannins giving it lift and body. Sip on its own by the light of the moon, or pair with spicy scallion pancakes and chili soy sauce.

J.Rickards Winery 2017 Zinfandel, La Cosecha Three Valley Blend 

La Cosecha means “the Harvest” and the 2017 La Cosecha Three Valley blend from J.Rickards showcases the Zinfandel terrior from Sonoma Valley, Dry Creek Valley and Alexander Valley and imparts each valley’s unique characteristics to the wine. From brambly and spicy to lush and jammy, this Zin is a textbook example of balance. The bright fruit flavors are tempered with light spicy notes and the lean soft tannins offer a plush mouth feel that lingers long after each sip. Pair with a spicy curry dish or steak fajitas with diced jalapenos.

Bottles of Zinfandel form Truett-Hurst, J.Rickards, and Martinelli in a toy fire truck

Martinelli  2017 Zinfandel, Giuseppe & Luisa Russian River Valley

The gorgeous label on the Martinelli, 2017, Giuseppe & Luisa Zinfandel contains a clue to the rich flavors inside the bottle. The deep sunset depicted on the label echo the fruit flavors of white peach, strawberry and bing cherry. The fruit hails from vineyards owned by Giuseppe & Luisa Martinelli, that originated in the 1800’s. The balance of fruit, acid and tannin give the Martinelli Zinfandel a classic structure and mouth feel characteristic of fruit from heritage vines. It’s the terroir beneath the wings of this Zinfandel that lift it up with punch and panache. Sip and savor with a charcuterie board of spicy salami.

Truett-Hurst 2016 Estate Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County

Complex and well structured, the Truett-Hurst 2016 estate Zinfandel is full of finesse and flavor. Aromas of black cherry, boysenberry, the soft perfume of plump Santa Rosa plums and salty licorice are an olfactory delight. Full fruity flavors of raspberry, blackberry and blueberry jam dominate the palate with light spicy notes of white pepper and toasty vanilla. Hearty yet diffuse tannins carry this wine to the finish line. Pair with a classic pepperoni pizza for a casual meal elevated by a classic wine.

Posted by Marcy Gordon

Marcy Gordon is a freelance wine and travel writer. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications including Wine Enthusiast, San Francisco Chronicle, Sonoma Magazine, The California Travel Guide, and Forbes Travel Guide. In 2017 she was awarded a fellowship to the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers. She is the co-host of the award winning Wine Road Podcast.

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