Top Zinfandels from California

A cheat sheet for the ZAP Festival


2007 Ballentine Napa Valley Zinfandel Block 9 Reserve, 16.3%

Rather subdued on the nose with deep, plummy black cherry jam notes. This is rich, chewy and powerful in the mouth, if a touch soft. There is a lot of weight and dry extract here but the flavors -- earthy and very gently spicy -- are rather restrained and balanced. Shocked to see the alcohol. The finish is soft, chewy and lush. This is a mouthfilling wine with great balance and surprising restraint that really shows its best on the long, black-fruited and black-spiced finish. 90pts

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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 is 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. 92pts

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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

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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, chocolatey 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

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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 a really delicious, if simple, Zin. 89pt

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  • Was the Sonoma contingency left off the list intentionally? Ridge, Seghesio, Stryker, and Rosenblum are missing

    Jan 13, 2011 at 12:11 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    Page 1

    Stay tuned for next week when I present the best of the rest -- and since the rest is coming from the heart of Sonoma County...

    Jan 13, 2011 at 12:21 PM

  • Will do! Thanks.

    Jan 13, 2011 at 12:49 PM

  • Where do you rate Seghesio Zin's?

    Jan 13, 2011 at 3:45 PM

  • Snooth User: LoneWolfe
    322933 2

    Exactly, where is Sonoma in all this. And the goddess of Zin, Carol Shelton.

    Jan 13, 2011 at 4:06 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    It's right there lone wolf

    'Stay tuned for next week when I present the best of the rest -- and since the rest is coming from the heart of Sonoma County, I'm betting there are going to be some very special wines!'

    Jan 13, 2011 at 6:23 PM

  • Snooth User: LoneWolfe
    322933 2

    Well, actually, I would like for Sonoma to remain a secret. Let the crowds go to Napa. ;0) Thanks Gregory Have a good evening.

    Jan 13, 2011 at 7:20 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    Well, no matter what I say I think they will!

    Zin is just not sexy, damn good, but not as sexy as Napa Cabernet.

    Go figure?

    Be well, and thanks.

    Jan 13, 2011 at 7:26 PM

  • Since the Wall Street Journal [John Brecher] rated" your 03 it's first choice and a winery name to remember"to this new ranking you have proved that he and others are so right. The 2008 FCV is outstanding as are your other wines.Sometimes the "little handmade works well"
    Alex 1/13/11

    Jan 14, 2011 at 2:19 AM

  • Write your comment here.

    Jan 14, 2011 at 2:19 AM

  • Snooth User: englanito
    122107 31

    Missed the greatest of all napa zin's - Biale

    Jan 14, 2011 at 1:22 PM

  • Snooth User: Francois de Melogue
    Hand of Snooth
    212256 7

    What a great article! It was refreshing to see Mendocino see well represented!

    Jan 14, 2011 at 2:54 PM

  • Snooth User: Tropicgal
    101287 5

    No Rosenblum?? This list is incomplete!!

    Jan 14, 2011 at 11:15 PM

  • I will try some of these. However, Brown Winery has some stellar Zins. I mean, Stellar. I like it better than Seghesio, which is very good. Brown is a small family run winery in Napa. I enjoyed the article, I may order some these wines we can't get here in Anchorage.

    Jan 15, 2011 at 2:19 PM

  • I just interviewed Vince Tofanelli. His Zin comes from his family vineyards in the Calistoga AVA. This is a beautiful Zin, so well balanced and flavorful but not over the top. Add Tofanelli Vineyards Zinfandel 2007 to your list. Vince will be pouring this wine at Zap. Try it and you will be stunned. Price $33. By the way Vince sells Zin grapes to Turley and Duckhorn. That should tell you something!

    Jan 17, 2011 at 8:22 PM

  • Snooth User: messygonzo
    1327679 35

    Aug 02, 2013 at 6:08 AM

  • Snooth User: Mydietarea
    1328028 33


    Aug 03, 2013 at 1:59 AM

  • excellent

    Sep 09, 2013 at 3:17 PM

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