Low-key nose with plenty of pipe tobacco notes lurking under cocoa-dusted, toasty black and blue fruit. Big and fairly mouth-filling if not weighty or sticky. This has lovely fruit with a real impression of sweetness, without being sweet, though the alcohol helps. In the mouth it’s quite fresh with the same black and blue fruit of the nose and a finish that is spicy and fresh with red fruits and blueberry topnotes. The alcohol throws the balance off a bit here but it really doesn’t come off as hot. This gains depth and inner-mouth perfume with time, adding more length to the fruit-driven finish. Not elegant, but neither over the top. 90pts
2007 Pedroncelli Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel Bushnell Vineyard 14.9%, $25
Tight on the nose with an immediate dusting of cocoa followed by very soft, gentle black cherry topped with boysenberry and blueberry tones, all framed with black soil and toasty oak notes. Very focused and tight on entry, with a core of vividly ripe blackberry and boysenberry fruit that expands in the mouth. There are finely balanced tannins that are helping to frame the fruit and excellent depth provided by soil and wood spice tones that lend a bit of marzipan to the palate. The finish is a touch tannic and drying at this point but long and complex. This is a tough Claret-style Zin but with a wonderful core of fruit waiting to burst through the tannins. Cellar it for a year or two, then enjoy. 90pts
2007 Starry Night Alexander Valley Zinfandel Nervo Station Vineyard Old Vines 14.4% $30
Dark, creamy blackberry fruit is accented by top notes of licorice and smoke. This has a distinct caramel oak note running through it as well, giving the nose a rather patisserie quality to it. Seamless in the mouth, this is wonderfully well balanced with good acidity that slips by almost unnoticed and tannins that are merely a frame for the lovely fruit. This is full of creamy black cherry and blackberry fruit with a hint of strawberry thrown in for good measure. Big enough but bright and transparent at the same. Simply wonderful fruit and excellent balance with a succulent, spicy, slightly stemmy finish. The stemmy/floral quality gains in intensity, adding attractive complexity. 92pts
2008 J Rickards Alexander Valley Old Vine Zinfandel 1908 Brignoli Vineyard 14.5%
This is lovely on the nose, with wonderful depth and complexity to the mineral, leather, black fruit and briary spice notes that are fresh and bright. Subtle floral and vanilla notes add additional depth and complexity. Smooth on entry with a slightly chewy feel. This comes at you in waves with an initial burst of currant and strawberry fruit that quickly gains fine detailed notes of earth, a light gentle mossy tone, more briary wood and a slightly gamy top note. Really wonderful, energetic, aromatic finish. The wine seems almost a touch heavy in the mouth but then dances through the finish, though with nicely assertive tannins. Lots to like here, though the wine does have a slightly rustic edge to it, making it a good candidate for pairing with game and rich meats, such as a nice thick rib-eye. 91pts
2008 V Sattui Russian River Zinfandel Gilsson Vineyard 15% $36
Sweet and open on the nose, with lightly baked black plum and black cherry fruit framed by toasty oak, chocolate and a nice dried herb/herbs de Provence tone. Silky and rich in the mouth, this really has a wonderful feel, luxurious and yet not flamboyant. The tannins are very finely ripe, buckyballs under the blanket of ripe fruit redolent of plum, cherry and a touch of boysenberry. The finish is moderately long but shows really nice complexity with spice, dried herb and floral notes accenting the sweet fruit. 92pts
2008 Tin Barn Vineyard Russian River Valley Zinfandel Gilsson Vineyard 15.6%, $24
Dark cola and earth scents dominate the nose early, with slightly medicinal top notes preceding the slow-to-emerge black cherry and plum fruits. Broad and a touch soft on the palate, this is plush and caressing, with lovely sweet tannins and a nice briary edge adding detail to the deep core of black cherry/black berry pie filling. There’s a nice edge of green freshness that hints at mint in the mouth. With time, this turns nicely fresh. The sheer depth of fruit and the sweetness of it tempers the acidity a bit, but it is there, powering through on the red plum and sapid, almost mineral-laced, blackberry finish. Very pure, precise flavors and the finish is excellent here. 92pts
2009 Wine Guerrilla Russian River Valley Zinfandel Clopton Vineyard 14.7%, $35
This is decidedly funky on the nose, with a broad array of savory tones. Forest floor, pine nuts, dried mushroom, toasted nuts, leather, game, dried beef and dark berry fruit all come together compellingly. A bit massive and sweet on entry, but rich and wooly with great freshness and depth. This is a bit unruly but is well balanced and fresh, with great red and blue fruits in the mouth. The tannins are so fine they’re almost unnoticeable, allowing this succulent core of fruit to take center stage. The finish is a bit on the short side, with a fresh wash of red and blue fruit for a finale. This is all about the old-vine fruit and while a touch atypical it's very engaging. 91pts
More on ZAP Zinfandels
Want to know more about other great Zins that will be featured at this year's ZAP Festival?
See ZAP Zins: Dry Creek Valley for tasting notes on all 19 Dry Creek wines tasted.
Check out Sneak Preview: Sonoma Zinfandels at ZAP Festival 2011 for a look at Alexander Valley and Russian River Valley Zins.
Go to A Sneak Peek at ZAP Festival Zinfandels for Zins from a variety of appellations.