A Sneak Peek at ZAP Festival Zinfandels

Top wines to watch out for this year

10 Top Zinfandels from California

Paso Robles

Paso Robles has emerged over the past few years as one of the great under-appreciated wine-producing regions in California. There are multiple expressions of Zinfandel coming from Paso, each blessed with some of the moderating ocean breezes that help this central valley AVA (American Viticultural Area) counter the heat. The soils here are rocky and lean, with great limestone outcroppings, producing wines that are frequently richly fruited with peppery notes and lovely herbal top notes.

2008 Sextant Paso Robles Zinfandel Holystone, 15.4%
At first, this is showing a slightly over-ripe pruney, gamy note on the nose with plummy undertones and plenty of peppery spice and toasty oak. With time, this takes on a decidedly Syrah-like element with a violet underlay. This gains a creamy, cafe au lait top note with air. Nicely balanced with lots of fruit on the palate that shows good complexity. This is rich and fruity and decidedly ripe, though with plenty of acidity keeping it fresh in the mouth. The fruit has dried plum elements accenting the black cherry fruit, all underpinned by toasty, chocolaty oak. Lots of boysenberry character emerges on the backend and adds complexity to the moderately long finish. Big, bold and well balanced, this has more oak than I might like, but is certainly well put together. 90pts

2008 Ancient Peaks Paso Robles Zinfandel, 15%
This smells a bit unusual, with candied Rainier cherry notes combined with subtle floral tones, honeycomb, citrus notes and a lashing of oak. There is a slightly scorched quality to the nose but in a good way. With air this falls into a more typical cherry/berry/vanilla groove but it remains notably fresh and complex. In the mouth this is a bit more straightforward, packed with lightly creamy, vanilla-stained cherry pie filling fruit. It's actually got lovely tannins and great acidity, giving this a brightness and freshness in the mouth. It's big but well balanced and a touch rustic but not rough. An archetype party wine and really solid Zin. 89pts

2008 Sextant Paso Robles Zinfandel Wheelhouse, 14.9%
Sweet cherry and blackberry fruit on the nose is framed with lightly buttery vanilla oak. This shows a little heat and has a slight but distinct candied edge to the nose. Big and rich in the mouth with a toasty leading edge and lightly chewy, slightly sticky, very fruit-driven flavors. This is almost grapey with its youthful black fruit character. It's got a touch of barrel sample to it and finishes with a short, if pleasant, fruit and oak finish. A biggish, simple wine with appealing fruit and a touch of oak adding complexity. 87pts

prev 1 3 4 5 6 7

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 204,376

    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 3,822

    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

Add a Comment

Search Articles

Best Wine Deals

See More Deals »

Daily Wine WisdomMore Wine Tips

Snooth Media Network