Sierra Foothills

The Sierra Foothills cover a broad swath of land that covers much of the west-facing slopes of the Sierra Foothills. This is gold rush country, and it should come as no surprise that Zinfandel accompanied the miners here and left them warm at night, no matter what the unique decomposed granite soils might have provided during the day. These are almost all higher elevation vineyards that benefit from long growing seasons. The resultant wines can be very powerful, with heightened levels of tannin, alcohol and fruits that tend to express more dark spice notes of coffee, cocoa and licorice than their warmer neighbors.

2007 Milliaire Amador County Zinfandel Clockspring, 15.5%

A touch funky on the nose with notes of shaved bitter chocolate, a little game, vanilla and toast over light strawberry/cranberry fruit with a slight tomato leaf edge. Rather cool and low on entry, then this develops a slow-to-build sweet leading edge, perhaps for the alcohol, though that is very well integrated. The mid-palate has a slightly funky carob edge to the chocolate tones but they're balanced by surprisingly fresh and juicy strawberry/rhubarb fruit. The tannins are firm but lie under the fruit, which really has an ethereal edge that's surprising for a wine with 15.5%. The finish is a bit short, with the tannins creeping out from under the fruit, which returns with wonderful purity to the strawberry fruit. A surprising and exciting wine. 91pts

2007 Perry Creek El Dorado Zinfandel Fair Play Farms Altitude 2401, 14.9%
Compact and tight on the nose, with reticent fruit tones under a distinctly oaky overlay. There is nice balance on the nose, though it is skewed towards the wood at the moment. Restrained yet full of sweet black cherry and black raspberry fruit on the palate. This is elegant and firm with fine balance and nicely judged wood framing the fruit. With time, lovely herb and faint spice notes emerge in the mouth. The tannins are soft and the acidity well integrated with a touch of meatiness emerging on the backend. The moderately long finish reveals a menthol edge and some boysenberry tones. This is not flashy at all but really is lovely with wonderful balance. 91pts

2007 Milliaire Calaveras County Zinfandel Ghirardelli Heritage Old Vine, 15%
Lot of chocolate, wood spice and sweet pipe tobacco on the nose all over plum and boysenberry fruit. This really is chocolatey and it's not just the power of suggestion, though there is a lovely cedary, almost chestnutty edge to it. Big and slightly chewy on entry with big, lush cherry and blackberry fruit that is supported by some noticeable tannins and integrated acids. This is big and juicy, though it lacks a bit of detail. Still, this has remarkable balance for all this alcohol. Really a lovely effort, with a moderate finish of lush fruit that has admirable purity. 89pts

2006 Chatom Vineyards Calavaras County Zinfandel, 15.5%
Decidedly plummy and black cherry-toned nose with a hint of toffee, which offers up a fleshy, meaty note with plenty of wood spice notes accenting the earth bass notes. Full and rich, even slightly chewy on entry with noticeable tannins and good acidity supporting slightly minty, baked red cherry fruit. There is a touch of a medicinal, liquory quality to the mid-palate that becomes more assertive on the long, if slightly hot, finish. This really is well balanced, if seemingly a bit rustic, and develops some attractive complexity, in particular a pronounced licorice streak. 87pts

2007 Perry Creek El Dorado Zinfandel Zinman, 14.9%
Fresh with lots of spice notes backing up the raspberry/black raspberry fruit, with a gentle top note of toasty oak spice. A nice roundness on entry reveals good acidity balanced by a touch of RS that lends particular fruitiness to the palate. This is full of cherry and raspberry fruit and while it's fruity it also has nice baking spice notes and good inner-mouth perfumes. The tannins are very ripe here, lending to the lush feel of the wine, though the finish has the faint grab of fuzzy tannins and nice aromatic fruit and herb notes. Popularly styled and fun to drink. 87pts

2007 Chatom Vineyards Calavaras County Zinfandel, 15.5%

A bit meaty on the nose, with a heavy, earthy, dense plummy aroma backed up with leather and wood spice tones. This is notably crisp and transparent on entry, in contrast with what one might expect from the nose. There are fairly imposing tannins here that dominate the fruit today. The fruit is fresh with plummy and backed berry notes laid over gentle herb and spice elements. The finish is earthy, spicy and fairly long, ending on a drying, tannic note. 86pts

2008 Cedarville Vineyard El Dorado Zinfandel, 14.9%
Jammy strawberries, smoke, herbs, graphite and leather greet the somewhat hot nose. There's a light peppery top note here as well as some seriously woody tones. Smooth on entry with a light feel to the fruit and noticeable wood tannins across the palate. This is nicely energetic in the mouth but fairly dominated by wood at the moment, and I'm not sure the fruit is up to the task of outlasting that wood. The finish is dry and austere with nice fruit under the woody blanket. 83pts