A Sneak Peek at ZAP Festival Zinfandels

Top wines to watch out for this year

10 Top Zinfandels from California

Lying due east of San Francisco, the Lodi region has long been a bit of a secret source for drinkers in the Golden State. The sandy soils and cool bay breezes that dominate the vineyards here allow Lodi to produce full, balanced, ripe Zinfandels that deliver lots of fruit without getting overly heavy or over the top. A great region to look toward for value.

2008 Harney Lane Lodi Zinfandel, 15.5%
Smoky, toasty and intense with floral/herbal background notes laid over a core of salty plum fruit. Big in the mouth with a rather smooth feel, very polished and easy to drink with its gentle vanilla and grilled meat nuances accenting the core of lightly spicy plum, boysenberry and date fruit. This is really fairly big and intense with lots of depth emerging over time. The tannins are firm but for the most live beneath the robe of dark fruit, emerging briefly on the moderately long finish, which has a nice core of sweet fruit. 89pts

2008 Three Wine Co. Lodi Zinfandel Old Vines, 14.8%
A bit oaky but also earthy and even a bit almondy with a little funky leathery underlay adding complexity to the cherry and red plum fruit, with some smoky, oily top notes. A little compressed in the mouth as the fruit is bound up in youthful tannin and acid but it’s decidedly cherry fruited with that gentle nuttiness from the nose present. Nice purity here, rich but not weighty, though the finish is short. The wine is a bit simple, though it seems, as it might just need some time to unfold. It’s no blockbuster but a nice glass of Zin with a finish that sneaks back on you. 89pts

2009 Gnarly Head Lodi Zinfandel Old Vine, 14.5%
Sweet and spicy with strawberry jam fruit framed with toast, herb, and anise seed notes. Air gives this a decidedly darker sheen, revealing more toasty oak and dark, oily spice notes. Very smooth on entry, a little soft, with an easy to appreciate, slightly creamy mid-palate. The fruit is fresh and full of red currant and cherry notes underplayed with gentle spice tones. Creamy vanilla-laced cherry dominates the modest finish with a nice gentle spice tone on the finale. I would like to see a bit more brightness here but this is popularly styled. 87pts

2008 Brazin Lodi Zinfandel Old Vine, 15%
Briary nose with spicy, slightly notes and roasted black raspberry fruit framed with toast and coffee notes. Big and pretty fruit-driven right on entry, with noticeable alcohol and extract. This is a big wine for lovers of big wines. The flavors are rich and fresh: cherry fruit with wood spice and some herbal accents over a light underlay of vanilla. The alcohol also shows on the modest finish. 86pts

2008 Langetwins Lodi Zinfandel Estate Grown, 14.8%
Chocolate milk with marshmallows on the nose with some raspberry underpinnings. Pretty rich in the mouth with tannins that are touch tough and some nicely assertive acidity, lending this a slight rustic feel, which suits the wine well. The fruit is fresh, with zesty acidity supporting raspberry fruit and toasty oak notes. The finish is a touch sticky and slightly disjointed, showing some heat on the finale. 84pts

2006 Z-52 Lodi Zinfandel Agnes Vineyard Old Vine, 14.5%
Sweet and quite ripe on the nose, with slightly syrupy notes of candied strawberry and cherry, backed up with toasty wood notes and some rather raw wood and green herb aromas emerging with air. Has a bit of astringent tannin through the mouth though there’s nice freshening acidity here as well. It’s really disjointed with everything sort of sticking out, served up on a cedar shingle. Tannic and drying on the short finish. 80pts

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Mentioned in this article


  • 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 204,417

    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 3,823

    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.

    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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