The Best Zinfandel

Top 10 Wines from a Recent Tasting


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The Best Zinfandel I am always excited to taste through a new crop of Zinfandel. Year in and year out, these wines are some of my favorite wines coming from California. When they're on, they explode from the glass with wonderfully aromatic notes of black cherry and blackberry fruit, briary wood tones, and complex spice notes. These are generally big wines -- there's no doubt about that, but they are so distinctive they can excite even a Europhile's palate.
Here's a top 10 from our recent tasting of Zinfandel.

Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: jgpick
    Hand of Snooth
    36273 106

    I don't know if I could ever qualify any aspect of cigarette ash as a positive quality describing a wine. Intriguing though, because I will look for it if I get a chance to sample this wine.

    Oct 14, 2010 at 12:18 PM

  • Snooth User: missfitz
    212599 4

    Visiting Santa Rosa soon. Thanks for the shopping list!

    Oct 14, 2010 at 12:52 PM

  • I'm a big fan of Rombauer zins but don't get a chance to compare wines very often. Can you recommend others which are similar to these (rich and jammy)?

    Oct 14, 2010 at 1:40 PM

  • You can always play it safe with the three R's (and I don't mean Readin' Ritin' and Rithmetic!) - Ravenswood, Ridge and Rosenblum; and do your due diligence in web research for best value wines available before you throw your money wildly away on untasted and unproven zins. There are certainly enough of them out there to flush your cash away on.

    Oct 14, 2010 at 2:12 PM

  • My wife and I are tremendous fans of Zinfandel. I must admit, however, that we haven't had much of it lately. This article should inspire me to spend a little more time in the Zin aisle next time we're out purchasing wine. I did notice you didn't mention the Hook & Ladder Russian River Valley Zinfandel in your article. It's another jammy, fruit-forward Zin that absolutely overwhelms your palate in a blackberry and currant flavor outburst—and I mean that in the best possible wine drinking way.

    Oct 14, 2010 at 2:32 PM

  • Snooth User: MercedesC
    424239 3

    What happened to Ridge? They make some fabulous zins

    Oct 14, 2010 at 2:32 PM

  • MercedesC: Nothing happened to Ridge. Yes, I agree, they do make fabulous wines. One could get along very well in life living off, among others, the likes of Ridge: Monte Bello, Lytton Springs, Ponzo and/or Geyserville - tastebud dependent, ofcourse. ...what's the other one - Pagnani _______, something or other (help)?

    Oct 14, 2010 at 2:56 PM

  • I discovered Sausal Zin at the recommendation of a sommelier this summer and am SO glad I did. It is fabulous! This coming from a usual white wine drinker. Since I was visiting Santa Rosa at the time I made a point to visit their nearby winery the next day. Everything was wonderful and I immediately joined their wine club. Cause for celebration? The latest shipment arrived this week! They haven't let me down. Definitely my new favorite winery.

    Oct 14, 2010 at 3:26 PM

  • Champagne-Ricky, you mean Pagani Ranch? Was very lucky on my recent trip to taste Ridge's 1999 Geyserville and Lytton Spring. SO good. Very keen on Lambert Bridge's offering of Maple Vineyard's fruit too. Super elegant.

    Do like Dashe and Sausal! Well done!

    Oct 14, 2010 at 3:44 PM

  • Snooth User: bowster
    611172 1

    I am very surprised that you have missed out the very good Zins from Ridge. Their Lytton Springs and Geyserville cannot be overlooked. They also have the Lytton Springs Estate Zin (which they keep on site and do not sell, I think). Generall the boutiquey Napa, Sonoma and areas around, wines can be pricey. Not so with Ridge. Even in the UK we only pay about $40 for a bottle

    Oct 14, 2010 at 4:45 PM

  • Wild Hog was a sommelier recommendation and one I heartily pass on to all zin fans who like some depth and subtlety. Not cheap here in the UK but worth seeking out!

    Oct 14, 2010 at 4:56 PM

  • We have long been fans of Ray Courson @ Elyse. Does his Morisoli Zin
    compete with this list?

    Oct 14, 2010 at 6:55 PM

  • You need to broaden out beyond Napa Valley/Sonoma region and get over to Amador County - Some GREAT Zins there- same with Paso Robles area.

    Oct 14, 2010 at 6:57 PM

  • Snooth User: granada
    564080 19

    Zins are my favorite wine, I've found some of my favorite at Biale Winery in Napa.

    Oct 14, 2010 at 7:07 PM

  • Snooth User: TommyJay
    335731 34

    Ah, Zins. Good information, but frustrating in that I can't find most of the zins you mention. I am forced to find solace in 4 Vines Biker, Ridge Litton Springs, Macchia Adventurous, etc. etc.... God bless Zinfandel!

    Oct 14, 2010 at 7:37 PM

  • Snooth User: jdchef87
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    588631 12

    Knock out Zin is Klinker Brick's Old Ghost Zinfandel (Old Vines)!!!

    Oct 14, 2010 at 7:47 PM

  • Snooth User: Khoink
    580100 13

    Big fan of Dry Creek Valley zins from Nalle and A. Rafanelli!

    Oct 14, 2010 at 7:49 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    Love all the suggestions!

    I'm in NYC.

    I would love to try these all, and have tried many in the past, love Ridge, Nalle, Rafanelli, Carlisle, Elyse, G D Di Arie, Sobon, I could go on.

    Here is an older article on Sierra Foothills Zins

    Sonoma Zinfandel

    A few great Zins

    Ravenswood's Single vineyard Zins

    And an early Snooth Blind tasting

    Oct 14, 2010 at 8:22 PM

  • Snooth User: Philsie98
    511208 20

    Thanks for the great suggestions! Most of these I've not heard of before, and I look forward to getting my hands on a few. I noticed in your complete list of wines tasted that you had one from Paso Robles, which is known for its Zins (in fact, there is a Zin festival in March of every year). Unfortunately, the one you tried, EOS, is not representative of the region. Mountain, Summit Creek, or Reserve are all great choices from Opolo, and Zin Alley makes a wonderful Zin, not to mention an out-of-this-world Zin port, just to name a few. Thanks again, and keep up the great articles!

    Oct 14, 2010 at 10:21 PM

  • I was told on a visit to Croatia that DNA established that Zinfandel originated
    from the Adriatic region .Is this true ?

    Oct 15, 2010 at 2:10 AM

  • Snooth User: barry fay
    587204 21

    while you´re at it, how about one of the oldest Zins in Napa (Mt Veeder): Sky Vineyards! Hand-crafted on 14 acres - it doesn´t get any better than that!

    Oct 15, 2010 at 7:05 AM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    Yes seagirl. It is a clone of the Croatian grape Crljenak Kastelanski,

    Read more:

    Oct 15, 2010 at 7:40 AM

  • I guess, out of that dreary pack o' Zins, those would be the best ten. Having tasted all of those, however, I wouldn't put any but maybe - MAYBE - the Scott Harvey on my list. It's always instructive to remember that any list you read of "The Best Of..." anything is always the tastes of ONE person or ONE group of people and the validity of the list depends entirely on how much cred you're willing to invest in that opinion. As a wine writer in Seattle, I routinely caution my readers that what they read are simply MY opinions; worth no more or less, really, than their own. You have to live with a critic, wine steward, sommelier, or even a friend's tastes for a while before deciding whether theirs are aligned with yours AT ALL. Obviously, the author's list here isn't worth much to me. If you get a resonance and can trust him, good on ya. But this is otherwise just some guy's fave Zins.

    Oct 15, 2010 at 8:57 AM

  • Snooth User: Tamar1973
    94767 77

    I live in Sonoma County and a bunch of my friends got together for a blind zin tasting and the top 3 wines were all Lodi wines.

    Oct 15, 2010 at 3:43 PM

  • Snooth User: macker100
    155924 1

    Don't forget Storybook, the best elegant zins in California by far in my view.

    Oct 15, 2010 at 4:41 PM

  • Agree with your choices but I tried a Zin from Klinker Brick winery in Lodi, Cal. Was the 2008 Old Ghost....blend of 2 old vines has exotic spices on the nose,infused with black cherries. on the palate it is rich, well rounded,and full-bodied with a long lingering finish. Really old vines like 80 years or more. Should be rated in your top 3.

    Oct 15, 2010 at 5:42 PM

  • Snooth User: TL NJ
    Hand of Snooth
    70571 277

    Great, Great article Greg. Thank you

    As you know, I am a huge Zin fan, and lately have been drinking nothing but Dasche. Its fast becoming my favorite, so I was happy to see it on your list. There are quite a few on that list that I have not tried before - im looking forward to seeking them out, and hope they stack up.

    Thanks again

    TO: Pour Fool. I think the underlying assumption that ALL avid SNOOTH members have is the notion of "like what you like and dont let anyone tell you any different" (said more times by Greg, by the way, then anyone else on here) - so your comment was probably taken as an insult to many of us. Greg has been that "critic, wine steward, and sommelier" that you mentioned to many of us (and safe to say "friend" to some others") - so he is "preloaded" with the right to print whatever he wants here - and, as you say - its "good on us"

    Its somewhat ironic to me that a someone vehemently sells the notion of "this guy is a writer, dont listen to writers, you should have your own opinion" then turns around and credits himself as a "wine writer from Seattle" who tells his readers just that. So, please tell me then, what makes you any better of a "wine writer" then any other clown off the street that swigs Carlos Rossi, or Barefoot Pinot Grigio - by your own logic? Who should care what YOU think is "dreary"?


    Oct 15, 2010 at 8:46 PM

  • Snooth User: karat
    541180 345

    i'm a big fan of layer cake - it does not say zin on the label - but 'primitivo' - why? has anyone else tried it?

    Oct 16, 2010 at 12:23 AM

  • You should have Vineyard 29 Aida zin on your list! Definitely not the least expensive out there, but IMHO worth the premium. Better than Turley, very age worthy, brilliantly crafted.

    Oct 16, 2010 at 4:18 PM

  • Snooth User: homestar
    512161 83

    no mention of Seghesio, which has a range of delicious zins. I agree with Tommy Jay the 4 vines biker is also yummy.

    Oct 16, 2010 at 5:48 PM

  • Snooth User: frydad4
    613381 1

    try pedroncelli. good wines, great value.

    Oct 16, 2010 at 10:10 PM

  • Karat: It seems both the Zinfandel and the Primitivo stem from the Crljenak grape. See and .

    Oct 17, 2010 at 5:34 AM

  • Snooth User: oldeirish
    600860 9

    It seems that most of the comments have not experienced a great Zin.
    You must visit Amador & El Dorado county of Northern Ca. Near Sacramento in the "Gold Rush" foothills and the region of Fair Play.
    Suggest you try Karly, Latcham, and Sobon winerys. Also Story, Windwalker, Perry Creek and Oakstone. All within 15 miles of each other.
    These are some of the best old vine Zins with 14 to 16 % full bodied dry finish wines of all California... Treat yourself to the downhome friendship and great food parings during weekends and harvest time.

    Oct 18, 2010 at 9:01 PM

  • Snooth User: wayniac
    347849 3

    Used to visit Glen Ellen regularly where I got the Zinfandel bug.

    Mayo family winery had some nice Zins but I do agree that Lodi region have some great wines. Seem to remember a great Philips from that area.

    Here in Australia Zinfandel has a small but increasing interest. I found a great Zinfandel from Hilltops near Young in NSW and a local winery near Geelong is selling one as a Primitivo.

    We have a lot of Croatian and Italian immigrants in this region so the Primitivo/Croatian grape is well liked.

    Ray Nadeson at Lethbridge winery also tried his hand with a Zinfandel but he is such a perfectionist it didn't make it to market....

    Oct 19, 2010 at 8:20 PM

  • I like the Mountain Zin from Oppolo Vineyards in Paso Robles. It's very nice!

    Oct 23, 2010 at 10:41 AM

  • Snooth User: luca chevalier
    Hand of Snooth
    533661 2,535

    ...Hy Greg, many articles aroud the web says the same thing (that is wath i've always knew) , Zinfandel and primitivi are the same thing....have you ever tried something good in Puglia?
    Like this

    Oct 25, 2010 at 2:45 AM

  • Ok, so back to my previous question...
    Since we all have different taste buds one man's wine may be another man's crap. No offense intended, I'm just making the observation that recommendations are usually subjective. My dilemma is in finding "similar" characteristics to a wine I like without having to purchase and taste several hundred of them and deplete my retirement fund.

    If I have a favorite (Rombauer Zin, for instance) is there a chart/app/site that say "these wines will be similar to that one"? Sometimes it's difficult to find a specific wine, and most of the time it's out of my price range anyway. It would be great to see a list of similar alternatives given a single wine from which to compare them.

    Nov 16, 2010 at 5:46 PM

  • Snooth User: Tapey
    678358 20

    TL NJ has it "write" on the comment to Pour Fool. Drink what you like, share your enjoyment, and don't beat up on other's - proof is in the glass. Been to Amador county a few times with many favorites mentioned except for Villa Toscano. Other side of the state - Rafanelli, Unti, Robert Craig, Quivira, Neyers, Kokomo, Kunde, and Biale.

    Jan 14, 2011 at 9:42 AM

  • Snooth User: Jno42
    367323 1

    A fourth R is Rombauer. The 2007 Zin is killer!!

    Jan 14, 2011 at 3:17 PM

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