A Sneak Peek at ZAP Festival Zinfandels

Top wines to watch out for this year


Slideshow
10 Top Zinfandels from California


Mendocino and Lake counties

These northern Californian counties represent the northern edge of grape-growing in the state. Here, vines share the land with towering redwoods. The cooler climates here produce wines with lovely cherry-berry fruit and bright acidity. These tend to be fragrant wines that can highlight the spicy nature of Zinfandel.

2007 Claudia Springs Redwood Valley Zinfandel Vassar Vineyard, 14.7%
Very interesting on the nose, with layers of chocolate, eucalyptus and licorice giving the core of slightly jammy grippy and boysenberry fruit a slight medicinal edge. Lovely freshness and sapid acidity in the mouth gives this a seductive feel and, while the fruit is rich, it takes a bit of a second seat to the structural elements of the wine. The finish is all about sour red fruits and has great length to the cranberry and raspberry fruit tones ending on a very firm mineral tone. A bit unusual but still has a lot of appeal. I bet this would be even better with food and seems like it would be a great match for duck. Subtle, complex and firm, this absolutely grows on me. 92pts

2007 Claudia Springs Redwood Valley Zinfandel John Ricetti Vineyard, 15.5%
Fairly intense aromas balance notes of forest floor, sweet black raspberry and black cherry fruit and gentle tones of wood spice. Really excellent balance on entry. This is a big wine, no doubt about it, but the balance really makes this deceivingly smooth and easy to drink. The mid-palate is dominated by classic brambly blackberry fruit with hints of pie tobacco, vanilla and nutmeg, and maybe even a hint of white pepper. The finish is clear and crisp with a long, fresh, black raspberry tone. Very refreshing and delicious. 91pts

2007 Claudia Springs Mendocino County Zinfandel, 14.4%
A bit reticent on the nose, though this does show a candied edge to the emerging red raspberry and cherry fruit with a nice framing note of wood spice. Nicely bright and light up front with wonderfully fresh and pure vanilla-tinged cherry and grippy fruit. It’s a bit simple, though there are some emerging notes of mint, flowers and herbs as the wine sits in the glass. With time, the tannins, soft and fuzzy that they are, emerge, adding some detail in the mouth. Definitely a slight outlier of a style with bright acids and a lightened feel, though nice purity and intensity to the fruit. 87pts

2008 Cakebread Cellars Red Hills Lake County Zinfandel, 15.3%
Smoky and noticeably endowed with toasty oak notes on the nose, this nonetheless shows a nice core of herb-inflected cherry fruit as well. A bit thick in the mouth, with very fine-grained tannins that sort of closely knit the wine over your tongue. This is showing a slightly aggressive structure at this point, with good density but somewhat subdued flavors today. The balance is there, and the oak, while noticeable, is not totally in your face. This may improve, but today shows a rather restrained style that finishes with the spice and sweetness of toasty new wood. Some nice red fruit does sneak up on the finale, giving me more confidence that this will come into its own. 87pts

2008 Beaver Creek Vineyards Lake County Zinfandel, 14.9%
Pure chocolate on the nose, with air this shows some weedy herb and spice tones, but it has an overwhelmingly chocolatey nose that recalls port. Fresh on entry with a hint of residual sugar that gives this an initial softness, though on the mid-palate it shows the porty character it displays on the nose. There’s plenty of spice here and the wine does feel pretty good considering its size, but the flavors lack freshness and definition. The finish is a bit hot and a bit lean with porty flavors. Obviously if you like this porty style, you’re gonna love this. 84pts


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Comments

  • Snooth User: KimHauck
    Hand of Snooth
    43988 19

    Great article. We love HammerSky Zin from Paso Robles.

    Jan 13, 2011 at 4:11 PM


  • why weren't any from the Dry Creek, Alexander Valley, Healdsburg? These to me are some of the best and I have seen other reviews that claim this area to be prime Zin country. Is this because the author doesn't think they stand up to these listed? Or was it that there just weren't any in the sampling? Or, did I miss something in the report?

    Jan 13, 2011 at 5:21 PM


  • Snooth User: JJZak
    649261 11

    I too noted the absence of any Sonoma County wines. Wow! What a change. Although, Pappapietro Perry Zin (Dry Creek Valley) is a knock your socks off wine.

    Jan 13, 2011 at 5:32 PM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 202,549

    Maybe this paragraph will help explain that.

    "As you can imagine, there are tons of great Zins out there, and many, if not most, come from Sonoma County. In fact, there were so many wines to taste for this article that I’ve decided to split the load into two parts. Today I’ll be reviewing the wines from some regions that might be less well known, particularly for their Zinfandel production."

    Jan 13, 2011 at 6:21 PM


  • Snooth User: knosbetta
    729064 1

    Hmmm...A quick review of the recently released results of the SF Wine Competition shows 71 Zinfandels awarded Gold (or better) Medals in the $20-+$50 catagories. 51 of those 71 (72%) were from Sonoma County. 20 of those 71 (28%) were from Dry Creek Valley. Those results would have been even more lopsided had some of the best producers from Sonoma (Seghesio, Nalle, Raffinelli, etc.) entered the judging.
    Sort of like an article on the Rolling Stones without a mention of Mick Jagger.
    Just sayin'

    Jan 13, 2011 at 6:30 PM


  • Snooth User: outthere
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    324443 3,778

    Just goes to show you Greg that people aren't reading your articles just your recommendations.

    Jan 13, 2011 at 8:04 PM


  • Snooth User: clifhenry
    721107 27

    Curious, as well, regarding the absence of Sonoma/Russian River/Dry Creek wines; nothing from Ridge, Carol Shelton, Martinelli etc. Hard to believe, at least for me, that these guys struck out in a list of 32.
    CHH

    Jan 13, 2011 at 8:49 PM


  • Snooth User: Frauenberg
    644986 21

    I live in germany, so my palate is close to european wines, but every time when i have the opportunity to taste a good zinfandel, it is hard for me to find any point in the structure of these wines, that doesn't make me feel good. Congratulations to the art of winemaking out of this grape in california! One of my favorites is the "Directors Cut" Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel from FF Coppola.

    Jan 14, 2011 at 5:16 AM


  • Thank you for the clarification. While I try to read the articles completely through, it is obvious that I missed that part. And, while you may have trouble believing this from someone who just demonstrated that they didn't read carefully, I do enjoy your articles; they are some of my favorite readings regarding wines.

    Jan 14, 2011 at 10:07 AM


  • Snooth User: tlb73737
    354038 35

    Yes folks Sonoma produces some great Zins. But to feel slighted because the article mentions Paso Robles and Lodi is more than a bit ridiculous. Those regions produce some great wines. For those of us who like Zins, those regions should be celebrated. I love those regions an am glad that to hear that they are getting some press. There is more than one region in California and as a native Californian I celebrate them all, not just one.

    Jan 25, 2011 at 11:12 PM


  • As soon as it was explained that Sonoma wines were in their separate article I retracted. My first (and erroneous understanding) was that this singular article was looking at all Zins and did not contain any from that region which was perplexing. I too, like Zins from the other regions (Lodi, especially) and am extremely appreciative of the information. I agree, to have done all of them in one article would have been too much.

    Jan 26, 2011 at 9:46 AM


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