Last week in A Sneak Peek at ZAP Festival Zinfandels, we went through some of the non-Sonoma County Zinfandels that will be featured at the upcoming ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates & Producers) annual grand tasting at its Zinfandel Festival, to be held in San Francisco, January 27 - 29.
While there were some gems to be found in that mix of appellations, there is no doubt that the great AVAs of Sonoma share a disproportionate number of glorious old vines, and it is from these old vines that the most sought-after wines are made. The question I have is: Are they really the best?
There is no doubt that the ancient Zinfandel vineyards of California are a true treasure, though many are more accurately known as field blends since they are based on Zinfandel vines, but may have some Alicante, Petit Sirah or Mataro interspersed in there. Those other vines certainly add something extra to these field blends, but the sheer age of the vines is ultimately what sets them apart to Zinfandel aficionados, both professional and amateur alike.
If you are interested in learning more about these vineyards, and the folks who work tirelessly trying to preserve this part of our cultural heritage from becoming condos, parking lots, or worse (being budded over to Cabernet, for example!), you should check out the Historic Vineyard Society.
Of course, not all Zins can come from these vineyards, and many of these older vineyards do have to replace dying vines, so the average age of the vines might not live up to the vineyard’s billing, but they are worth looking out for. Also worth looking out for are wines from the greatest regions the world has for Zinfandel: the Dry Creek, Alexander and Russian River valleys in Sonoma.
Sonoma Zinfandel is a wonderfully nuanced and complex body of wines, with the best coming from a rough arc of hillside vineyards that extend from the Russian River Valley to the Alexander Valley, cutting right through the Dry Creek Valley. Don’t get me wrong, other vineyards throughout Sonoma can also produce exceptional wines, but none are as full of great vineyards and producers.
Are there really differences between them? You bet! Today I'm taking a look at wines from the Russian River and Alexander valleys, so stay tuned for next week's grand finale: The Zins of Dry Creek. Will it be worth the wait? You bet!
See pages 2 to 4 for the tasting notes.