Sonoma Zinfandel

On the trail of the county's finest grape

 


When I think of Sonoma, my thoughts naturally drift off to the great wines that so many of us enjoy. Pinot Noir has become somewhat of a poster child for Sonoma’s red wines -- just think of the Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley and the first thought that comes to mind may very well be Pinot. (If it’s not, you may want to check out my previous article on Sonoma Pinot Noir.)

But, to be honest, when we’re talking about wine and the topic drifts over to Sonoma County, Pinot is not my first thought. Sonoma Pinot is a relatively new arrival in my worldview of wine. For me, some of the first, and greatest, Sonoma wines were (and are) old vine Zinfandel.

Zinfandel is sort of the ugly stepchild of the wine world. It’s not glamorous and only rarely gets the high scores and big bucks, but it delivers so much that it’s a wine you ignore at your own peril! So, what makes Zin so appealing? Where do I begin!
Map
Sonoma County
It’s worth mentioning about those great old Zins (and maybe it’s more a comment on my preferences) that, along with Petite Sirah, they work particularly well with American oak barrels. Perhaps it’s just sentimental of me, as most of the great Zins of my youth were marked by American oak, but the raw, assertive nature of American oak seems to stand up well to the raw, assertive fruit of great Zin.

And about that Petite Sirah -- most of those old Zins had a good dollop of Petite in the blend, and many had a bit of who knows what as they were made in the classic field blend style. I’m not saying that all Zin needs a bit of help, but I do think back at how special some of those wines were, and I can’t help but wonder if the little bit of this and some of that added some magic that time revealed! As always, your mileage may vary, but that’s what I think.

Another almost unique feature that Zinfandel brings to the table are the exceptionally old vine vineyards that are an American viticultural treasure. Many of these vineyards lay in Sonoma County, and in particularly in the Dry Creek Valley.  That’s no coincidence but rather the product of over a century of selection. Farmers and growers have slowly but surely narrowed down certain areas where Zinfandel thrives, where it really can produce something special and more distinctive than say a vineyard of Cabernet or Pinot Noir.

These great plots of land produce great Zinfandel. If you’ve never had a Zinfandel that you thought was special, try a few of these old vine bottlings before you dismiss the grape entirely. Even some of my close-minded, Euro-palated, flavor-hating, elite wine geek friends have found a Zinfandel or two that makes them smile, at least on the inside!

A few brief word on the vintages tasted for this article.

2007 - This is an outstanding vintage for Sonoma Zinfandel with wines that are slightly lower than usual in alcohol due to cool, even temperatures throughout the summer, and they show a corresponding bright acidity that gives these red-fruited wines a lovely purity and brightness. These are wines that are balanced, so they should age well, yet are immediately accessible and almost elegant for Zinfandel.

2008 - A much more difficult year; growers faced virtually every challenge available. A crippling frost early in the season reduced yields from the get go. Strong winds during bloom further reduced the potential crop, and what berries were left were subjected to a cool summer that was followed by a blisteringly hot September. It’s an understatement to say this was a tough year, yet many producers were able to manage the challenges well and produced an interesting crop of Zinfandel.

So be on the look-out for some great Zins; I’m stocking up on 2007s. The producers below all warrant a look, and if you want to visit any or all of them, check out Visa’s trip planner for information about these wineries and many others. Now, without further ado, here are 5 Sonoma wineries that are especially worth your time.

Quivira

The name Quivira refers to a mythical kingdom, an El Dorado of sorts that is reported to be featured on ancient European maps of California’s north coast. Of course, the winery has a much briefer history, having been founded in 1981. The current owners, Pete and Terri Kight, purchased the winery in 2006 and immediately set out on making some improvements.

Quivira was pretty well known back in the day for it’s Zin, among other wines, but the new owners are committed to improving the quality of the wines while switching over to organic and biodynamic farming. And with almost all the wines coming from estate fruit, with the exception of the Dry Creek Zinfandel, that switch is effecting the entire Quivira line-up.

Even with the Dry Creek Valley bottling one finds that most of the fruit is in fact farmed biodynamically. With fruit sourced from 4 vineyards, the breakdown goes something like this:

- 9 acres planted in 1998 under long term lease from the Anderson Family. It's 100% biodynamic, much of which is bottled in Quivira’s single vineyard Anderson Ranch Zinfandel.

- 14.5 acres planted in 1984 and 1991 on the Wine Creek Ranch Estate Vineyard. 100% biodynamic.

- 8 acres planted at the Goat Trek Ranch in Healdsburg planted in 1999 and purchased by Quivira in 2007. Transitioning to organic/biodynamic.

- 2 acres planted in 1900 at the Katz/Absher ranch in Healdsburg; these are dry-farmed and grow in a former creek bed.

Quivira’s Zinfandel is aged in French oak and has bit of Petite Sirah in the blend.

2007 Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley  14.9%

Gentle nose with notes of raspberry, hay, dried flowers, licorice and a hint of carob. On entry this is silky, a bit thin feeling almost but the ripe tannins and core of transparent, almost glassy yet ripe fruit quickly covers the palate. It’s not a huge wine, but well-endowed and full of slightly green-toned fruit, maybe a few kiwis and an orange thrown in with a bowl of berries. The backend shows a bit of powdered cocoa and some very candied cherry tones that linger on the moderately long finish. A nice, slightly rustic expression of Zin. 89pts

2007 Zinfandel Wine Creek Ranch Dry Creek Valley 15.1%

This is deep and savory on the nose with a fine edge of game, waxy Crayon notes, some dried tomato, mulberry and blackberry fruit and a touch of eucalyptus. On entry this is seamless, super fresh with great acid, wonderful, ripe tannins that float under the blanket of pure ripe fruit. It’s got the almost liquory edge of super ripe but not over-ripe berry fruit all shaded with subtle wood spice tones, earth, herbs, and a floral, rose petal inner mouth perfume. Really exceptional feel in the mouth and lovely complex-yet-pure fruit. The tannins pop on the finish giving this a nice dry bit of mouthgrab as hints of tobacco and mint add to the sneakily long and raspberry-fruited finale. This should improve for a few years but is probably going to be at it’s best earlier rather than later.  It’s a wine that really has me coming back for more. Fire up some BBQ'd wild boar with this baby and sit back and enjoy! 93pts

Pezzi King

Pezzi King is named for owners Jim and Jane Rowe’s mothers, respectively, and is a relative newcomer to the Sonoma Zinfandel scene. Founded in 1993, the first move the Rowes undertook was to immediately eliminate the use of all chemicals in the vineyards and implement tried and true natural farming techniques.

While this natural approach extends throughout the vineyard, the winemaking facilities at Pezzi King are state of the art, allowing the Rowes to produce award winning Dry Creek Zinfandels that compete with many of the Valley’s greatest.

Pezzi King Zinfandels are 100% estate grown Zin, and are aged in both French and American oak.

2007 Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 16.3%  


This offers up powerfully aromatic notes of cocoa, black pepper, leather and dried red fruits and cedar in a no-holds-barred alcoholic style. In the mouth it’s ripe and bright but not over the top with spicy red plummy fruit, earth and briar tones. The finish is surprisingly not really that hot with a nice dry, almost austere edge to the fine tannins. It’s got excellent length and nice cinnamon-y complexity with a forceful delivery. 90pts

2007 Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley Old Vines 16.1%


Dark dried fruits and black cherry on the nose are joined by a touch of creamy milk chocolate, candlewax, white pepper and jasmine.  On entry this is lush and deep with the alcohol just barely peeking out, no mean feat for a 16% wine. It’s really packed with soft tannins and bright acids supporting deep dark cherry fruit tones edged in raspberry and wood spice with a nice chocolate note on the long finish. A bruiser of a wine but one with fine balance. 91pts

Mauritson

Clay Mauritson got an early start in the wine business. Coming from a family that has been growing grapes in the Dry Creek Valley since 1868 certainly makes that seem easy, but it was only in 1998 that Mauritson released its inaugural Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel.

With exceptional vineyards strewn throughout the Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley, and Rockpile Appellations, it’s easy to see how Clay might have been tempted. While the Dry Creek Valley has traditionally been home to some of the purest and most complex expressions of this grape, the Rockpile AVA is quickly establishing itself as a close competitor, albeit without the long history and old vines.

Mauritson Zinfandel is produced with a small addition of Petite Sirah and is aged in both American and French oak.

2008 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 15.1%

A bit shallow and dusty on the nose with a nice mineral note over slightly beefy, bloody, hard baked plum fruit.  In the mouth this is quite structured with drying tannins. There are some slightly vegetal background notes that add some complexity to the sort of flat flavors in the mouth that have a nice base of dusty black fruit. The moderate finish is quite brambly ands not particularly fruit driven but should improve once the tannins have time to relax. A nicely focused and balanced Claret-style Zin that I can see aging well. 88pts

2007 Mauritson Rockpile Zinfandel Rockpile Ridge Vineyard 15.5%


A bit fudgy and almost maple-syrupy on the nose with deep spicy fruit that has an almost exotic quality to it making me think of dragonfruit and cactus fruit over absolutely liquory blackberry fruit.  This is rich and dense in the mouth with fine yet gritty little tannins and bright acid offering a great contrast to the pure, ripe yet almost cool (for Zin) fruit. It straddles a fine line between blockbuster and a more sedate style but ultimately comes down on the balanced, fine side of that line. It’s got some evident oak on the moderately long finish but not too much. A really nice Zin that managed to stay tense in the mouth. 92pts

Acorn Winery

Acorn's motto pretty much says it all: “Estate grown, sustainably-farmed field blend wines.” What more is there to say about this small project begun in 1990? Not that much, except that they stand for so much that I value.

While Betsy & Bill Nachbaur got started in 1990 by buying the Alegria Vineyards, they only began producing wine with the Acorn Winery label in 1994. One of the jewels in the Acorn line-up is their Heritage Vines Zinfandel, sourced from Alegria’s original 1890’s vineyard.

That’s not the only wine that has its roots in the past at Acorn. In fact, every wine produced by Acorn is a field blend, and a field blend in the truest sense of the word. The vineyards are planted with mixed varieties and the grapes are co-fermented.

This style of winemaking poses its challenges, but when you have a vineyard that can create a blend of 82% Zinfandel, 8% Alicante Bouschet, 8% Petite Sirah, while the remaining 2% includes Carignane, Trousseau, Sangiovese, Petit Bouschet, Negrette, Syrah, Plavac Mali, Tannat, Muscat Noir, Peloursin, Beclan, Cinsaut, and Grenache, you don’t really have a choice.

Acorn Zinfandel is aged in a combination of French, American and Hungarian oak.

2007 Acorn Zinfandel Heritage Vines Alegria Vineyard Russian River Valley 14.8%

Quite vanilla-laced, with dried cherry fruit on the nose with nice shadings of tar, anise, bay leaf, pepper and moist earth. On entry this is tight and focused with lovely fuzzy tannins and nice weight and purity to the dark raspberry and cherry fruit. The mid-palate turns fairly spicy with some wood tones and nice star anise and pepper notes. The backend is where this really comes alive showing uncommon aromatics for a Zin, and while the finish is a bit short it has a nice layered feel to it as the sweetness of ripe fruit yields to the tannins, then the acid and finale the warmth of alcohol. A complete complex bottle that can use a bit more time to integrate. 90pts

Mentioned in this article

Comments

  • Snooth User: dvogel001
    442684 8

    My only issue with a lot of big red zin's is that the winemakers let the alcohol get too high. I try to avoid any wine over 15%...

    Jul 13, 2010 at 12:41 PM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 222,211

    That's a really fair point. I would say that most of the wines tasted for this article held their alcohol pretty well but I'm with you there. You should try Nalle's zin someday. Almost always under 14%, in fact I believe only one vintage has been more!

    Jul 13, 2010 at 12:53 PM


  • Snooth User: Rawdzll
    297293 10

    I think a sonoma zin article is incomplete without A.Rafinelli...

    Jul 13, 2010 at 12:53 PM


  • Snooth User: Rawdzll
    297293 10

    I totally agree on the alchohol problem but there are several modern garnacha from Spain that are really great but overheated. Try decanting some of the more heavy oak zins overnight. This worked wonders with many of the modern Spanish wines I have purchased...

    Jul 13, 2010 at 12:59 PM


  • Snooth User: bigzinfan
    331663 8

    As you can probably guess from my sign-on name, this article is right up my alley! I absolutely love the Rockpile Zins from Mauritson, and I totally agree with Rawdzll's comment regarding A. Rafanelli ... one of my favorite finds in Sonoma! Now I'd like to try the others you suggest ...

    Jul 13, 2010 at 2:17 PM


  • I can't speak about recent vintages and new wineries, but I lived in SF in the mid-90s, and at that point A.Rafanelli and Lytton Springs were two of my favorite Zin producers, along with Mazzocco and a few others...

    Jul 13, 2010 at 2:21 PM


  • Snooth User: lookusa
    162672 62

    I must admit I was not impressed with A. Rafanelli very much.. I went to the winery last year and tasted a couple of their current vintages and thought they were no big deal, especially for the overpricing... Maybe these zins need to be aged at least 5 or more years before they start tasting like their price tag...... I wouldn't pay more than $15 for that zin..... for $19.00 try the four Vines Biker Zin, kick ass zin for the money.........

    Jul 13, 2010 at 2:47 PM


  • Sunce has some super tasty zins as does Rue. Not easy to find but well worth the effort!

    Jul 13, 2010 at 3:11 PM


  • ooops ...here are some links

    http://suncewinery.com/winelist.php...
    http://www.robertruevineyard.com/pa...

    Jul 13, 2010 at 3:14 PM


  • Snooth User: BillReddy
    128251 25

    Pezzi King is worth a try... the 2004 estate was superb.

    Jul 13, 2010 at 3:26 PM


  • Snooth User: armedwino
    530875 1

    You are missing out if you don't try Bella Vineyards for zin !!

    Jul 13, 2010 at 3:39 PM


  • Snooth User: athenablu
    99486 11

    Anyone have any thoughts about Manzanita Creek Zinfandels?
    I've had the Stealth and really liked it. A zin can be high alcohol and still hold it's own very well, Stealth is a good example

    Jul 13, 2010 at 3:50 PM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 222,211

    I am staring down 4, count em 4 Bella Zins as we speak!

    Jul 13, 2010 at 3:52 PM


  • Snooth User: JMaloney
    495137 1

    A blast from the past...Lytton Springs winery. Great Zin until it was bought by Ridge and turned into a high priced offshoot. I miss the good old days of fabulous zins at great prices from small wineries. Still am a big fan of Pezzi King. I agree, the alcohol is pretty high on some of these wines and it diminishes them. We just returned from Lake County. Found some stellar wine, especially Gregory Graham. I heartily recommend a visit.

    Jul 13, 2010 at 3:54 PM


  • Snooth User: Zinner 1
    530888 1

    A FEW really good Old vine Zins from Russian River CAN be balanced in the mid 15s but I agree that most can be too over the top.

    Jul 13, 2010 at 3:58 PM


  • Snooth User: Tifftunas
    43804 64

    Michael David Earthquake Zin from the Lodi Appellation is right on! Zinfandel has to be one of my fav varietals!!!

    Jul 13, 2010 at 4:08 PM


  • Snooth User: JimBoy
    118629 1

    If you can still find any of the 2007 Seghesio Zinfandel, buy it.. I lucked into a very good deal and have hidden away several cases. All purchased at $16.00 per bottle.

    Jul 13, 2010 at 4:10 PM


  • Snooth User: Tifftunas
    43804 64

    I've never given Seghesio a try....I'll look for it. One of my other favs is Four Vines The Biker....delish!

    Jul 13, 2010 at 4:13 PM


  • Snooth User: jbsonoma
    273699 23

    If you can find it, Gamba Vineyards, Moratto Vineyards...Old Vine that is outstanding...decent price for the quality...and Raffanelli has always been the standard, but Moratto is Russian River appellation versus Dry Creek.

    Jul 13, 2010 at 4:32 PM


  • Snooth User: Rlamb900
    209302 1

    Add to the above David Coffaro. His vineyards are in the heart of Dry Creek Valley, his wines are excellant, and exceedingly fairly priced. I buy many cases of futures from him every year and have never been disappointed.

    Jul 13, 2010 at 4:38 PM


  • Snooth User: msanford
    393635 1

    Greg, I agree with you that Sonoma has some of the best and oldest Zinfandel vineyards in California (Sausal), but how about Lodi as a Zinfandel growing region? How would you compare Sonoma Zinfandels with some of the great Zinfandels from Lodi? Jessie's Grove has vineyards dating back to the late 1800's, and m2 wines has placed in the Top 12 Zin's of Lodi competition the last two times. Their 2007 Soucie Vineyards Old Vine Zin is wonderful.

    Jul 13, 2010 at 4:44 PM


  • Snooth User: bigzinfan
    331663 8

    Lots of '07 Seghesio in the cellar - love it! NOT purchased at $16.00 per bottle, though! :)

    Jul 13, 2010 at 4:46 PM


  • Snooth User: gdeuel
    188531 4

    just tried Michael David Earthquake (07) Zin on Sunday. Bought a case today, Tuesday.

    Jul 13, 2010 at 4:53 PM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 222,211

    Gamba is a bit of an extreme style, but about as good as it gets in that style. I haven't had a bottle recently last one about 2 years ago but it can be a wow wine!

    Jul 13, 2010 at 5:43 PM


  • I understand Turley produces several Sonoma Zinfandel as well. They have numerous single Sonoma vineyard offerings such as the 2007 Turley Vineyard 101 from Alexander Valley (Robert Parker rated 90-92); 2007 Turley Fredericks Vineyard (RP 92-94) from Sonoma Valley; 2007 Turley Grist Vineyard (RP 91) from Dry Creek; and 2007 Zampatti Vineyard (RP 91-93) from Sonoma County. They are all extremely good and attractively priced off of their mailing list.

    Jul 13, 2010 at 5:45 PM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 222,211

    David Coffaro, another classic, and about those old Lytton Springs. I had my last bottles of 84 and 85 recently. In a word Awesome! Well one was corked but the other was Awesome!

    Lodi, and the whole sierra foothills region is a treasure trove of old vine zin. Great fodder for another Zin-centric report!

    Jul 13, 2010 at 5:48 PM


  • Snooth User: annglech
    423505 1

    When out in Sonoma in 2008 we loved the Sausal old vine zins as well as Segehsio.

    Jul 13, 2010 at 6:03 PM


  • Just to clue y'all in about the "high alcohol" found in Zinfandels - - you need to get your facts straight. Us winemakers DO NOT purposely set out to make a +15% alc. Zin. In fact, what we do is wait until the berries have reached full maturity, then pick. Zinfandel is a VERY uneven ripening varietal. You must wait until the perfect time to pick the fruit so it is ripe enough for favorable flavours. More times than not, that means you've got to wait until the brix levels reach at least 25 degrees brix and above. This automatically translates into higher alcohols - can't get around that. This is winemaking 101 folks.
    If you want to get rid of the high alcohol, you've got to take it to a lab where they do a process to the wine to reduce the alcohol. Some have called these practices "Frankenwine" - - and we would have to agree. So, instead, we take what nature gives us with our specific terroir in Paso and we work our magic with it.

    With all the bitching that goes on about this subject, we would love nothing better than to make a 14% Zin for the simple sake of silencing the idiots who don't know any better. Being a long-time Zin producer, this subject is just so tiring....and well.....BORING. But, alas, we are in the business to SELL wine, not dump it down the drain, so we wait for the maturation of the grapes, vinify the wine and bottle it up. If that means +15% alc. so be it......but I can tell you we have sold out of our Zins every year for the past decade because of the wonderful fruit-forward, lush berry flavours in our wines. Anything less (READ: lower in alcohol = less jammy flavours) and we'd be out of business.

    So, next time you want to scream about "high alcohols" - please, PLEASE stick with a stinky Pinot Noir and shut up about Zinfandels. Y'all obvioulsy don't know what you're talking about - nor do you understand Zinfandel very much.

    Jul 13, 2010 at 6:15 PM


  • I agree with goodwine65.. all the complaining about alcohol level is BORING. I also have issues with those who think Zin is a "lesser" grape than the classics from France and Italy (btw, ever looked at the alcohol level in Brunello?!), and how it's some sort of picnic wine for those of us who don't know wine. I would say they don't know California! I like the focus on Dry Creek, other wineries make Zins sourced from Dry Creek, Rockpile, etc. but are "made" elsewhere. Like Oakland! Dashe Dry Creek has become my favorite go to Zin. The 2007 is fantastic... (haven't gotten any 2008 yet) dense, slightly dusty, full of fruit, has enough acid to be a great food wine. BBQ definitely! Pork, oh yea! Even grilled portobello mushrooms!

    Jul 13, 2010 at 6:49 PM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 222,211

    Nice rant,

    Insulting your audience is not the best marketing strategy, and thinking that you know better than everyone out there, producer and consumer alike is very revealing.

    As I mentioned, Nalle has managed to produce a long string of fine Zins that have come in under 14%, many producers manage to come in comfortable in the middle 14%. For example the Dashe wines, Dry Creek Valley is 14.5% in 2008, Louvau Old Vines, 14.8% in 2007.

    I've had plenty of Zins from the 70s right up to the present day that didn't seem to require excessive alcohol to be delicious, and popular. The super high octane style of Zin is only one of many valid styles, though it is favored by some people, particularly those who award huge points for big wines, and the people who follow them. And of course the folks who stand to profit from all that.

    Welcome to Snooth, don't let the door hit you on the way out.


    Jul 13, 2010 at 6:59 PM


  • Snooth User: TRN
    160734 11

    Goodwine 65 - so be open and tell us what winery you're from. I may be an idiot, but I am smart enough to avoid producers like you...and tell my wine drinking friends to do the same.

    So come on, grow some berries, and tell us who you are.

    Jul 13, 2010 at 7:44 PM


  • Snooth User: wineace
    118752 57

    A very good Zin I have had from Sonoma is from Leonhardt Vineyards. I believe that is the only production wine they make and they do an excellent job.

    Jul 13, 2010 at 8:10 PM


  • Snooth User: Tifftunas
    43804 64

    Seghesio --- is '08 vintage supposed to be worthy---I'm seeing a score of 94? I thought 2008 was supposedly not such a good year for zin in Sonoma? Any idea?

    Jul 13, 2010 at 8:16 PM


  • Snooth User: VinoVotary
    488685 19

    What about those folks over at Stryker Sonoma? They are still on their 06 vintage, and I think 07 has just hit the wineclub. I know they use Acorn Grapes for a few of their wines!

    Jul 13, 2010 at 8:23 PM


  • Snooth User: outthere
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    324443 4,858

    Segehsio, Sonoma County, is always a good buy as it is a blend of their varying single vineyard wines. While 2007 was definitely a keeper the 08's are very drinkable as well. Sure, 08 was a tough year for the growers to produce an abundant crop but the winemakers are doing good work with them.
    Another Dry Creek Zin that cannot be ignored is Carlisle. Their 08 Dry Creek Valley and Gold Mine Ranch Zins are excellent already.

    Jul 13, 2010 at 9:42 PM


  • Snooth User: nefarm
    167245 50

    I'd like to take Goodwine 65's comments and Greg's retort and put them out as a bad example of serving and appreciating your customers, and the proper way to approach those who provide your livelihood, respectively. Thanks, Greg, as that has been my best laugh this week! Too many people spread negativity when given a voice. I've found some wonderful wineries to monitor in pursuing my love of zinfandels. Thank you all.

    Jul 13, 2010 at 9:46 PM


  • Snooth User: outthere
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    324443 4,858

    zvogel001 says: "My only issue with a lot of big red zin's is that the winemakers let the alcohol get too high. I try to avoid any wine over 15%..."

    Your loss is my gain. More Seghesio, Outpost, Turley, Carlisle etc.. for me. Thank you!

    Jul 13, 2010 at 10:15 PM


  • Snooth User: twstdvn
    34423 2

    Wow - only 4? Yes - Dry Creek is known for "new" Zinfandel, but there are some other wonderful examples of Zin's from RR and AV. How about Inspiration Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel from the Russian River or their Gold Medal (Harvest Fair & SF Chron Comp) Alexander Valley. Then there is Harvest Moon's Zin from Russian River - and don't forget Carol Shelton - who devotes herself almost entirely to Zinfandel from around the state!

    Jul 14, 2010 at 1:04 AM


  • Hi folks. Just looking in from Europe and found this interesting discussion about Zinfandel which is not so easy to find over here. My local supplier has two Seghesio Zins featured. The prices quoted are inclusive of local sales tax of 21%.

    Which of the two have you been discussing?

    Seghesio Family Vineyards Sonoma Zinfandel 2008 at €20.40 (US$26)

    Seghesio Family Vineyards Dry Creek Valley 'Cortina' Zinfandel 2006 at €34.70 (US$44)

    He also has Frogs Leap and Bogle vineyards a bit cheaper. Are these any good?

    Jul 14, 2010 at 6:28 AM


  • Snooth User: zinfandel1
    Hand of Snooth
    154660 1,040

    I think that the high alcohol Zins bring out the best that this grape has to offer. If the winemaker is top notch, one will never taste or notice the higher alcohol content.
    I remember back in the early to mid seventies "Cake Bread Winery" produced a Zin that was over 16% alcohol. The alcohol was not even noticed, but the fruit was amazing.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 7:44 AM


  • Snooth User: rmrd0000
    365090 7

    I love Tony Cotorri's Chauvet Vineyards Zinfandel. It is a big fruit bomb with jam and dark chocolate notes.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 8:37 AM


  • Snooth User: snoothers
    369191 2

    I tend to lean towards non-Napa Zins b/c they leave 'em on the vines so long in Napa that they often taste like a huge bowl of fruit punch, but Biale one of the exceptions. My favorite California Zin producers in no particular order b/c they are all fantastic.

    -A Rafanelli (Sonoma)
    -Robert Biale (Napa)
    -Woodenhead (Russian River)

    Jul 14, 2010 at 9:00 AM


  • Snooth User: snoothers
    369191 2

    Sorry, I forgot another Zin I love made by Lambert Bridge Winery. They seem to make all of their wines in the old world way but with beautiful Sonoma fruit.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 9:03 AM


  • Snooth User: StockBoy
    188562 78

    How can you write an article about Zinfandel and not mention Seghesio? They may have been the first family to import, grow and specialize in Zinfandel. Their Sonoma Zin is consistantly rated 92 to 94, and it is affordable. It was the Wine Spectator No.1 wine of the year a few years ago. And, it is still a family owned and run company. It is the only Zin I drink.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 3:04 PM


  • Snooth User: zin4me
    531805 3

    I am interested in trying some of the zins mentioned by others on this site but I will be surprised if I find any I LOVE as much as Seghesio
    Vineyards, especially their affordable Sonoma County zin. Their wines are consistently excellent. However, I am up for taste-testing next time I am in the Sonoma area.

    Jul 14, 2010 at 5:57 PM


  • Try the '07 Seghisio Home Ranch.......amazing

    Jul 14, 2010 at 6:15 PM


  • Snooth User: Vine Master Fanucchi
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    46167 371

    They left a few Zinfandels out especially in the Russian River! As to the heat discussion- Here in the Russian River we can wait till the fruit is completely ripe but we are cool enough not to end up with so much sugar that the alcohols end up in the 17 range! We can capture all the ripeness and keep it in the mid 15s and balanced!
    Our current 2005 is a great example @15.6 and with the balance to age well still!
    The 2005 Fanucchi Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel had the opportunity to be tasted blind (Not for a magazine) with Ravenswood Old Hill,
    a hand full of Mazzocco Winery's best,
    a hand full of Wilson Winery's best and a few others in the highly competitive $50* & up category of the 2010 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and
    Fanucchi Vineyards took the only Unanimous Gold awarded as Double Gold!
    * FYI on 4 bottles we discount to $39 and include overnight delivery in California.
    http://www.snooth.com/wine/fanucchi...

    Jul 14, 2010 at 7:50 PM


  • Snooth User: kccrush
    527185 13

    I'm not sure what you all will think of this suggestion because you seem like professionals when it comes to wine knowledge, but what about Edmeades for Zinfandels? They're one of my favorites. Also, if the alcohol is too high in the wine, doesn't that mean either you should drink less of it, or maybe save the Zin to last (if there are a couple of options during the evening)? Or does the higher alcohol change the taste of the wine? Just curious.

    Jul 15, 2010 at 1:14 AM


  • Cameron Hughes Old Vines Zinfandel 170 doesn't knock me out quite like the 160, but it's quite good. It really benefits from some time to breathe.

    Jul 15, 2010 at 1:31 AM


  • A 3rd for Sausal. I had the opportunity to try a flight of the Family, Private Reserve and Century Old Vines last year when one of the winery folks was at my local wine bar. All of them were delicious, but I thought the Private Reserve (90 yr old vines) was the best of the bunch.
    Also, don't forget Dry Creek Vineyard. Their Heritage Zin is lovely and can be found for under $15. They make a pretty nice Malbec as well.

    Jul 15, 2010 at 1:21 PM


  • Snooth User: StevenBabb
    Hand of Snooth
    296258 483

    i was a little surprised that seghesio wasn't mentioned in the original post... and i was a little worried that it might have been passed over.... but after reading threw the posts, my worries have passed!
    that being said, seghesio and quivera are my "go to" zins out of sonoma.... they are consistently great buys and IMHO great expressions on the varietal....
    i'm learning about turley, and am slowly becoming a fan of theirs too.....
    even though this original post is about sonoma AVA, one can't mention zin without sending a shout out to the livermore valley..... rosenblum is on the verge of becoming "too big" (meaning they may be over-expanding), but they still make some great zins from there.... wente does a good job too......

    Jul 15, 2010 at 2:38 PM


  • Snooth User: StockBoy
    188562 78

    Right-on WineMaker65. Well said.

    Jul 16, 2010 at 12:24 AM


  • Snooth User: wyack
    241311 1

    What about Lodi's Old Ghost? Pretty yummy.

    Jul 16, 2010 at 12:47 AM


  • Snooth User: clikins
    278711 8

    Old Ghost is great, but for the money, just buy Klinker Brick Old Vine Zin! Still one of our favorite Zins is Rombauer Fiddletown. Though a bit pricey, we open it on very special occasions. I agree on Seghesio, wish we had some '07 cellered!

    Jul 30, 2010 at 11:56 AM


  • Snooth User: rdell
    156822 31

    I love the fact that all of you are so passionate about Zin. We're not the most popular folk on the wine boards. I have to say that one of my all-time favs is 2005 Seghesio Sonoma. Crazy good! I was planing on cellaring the 6 bottles I purchased when they first arrived, but...you open, then two, then...Ugh!!! I like my Dashe, Four Vines (of course), Dry Creek, Rubicon Zinfandel Edizione Pennino (not as great recently), Joel Gott, and for the money, Rosenblum Cellars Vintner's Cuvee...I haven't dropped more than $50 for a bottle, but the 2007's look like something not to be missed. Any suggestions on the 07's?

    Jul 30, 2010 at 1:59 PM


  • Snooth User: clikins
    278711 8

    Old Ghost is great, but for the money, just buy Klinker Brick Old Vine Zin! Still one of our favorite Zins is Rombauer Fiddletown. Though a bit pricey, we open it on very special occasions. I agree on Seghesio, wish we had some '07 cellered!

    Jul 30, 2010 at 6:54 PM


  • Snooth User: clikins
    278711 8

    OOPs, Sorry, didn't mean to send my message a second time!

    Jul 30, 2010 at 7:03 PM


  • Snooth User: Chef R
    548453 34

    We love The Fanucchi Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel2006 right now!
    @ kccrush the key words are "too Much" the Edmeades Zin style is more an aperitif like a port. they can be nice as to sip lightly after dinner with a sweet dessert but a couple glasses with dinner is usually way too much & really not a "wine & food" paring. Of course I am speaking a restaurateur.

    Aug 05, 2010 at 3:15 PM


  • Snooth User: keukagene
    115779 8

    It's great to see such passion about zins. They are my favorite. I buy Cline Ancient Vine by the case. Yes....I have a case of 07. This wine has never displeased any of our guests and is very affordable. I also purchase other zins, preferring ancient vine from the Sonoma region. Will continue to recommend Cline. Love it.

    Sep 07, 2010 at 2:07 PM


  • Snooth User: fwv
    104120 18

    I very much enjoy and would reciommend highly the Nalle and Amphora Zins.

    Sep 07, 2010 at 3:13 PM


  • Snooth User: RexSeven
    567379 169

    Haywood Estates. Great Zins. I discovered them as on wine.woot.com. I liked them so much I ordered a case. I'm now out and have discovered the price has gone up considerably. Should have gotten two or three cases before!

    Sep 07, 2010 at 3:35 PM


  • Snooth User: Sauvyfan
    247517 0

    Love the discussion about Zins. Thanks for your thoughts on WineMaker65 Greg.........couldn't agree more. My three favorited all come from Napa, (heaven forbid) Biale, Storybook and D-Cubed. Really enjoy Seghesio and Ridge Ponzo (blend) from Sonoma.

    Sep 07, 2010 at 7:17 PM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 222,211

    Haywood, what a blast from the past! I was buying their wines through the mid 1980s, loved them back then, still have one or two I'm sure!

    I try and call them like I see them Sauvyfan!

    Sep 07, 2010 at 7:28 PM


  • Snooth User: mbhes
    132989 10

    Interesting posts. While we don't have access to all of the smaller producers out here on the East Coast, here are my favs: Rosenblum (Rockpile & Monte Rosso Vineyards), Girard (Old Vine Zin), Earthquake, Peachy Canyon (Westside) and Ravenswood (Dickerson). Exceptional wine: Nickel and Nickel (Pozo). These Zins range in styles from silky to big fruit forward. Each can be enjoyed with different meals or by themselves. These wines are all from 2005-2007. Actually, Windsor North Coast Zin 2006 is a good solid everday lower priced one too. Yeah, I know (it is a big commercial winery)- but is it sneaky good.

    Sep 08, 2010 at 10:28 AM


  • The 2007 Seghesio Sonoma County Zinfandel scored 93 from Wine Spectator and was awarded their #10 of Top 100 for the year 2008. 68,000 cases were produced and it quickly sold out after the WS ratings were released. List price was $24. Alcohol was listed as 15.5%. (for the record, 2006 was 15.4, 2004 was 15.0, and 2003 (WS 90) was 14.9). Remember that alcohol values have a wide reporting tolerance, and if you love the vintage...who cares. I was lucky to buy 3 cases of the 2007 and am still enjoying it and it is a well received gift by friends. The recommended drinking window for the 2007 is listed as through 2012, but I will keep enjoying it from my 55 degree wine cellar.

    Sep 09, 2010 at 2:32 PM


  • Snooth User: sahunt
    344836 6

    Dismiss this grape - are you out of your mind - it is our absolute favorite ! We went to ZAP last year and that was truely amazing !

    Sep 28, 2010 at 8:36 PM


  • Too much alcohol? Ok, forgive me, for I have Zinned. Seghesio Old Vines and Biale Black Chicken Zin - deLISH!

    Oct 31, 2010 at 11:28 AM


  • Snooth User: Luciano L
    806255 111

    You seem to have left out most of Russian River Valley!
    Many there Take advantage of the cooler climate that extends the growing season. They can balance the ripe fruit and if they get into the high alcohol side the can be so packed in depth they don't feel hot at all. My favorite right now is the Fanucchi Vineyards 2005 Old Vine Zinfandel (which seems to be quite well regarded her on Snooth http://www.snooth.com/wine/fanucchi... ).
    Russina River Also is home to: Hartford Family Winery, Martinelli Winery, Robert Robert Rue, Carol Shelton, Siduri, Carlisle, and some of the Ravens Wood historical vineyard designates.

    FYI Zin has continously been in the Russian River Valley for at least 125 years!


    Mar 26, 2011 at 4:52 PM


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