Napa Valley

Napa used to produce far more Zinfandel than it does today. But other, more profitable grapes -- Cabernet, in particular -- have pushed Zinfandel to the edges, which is not to say that there is no great Zin coming from Napa. Simply less than there once was. Though from Chiles Canyon to Howell Mountain and across to the Mayacamas, Napa continues to produce great Zinfandel. It’s hard to categorize Zins from such a broad spectrum of terroirs, so it’s probably best to just say that these Zins can compete with the best and leave it at that.

2008 Talty Napa Valley Zinfandel Filice Connolly Vineyard, 14.7%
Spicy, fresh evergreen notes greet the nose followed by pepper, cocoa, toasted marshmallow and gorgeously pure, brambly black raspberry fruit. With air the wood spice and toast become smokier and a bit more assertive but never overpower the wonderfully varietal fruit. Rich and powerful but also fresh and transparent with a nice bed of soft tannins and succulent acidity supporting balanced, complex, spicy cocoa-tinged black raspberry fruit. The finish is long and turns a bit redder with its assertive acidity. Really beautifully balanced, not a monster but still full-throttled and intensely flavored, if decidedly acid-driven. A Zinfandel for lovers of Italian wines. And I love Italian wines. 93pts

2007 Benessere Napa Valley Zinfandel Holystone-Collins Old Vines, 14.5%
Creamy black cherry fruit backed up with slightly medicinal notes greet the nose, all accented with gentle soil tones and hints of briary herbs and vanilla. Nice and tight on entry with good focus and energy across the palate. This delivers finely balanced black cherry fruit across the palate, framed with modest but firm tannins and accented with licorice, cocoa and wood spice tones. There’s a fine freshness to this and wonderful varietal character. This finishes with great briary blackberry fruit that lingers and ends on a nice earthy spice note. 91pts

2007 Ballentine Napa Valley Zinfandel Block 9 Reserve, 16.3%
Rather subdued on the nose with deep, plummy black cherry jam notes. This is rich, chewy and powerful in the mouth, if a touch soft. There is a lot of weight and dry extract here but the flavors -- earthy and very gentle spicy -- are rather restrained and balanced. Shocked to see the alcohol. The finish is soft, chewy and lush. This is a mouth-filling wine with great balance and surprising restraint that really shows it best on the long, black-fruited and black-spiced finish. 90pts

2005 Prix Napa Valley Reserve Zinfandel Moskowite Ranch Block 61, 14%
Fairly jammy with a waxy quality, actually intensely wild cherry jammy, with notes of underbrush and spice accenting the fruit. Very well balanced in the mouth with a freshly fruited character recalling a mélange of red apples, strawberries and melon. There are some still-stiff tannins here but all in balance with the fruit. The finish is long, nicely fruit-driven and fairly spicy with a lovely lingering tea note. Nicely balanced in a restrained style and drinking well. 88pts

2007 Saddleback Cellars Napa Valley Zinfandel Old Vines, 15.5%
Nice dark, slightly pruny fruit on the nose is accented by notes of carob and cigarbox with a menthol top note. Rich on entry with good acidity and nice supportive tannins. This unfolds on the palate, remaining focused and vibrant, though quite rich with juicy red and black fruit. It’s a touch monolithic but endowed with great, pure, ripe fruit. The finish shows off flashes of briary, herb and wood spice that help to highlight the brightness of the fruit. Ends with some slightly drying, sandpapery tannins that should disappear with some time in the bottle. 88pts

2006 Z-52 Napa Valley Zinfandel Truchard Vineyard, 14.5%
Very sweet-smelling and somewhat stewy-smelling with low, chocolatey, slightly pruny fruit, and chocolate-covered cherry top notes. Nicely medium-bodied in the mouth, with a nice, fresh feel to both the tannins and the acidity. This is fairly medium-bodied with a very easy-drinking styled mid-palate full of red currant and jammy strawberry fruit. The finish shows more chocolate and a bit of heat with the structure peaking out on the finale. 87pts

2007 Benessere Napa Valley Zinfandel Black Glass Vineyard, 14.7%
Smoky and herbal on the nose with note of brushfire and curranty fruit with hints of pineapple, cinnamon and white pepper. A bit on the soft side in the mouth, easy drinking with licorice and cocoa accents up front that segue into a black cherry, black currant mid-palate that shows a touch of firm tannin. Spicy on the finish with good cherry fruit but it’s a bit short and slightly bitter. 86pts

2009 Fontanella Family Winery Napa Valley Zinfandel, 14.9%
Dark, meaty and toasty on the nose, with a burnt note and a touch of caper accenting the boysenberry and plum fruit. Nicely balanced in the mouth with good richness and some emerging sweet fruit. I’m tempted to say this is simply too young as it’s not showing much fruit but it is gently fruity, with plenty of vanilla and milk chocolate oak character, finishing on the short side with a touch of coffee and drying tannins. 86pts