ZAP Zins: Dry Creek Valley

All 19 wines tasted


For several reasons, the Dry Creek Valley really is ground-zero for the finest Zin production. Not only are there a disproportionate number of ancient vineyards here, but they tend to be planted on the hillsides, which is not all that surprising in this rather narrow, long valley. The position of the valley and the ridges that form its boundaries create a near-ideal climate for Zinfandel, neither too warm nor too temperate.

Dry Creek Valley shares some of the Pacific’s tempering breezes that are so fundamental to the Russian River Valley style, though the wines tend to be a little less lush, having more detail and complexity, with spicy and floral notes adding aromatic complexity. These are full of classic brambly blackberry and dark cherry fruits in a rich but balanced style.
Great Sonoma Zinfandels at ZAP Festival 2011
2007 Talty Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel William Talty Vineyards 15%, $38
Spicy and briary on the nose with chocolate and earth topped by crushed blackberry fruit, topped with notes of smoke, toast, pumpkin pie spice and a rather vibrant floral scent. Lovely balance in the mouth with bright acidity and lovely round soft tannins supporting notably fresh blackberry, black raspberry and cherry fruit. This is slightly chewy but very fresh and transparent, with compellingly fresh and vivid fruit flavors. Excellent balance really allows this to float across the palate and onto a bright, very red-fruited, succulent finish, with excellent resonance to the fruit that is accented by a subtle licorice tone. 93pts

2008 Wilson Winery Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel Sawyer Vineyard 15.2%, $30
Intense and extract on the nose exuding essence of Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel. This is packed with brambly briary berry fruits, soil tones, and light licorice and baking spice notes, all topped with a floral nuance. In the mouth this is powerful and chewy, with a touch of hoisin right up front, which is followed by powerful, rich waves of herb-inflected blackberry and jammy strawberry fruit. There are significant tannins here and a nice lashing of vanilla and subtler wood spice but everything is in gorgeous proportion.  Even though the wine is large-scaled it’s wonderfully aromatic and fairly transparent. The finish closes in a bit due to the tannin and a touch of heat but the fruit, focused and lean, powers through the tannin ending with a jammy red cherry note and aromatic floral and herb tones. Fabulous Zin. 93pts

2008 Wilson Winery Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel Ken’s Reserve 15.7%, $30
Nicely integrated oak on the nose with fine vanilla tones framing the crisp if slightly baked black fruit. There are really nice floral and herbal elements that emerge with air yet remain just under the intensity of the fruit. Smells a little alcoholic. Really focused in the mouth, a bit low amplitude but with a vibrant feel, if a touch on the heavier side, though this is not sticky or at all opaque. Richly fruited and packed with vibrant strawberry, raspberry and blackberry fruit all supported by fresh little tannins.  Considering the alcohol, this is downright restrained, with superb balance that keeps the alcohol in check until the very last hint of the finish. Super wine. 92pts

2009 Wine Guerrilla Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel Adel’s Vineyard 14.7%, $30
Lovely perfumed nose of brambly black raspberry fruit gently accented with vanilla, spice and soil notes. With air notes of pencil shavings and crushed wildflowers add detail. Relatively light-bodied in the mouth and very freshly flavored with juicy, crisp notes of crushed black raspberry with hint of cherry and blueberry. The wine is brilliantly transparent in the mouth and wonderfully open. On the backend this gains a nice soil tone and reveal good aromatics on the spicy, briary finish. A fruit-driven wine in the best sense of the word. 92pts

2009 Mauritson Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 15.1%, $25
Really briary on the nose with crisp, fresh black raspberry and black currant fruit, topped with notes of pipe tobacco, tomato leaf and a hint of POG (passion/orange/guava). With air, the fruit turns redder, full of cherries and a hint of cranberry, but at the same time the oak become more assertive as well. This is really love in the mouth. It’s restrained at this point, but you can get a sense of the great depth of fruit and purity the wine possesses. There is nice supporting acidity that lends a zesty edge to the mid-palate and wonderful ripe tannins adding weight across the mid-palate. The wood tannin does become more obvious on the backend but it remains well balanced. 91pts

2007 Brazin Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel Old Vine 14.5%, $20

Sweet yet balanced toasty oak notes and ripe black cherry fruit are accented by hints of pomegranate, white pepper and crushed flowers. Rich and full in the mouth, with layered tannins and really vibrant acidity lending this a particularly bright feel. The tannins are still a bit aggressive, but the wonderful pool of fresh strawberry and raspberry fruit balances the structure well. There’s a little cocoa on the backend and the tannins do turn a bit woodier and spicier on the finish, but this is really wonderfully put together. Freaking delicious. 91pts

2008 J. Keverson Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel Thurow Vineyard 16.2%, $30
Low-key nose with plenty of pipe tobacco notes lurking under cocoa-dusted, toasty black and blue fruit. Big and fairly mouth-filling if not weighty or sticky. This has lovely fruit with a real impression of sweetness, without being sweet, though the alcohol helps. In the mouth it’s quite fresh with the same black and blue fruit of the nose and a finish that is spicy and fresh with red fruits and a blueberry top note.  The alcohol throws the balance off a bit here but it really doesn’t come off as hot.  This gains depth and inner-mouth perfume with time, adding more length to the fruit-driven finish. Not elegant, but not over the top. 90pts

2007 Pedroncelli Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel Bushnell Vineyard 14.9%, $25
Tight on the nose, with an immediate dusting of cocoa followed by very soft, gentle black cherry topped with boysenberry and blueberry tones, all framed with black soil and toasty oak notes. Very focused and tight on entry, with a core of vividly ripe blackberry and boysenberry fruit that expands in the mouth. There are finely balanced tannins that are helping to frame the fruit and excellent depth provided by soil and wood spice tones that lend a bit of marzipan to the palate. The finish is a touch tannic and drying at this point but long and complex. This is a tough Claret-style Zin but with a wonderful core of fruit waiting to burst through the tannins. Cellar it for a year or two, then enjoy. 90pts

2008 MoniClaire Vineyards Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel Lytton Springs 15.2%, $28

Unusual on the nose, with an initial burst of carob and persimmon that forms the base for the peppery, toasty, Italian plum and black raspberry jam nose. Soft and expansive in the mouth with integrated acidity and some slightly assertive tannin. This is moderately large-scaled, though remains nicely transparent in the mouth with an honest feel. It’s a little rustic, but well balanced, with bright berry and plum fruit framed with toasty, lightly spicy oak. There’s a nice touch of herb and flowers on the backend before the tannins take over on the moderately long finish. The tannins lend a succulence to the finish with long notes of tea, plum skin and briary. This grows on me and would be better with food. 89pts

2007 V. Sattui Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel Ramazzotti Vineyard 15%, $36
Chocolatey and dark on the nose with a slight pruney edge to the black berry fruit. There’s an intriguing mineral edge to the wine as well as something vaguely meaty and minty about it. Soft and focused on entry with vibrant acidity supporting dark, earthy, slightly leathery and chalky fruity flavors. This feels quite youthful and seems to be a bit closed at the moment, with hints of good depth and ripe fruit on the palate, all cut by a nice mineral streak. The finish is a bit tannic today with fine plummy fruit framed by chocolate in the mouth, with lingering notes of spice and mineral adding nice detail. Not a blockbuster and a touch rustic but interesting. 89pts

2007 The Federalist Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 14.2%, $24
Very recognizable as Zinfandel ,with big briary blackberry jam notes over lovely dusty soil tones, all accented with judicious oak notes and gently nuanced spice.  Very nice on entry as it slowly builds in the mouth. There is good acid here and that is what is first noticeable, then the tannins creep over the tongue, pushing a fine layer of ripe yet transparent and succulent wild cherry and spicy wild raspberry fruit across the palate. Rather lightweight for a Zin but admirably fresh and easy-drinking. This finishes with a refreshing wash of acid and tannin supporting a lovely, aromatic bitter cherry finale. Many may discount this as too lightweight. 88pts

2008 Pezzi King Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel Old Vines 16.1%, $24
Lots of vanilla up front with good briary tones and suggestions of herbs but significant heat as well. Big and full on entry with a surprisingly vibrant feel. This is packed with brambly blackberry fruit that initially has an edge of sweetness from the alcohol, but that alcohol adds a bit of burn through the mid-palate and onto the moderately long and slightly sticky finish, where it becomes a bit more bothersome. Certainly well made but a bit outside of the norm. 88pts

2009 Wine Guerrilla Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel Coffaro Vineyards Old Vine Block 1 15.4%, $40
Smells a bit gamy and candied at first, though with air it takes on a milky, oaken quality, accenting the flora- scented pomegranate and raspberry fruit. Smells very root beery too. Broad and lush in the mouth, with bright red fruit up front, followed by somewhat darker fruit on the mid-palate. The tannins, fuzzy and fresh, tamp down the fruit a bit and some covering spice at this stage in the game but, after airing, the fruit perks right up and asserts its blackberry self. There’s a slight candied edge on the backend that leads to a fairly abrupt finish that ends with a touch of heat, but this shows youthful promise. With time, the finish really does unfurl quite nicely, but this never loses that bit of heat. 88pts

2008 Rued Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 15.5%
Lots of toasty, sweet cookie notes early on, which are joined by some dark berry fruits that have a wild edge. Quite intense and assertive with a jammy black raspberry core framed by menthol notes and topped with a smoky, fireplace ash note. Round and well balanced with a nice fresh feel. The acid is bright and the tannins just a bit fuzzy, giving this a slightly rustic, tactile feel. A lot of fruit and tannin on the long, slightly minty blackberry finish bodes well for further development. Stumbles just that little bit on the nose. 88pts

2009 Wine Guerrilla Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel Forchini Vineyards Old Vine 16.1%, $35
Smells sweet, buttery, and quite candied with a jammy strawberry scent. There’s a lot of damp soil here and some forest floor tones as well. Big and sort of sweet in the mouth, yet without the fresh fruit flavors to back it up. This comes off as medicinal and hot, with a light core of fruit soft tannins and low acidity. The finish is fairly long but again quite medicinal and with heat on the finale. 87pts

2007 Moniclaire Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 15.2%, $28

Huge nose of briary fruit with herbal top notes and hints of white chocolate, white chocolate and tropical fruits framing the lightly dried plum and black currant fruit.  A bit soft in the mouth but very broad with rich, chewy, dense fruit. This is packed with blackberries topped chocolate shavings and drizzled with pomegranate syrup. The tannins are woolly and fairly prominent in the mouth with a slightly stemmy, peppery tone. Lots of vanilla emerges on the backend and onto the short and somewhat hot finish. This start out promisingly and people looking for this rich, powerful style will like this more than I do, but it lacks follow-through and finishes with more of those stemmy, peppery tannins. 87pts

2008 Kokomo Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel Winemaker’s Reserve Timber Crest Vineyards 15.8%, $30
Spicy and a bit hot on the nose slightly jammy blackberry fruit and a big vanilla overlay. There’s a fair amount of oak-influenced integrated with the fruit as well. A bit cutting on entry, with impressive acidity but also some noticeable alcohol as well. The mid-palate is full of red fruit, lots of raspberry and even strawberry fruit here, with nice wood spice and fruit spice tones. It’s a big wine but nicely balanced with real freshness to the fruit, but the alcohol tends to dominate the back half and the finish, leaving one with a bit of a bitter burn. 87pts

2007 Fritz Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel Estate Grown 14.8%, $25
A bit leathery on the nose with an earthy and slightly peppery underlay to the lightly candied dark cherry fruit. This smells fresh and fruity if not terribly varietal. Bright on entry and very fruity in a light red-berried sort of way. There is a nice briary spice tone running through the red raspberry and currant fruit on the palate with gentle tannins adding a bit of body. This is very much in the easy-drinking camp, an ideal pizza wine and, in fact, it strikes me as rather Sangiovese-like, even down to the lightly austere tannins on the moderately long finish. 86pts

2007 Manzanita Creek Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel Carreras Ranch Old Vine 16.9%, $38
Plummy, pruny and roasted on the nose with a sweet, caramelly, crème brûlée-edge and notes of fudgy brownies all bound up with tarry, licorice tones that lend the whole package a medicinal quality. Big in the mouth but fairly fresh feeling, though the flavors mirror the aromas and this lacks freshness. It’s better than the nose with nice blackberry and black plum fruit, but it’s kind of heavy and detail-less with a core of somewhat bitter, tarry fruit and huge black peppery streak on the backend, which leads to a short finish. 86pts

To see a slideshow of the top Sonoma Zinfandels at ZAP Zinfandel Festival, go to Great Sonoma Zinfandels at ZAP Festival 2011.

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  • Snooth User: homestar
    512161 83

    I agree Dry Creek makes fabulous zins and Talty's was the best thing I tasted on my trip there. I have a few of his in the cellar and am looking forward to the right time to enjoy them. Glad he gets top billing here.

    Jan 06, 2012 at 9:00 PM

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