The Best of Zinfandel

An amazing line up of the very best Zinfandels

Carol Shelton- A Zinfandel specialist and the ‘most awarded winemaker in America” as well. The wines here tend to be on the bigger side, somewhat due to their origins with vineyards in Cucamonga as well as throughout Sonoma county and in Mendocino as well. Having many fruit sources means there is a bit less of a house style here as it seems that Carol Shelton tries to let the vines do most of the talking here. The results are balanced, and fruit driven though they still do seem to carry a noticable winemaking imprint. 
Deep briary nose a little poppy seeds, spice and black raspberry fruit with bitter chocolate shavings and coffee oak aromas.  A big wine with layers of flavors, bitter cherry, musky, wild flowers and jammy black currant all framed with a little nutty oak and some fine green edginess here as well. The tannins are noticeable, acids bright, both contributing to a little tactile and dusty feel in the mouth but this turns very focused and steely on the backend with cherry skin notes, and a little wild blackberry thing going on. A little chewy and raw and sure to improve. 90pts
Big jammy vanilla and licorice scented nose with lots of juniper accented wild berry fruit aromas. Fresh and 
zesty in the mouth. This is very well balanced with lots of fruit tannin supporting deep briary flavors. The clarity of fruit on the palate is surprising given the jammy aromas. This picks up lovely brushy chaparral inner mouth perfumes that lead to gorgeous red fruit with a little  lingonberry character on the finish, which does show a touch of heat. A little tannic and chewy but nicely done. 91pts
Creamy white chocolate and raspberry/cherry fruit lends this a softness on the nose with hint of wood spice framing the somewhat over-ripe fruit. Rich and powerful and ever so chewy on the palate with nice freshness to the coffee and herb tinged strawberry and black cherry preserves fruit. There’s lots of soil driven character on the palate with ripe tannins contributing some power to the briar wood, cocoa and wood spice flavors on the long, palate staining finish. 91pts
Dark earthy, mineral and balsamic on the nose with dark fruit and pressed floral accents. Rich and seamless on entry, this has fine tension in the mouth, a little dusty though with super depth on the palate and deeply steeped flavors, all blackberry and black curranty The  super fine yet firm tannins keep this firm and focused through the long finish which shows some blueberry jam notes a  dark assertive spice flavors. The oak is very well judged offering gentle support to the dark and mineral fruit flavors. 92pts

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12 Top Zinfandel October 2013

Dashe Cellars Zinfandel Florence Vineyard Dry Creek Valley (2010)
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Bucklin Old Hill Ranch Zinfandel Ancient Field Blend (2010)
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Ridge 'Lytton Springs' (2011)
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Talty Winery Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley Estate William Talty Vineyards (2009)
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Seghesio Zinfandel Monte Rosso Sonoma Valley (2011)
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Green & Red Tip Top Vineyard Zinfandel (2010)
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Elyse Zinfandel Napa Valley Morisoli Vineyard (2009)
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Carol Shelton Wines Zinfandel Rockpile Rocky Reserve Rockpile Ridge Vineyard (2009)
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Gary Farrell Zinfandel Bradford Mountain (2010)
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Bella Vineyards & Wine Caves Zinfandel Big River Ranch (2010)
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Rockpile Winery Zinfandel Rockpile Jack's Cabin (2011)
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Storybook Mountain Vineyards Zinfandel Napa Valley Eastern Exposures (2011)
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Mentioned in this article


  • Hi. Have you heard of C.G. DiArie Vineyards? I would like to hear about them if anyone has any experience with them. Thanks.

    Nov 05, 2013 at 11:23 AM

  • Snooth User: Mccz
    536799 3

    Ever heard of as Robles? Wow!

    Nov 05, 2013 at 3:31 PM

  • I have been to DiArie Vineyards about two years ago. They do have quite a few good zins.

    Nov 05, 2013 at 3:45 PM

  • Snooth User: Richard Foxall
    Hand of Snooth
    262583 2,876

    I've said it elsewhere: That Seghesio Rockpile is from a vineyard that produces some great Zins. They are not allowed to vineyard designate it (only the owner of the property has SVD privileges on his grapes), but it is single vineyard. And now that Seghesio has been sold, the contracts have terminated and that wine will no longer be available. So buy the 2011 (and maybe there is a 2012 in the pipe) because you will never see it again. At $35, it's a relative steal--the other bottling from that vineyard will be selling for 7-10 more.

    Nov 05, 2013 at 3:54 PM

  • Snooth User: EMark
    Hand of Snooth
    847804 5,601

    I have had a few DiArie wines and they are darned good. Snooth Forum regulars will confirm that I am a Zinfandel bigot. However, I think that the best DiArie that I have tried was a Barbera.

    Nov 05, 2013 at 7:40 PM

  • Snooth User: Richard Foxall
    Hand of Snooth
    262583 2,876

    DiArie is also, from what I hear, a really nice guy. He comes down to Oakland to do tastings, but I've never managed to get to those.

    One thing not mentioned in the article: The Dashe Enfant Terrible used to be made with no sulfites added during bottling. So it was volatile and had to be drunk young, hence the name and also the style. Don't know if it is still done that way, as I haven't had it in a bunch of years. And that Lily Hill is my favorite Bella, to be sure.

    Nov 05, 2013 at 7:51 PM

  • Snooth User: EMark
    Hand of Snooth
    847804 5,601

    2nd Comment. As a big fan of the Ridge Lytton Springs bottlings, I was impressed with your opinion of the 2011, Greg. I was really disappointed with the 2010. So, I guess I'll start stocking up on the 2011.

    Also, I guess I should give a shout out for the Southern California wine--the Carol Shelton Cucamonga Valley. About a year and a half ago, we were dining with a friend from North Carolina and saw that on the list. I really do not recall what vintage it was, but I thought it would be neat to try a local wine. A total fruit bomb. I was really disappointed. However, I'll keep an eye out for this 2010

    Nov 05, 2013 at 8:28 PM

  • Snooth User: BGBGBG
    1386177 8

    Did you even go anywhere near Paso Robles? Only some of the finest Zin I've ever had.

    Nov 05, 2013 at 10:14 PM

  • Snooth User: ddingley
    395920 5

    Nothing from Amador here, unless I missed it somewhere. That is a great, historical region with vines going back to the Gold Rush and a great value ratio as they have remained affordable. The best vineyard in my experience is Deaver who makes their own limited bottlings and sells to a few others, notably Montevina D'ell Oro.

    Nov 05, 2013 at 10:24 PM

  • Snooth User: Mccz
    536799 3

    So many great wineries in Paso Robles, where grapes are often sourced for award-winning wineries in (you guessed it), Napa Valley!

    True, many of them in Paso are embracing the Rhone Rush (and why not?), but the region is still much about Zinfandel, and they do it well! Check out the Zinfandel Festival, March 14-16 in 2014, but the best time is year-round, when you can more leisurely chat with the winemakers.

    And bookmark Paso Robles Magazine to download (free) monthly issues for all the happenings. This weekend is all about the Paderewski Festival with wines, a vineyard tour, classical and jazz music performances by some amazing world-renown artists.

    Paderewski was a brilliant composer, pianist, and former prime minister to an independent Poland. He grew grapes in Paso on over 2,000 acres and really kick-started the region for his Gold medal Zinfandels. Today, Epoch Estate Wines has resurrected Paderewski's old vineyard and also purchased the historic York Mountain Winery. Their wines fly out the door as soon as they're released...they're that good!

    Nov 05, 2013 at 10:47 PM

  • Snooth User: ubla
    1043713 7

    My favorites are Turley and Klinkerbrick by far!

    Nov 06, 2013 at 8:53 AM

  • Snooth User: sunnyg
    1198458 38

    I agree. Turley is the best! Will have to try Klinkerbrick. Thanks for the tip!

    Nov 06, 2013 at 1:04 PM

  • Snooth User: lodiwino
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    222318 82

    GDP - you gotta have at least 1 Lodi Zin in that line up...Klinker, Fields, McCay, M2 - some beauties at some great price points

    Nov 06, 2013 at 1:23 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 204,581

    Fair enough folks. There are great Zins produced in Mendocino, Lodi, Paso and the Sierra Foothills. The greatest concentration are still in Sonoma, and those are some of my favorites. But, I'll make a point of planning on a trip next year that visits the rest of the state in search of great Zins!

    Nov 06, 2013 at 3:58 PM

  • Snooth User: SGD
    610727 21

    Had some great examples of Plavac Mali made by Dubokovic in Hvar, Croatia. Plavac Mali is said to be the earliest form of what is now known as zin

    Nov 06, 2013 at 4:56 PM

  • Snooth User: mrwino
    1279683 64

    Been there...Drank them! You're right GDP; Sonoma (Dry Creek) is the Disneyland of Zins. But you failed to recognize two of the top producers of the juice. Mazzocco (a block from The Ridge) and Wilson Wineries’ are the TOPS in my book, and also that of this past year's Harvest Fair, garnering over 40 Best of Class, Double Gold, Gold, Silver and Bronze awards. Winemakers Antoine Favero at Mazzocco and Diane Wilson at Wilsons (International Women's Winemaker of the Year a few years ago), do the best job in crafting their wines that I've tasted none! Another great producer in the Valley is Tom and Bruce Cousins Armida Winery. The "Tina's Block" Zin from Tom and Tina Maple's vineyards (arguably the best Zin vineyard in California), is a stand out...and sells out FAST! Also, don't forget Martinelli's great juices, J&L and Jackass. A couple of the better Zins I've found in the Sierra's belongs to Terra-Rouge/Easton Winery (Check out the cover of September's WE), and Bella Grace's Old Vine Zin. Easton also produces some of the best Syrah's around. Lodi and Paso are both great Zin farms. A couple you might try are Klinkerbrick's Old Ghost and Michael-David's Gluttony in Lodi. Two very different wines but both are simply fantastic. I’ve been to all but 17 wineries in the Dry Creek/ Amador/El Dorado and Lodi areas, which I’ll knock off a couple of those this weekend. GDP, if you need a traveling partner on your next road trip, I'll be glad to navigate!

    Nov 07, 2013 at 6:05 PM

  • Snooth User: outthere
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    324443 3,827

    "Had some great examples of Plavac Mali made by Dubokovic in Hvar, Croatia. Plavac Mali is said to be the earliest form of what is now known as zin"

    Zinfandel is not the same variety as the Croatian variety Plavac Mali as stated above. It is, rather, the same variety as the Croatian variety Crljenak kastelanski, which has also been called Pribidrag and Tribidrag. And it's the same variety as Primitivo. Many names for the same grape variety. (Plavac Mali is actually the progeny of Crljenak Kastelanski and another Croatian variety called Dobricic.)

    Nov 08, 2013 at 1:19 PM

  • Snooth User: outthere
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    324443 3,827

    My comment above cites UC Davis Geneticist Carole Meredith who was the person who genetically DNA fingerprinted Zinfandel to Crljenak Kastelanski.

    Nov 08, 2013 at 1:24 PM

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