8 Elegant Zinfandels

GDP gives us his top 8 Zinfandels for summer


2009 Alysian Bradford Mtn Block Three Zinfandel Sonoma County 14.5% $36

There’s plenty of oak here with a nose full of chocolate, tobacco, vanilla and crushed spices along with a hint of Iris. In the mouth, this is full-bodied but very well balanced. The assertive oak of the nose is fairly well integrated here with rugged and slightly lean black cherry fruit. There’s good acidity and ripe tannins but everything is rather well balanced, with the fruit turning redder on the back end and redder still on the raspberry-toned finish. Very long and finely balanced, showing a little bit of iron-tinged beef and soil on the finale. Fairly powerful but elegant and quite fresh, this is lovely. 93pts

2010 Dashe Florence Vineyard Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 14.1% $32

Gorgeous nose here, this is all wild fruit, dried flowers and nuanced fresh herbs that explode from the glass. A little softer on entry than expected, this soon fills the mouth with the aromas of the nose. Shows wild red berry fruit, pine cones, a touch of toasted nuttiness and blue flowers, with an almost herbs de Provence thing going on. The acidity pops on the back end and the firm base of polished tannins provides ample support. The finish is a bit short, though with sneaky length as the tannins begin to relax and let out a nice finale of watermelon rind freshness and great wild red berry fruit with hints of apple and cranberry to boot. 93pts

2009 Klinker Brick Winery Old Vine Zinfandel Lodi 15.8% $18

Wow, this is intensely briary and brambly on the nose. Super varietal with raspberry fruit, a hint of Thin Mints and black pepper. Rich, chewy and intense on entry, this is full throttle Zin with intense raspberry and wild strawberry flavors, wrapped up in some creamy oak with hints of hickory smoked meats. There's enough acidity here to keep things lively and the tannins are nice and firm if well covered by all this fruit. The finish is an explosion of varietal fruit, leaning towards the red cherry and strawberry end of the spectrum with gentle vanilla highlights and a lovely insinuation of herbal freshness. This holds its alcohol remarkably well. 91pts

2009 Bella Belle Canyon Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 14.3% $32

Subdued on the nose though what is here is very clean and very fresh. Forest floor accented aromas of wild berry jam, coconut and something both minty and lightly mushroomy. Plump on entry and a touch angular even, this is full-bodied and rich with fine wild cherry fruit up front that is pure and very well focused right through the mid-palate. The balance here improves with a little air. This has real height in the mouth with emerging wild berry nuances on the back end along with layered oak notes that build on the finish. The finish really builds as well, with good length and gathering intensity. That spicy mushroom tone adds wonderful detail to the freshness of the fruit here. Intense without being massive. I like this. 91pts

2010 Dashe Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 13.7% $27

Lots of blackberry fruit here along with floral tones and a decidedly herbal, spicy green top note. There is very nicely used wood here adding a floor of vanilla and butterscotch to the bouquet. Smooth, creamy, almost medium-bodied but rather chewy at the same time, this is not a bruiser but is rather well packed with stuff. The fruit is a bit darker on the palate showing some boysenberry and liquory cherry notes along with some gentle gingerbread spice, all wrapped up in slightly firm and drying tannins and underlain by good, juicy acidity. The finish is moderately long and a bit tannic today with some spicy wood notes, but the fruit powers through it all, popping on the finale with juicy wild cherry notes. This needs time to settle down, give it 12-18 months. 90pts

2009 Frank Family Zinfandel Napa Valley 15% $30

Liquory and deep, this reveals a ton of fruit on the nose, all baked in a pie with a light, toasty crust and served with a cup of freshly brewed black coffee. Black cherry and blackberry dominate with really nicely integrated wood spice forming a cigar box base. This is rather large-scaled, rich and slightly chewy with fine underlying acidity and soft tannins anchoring the palate. This is a rather sophisticated example of Zinfandel, capturing some of the best elements of the intense fruit of the grape and framing them well with nuanced spice and earth notes that linger on the long finish. Shows a bit of heat on the finale. 90pts

2009 Summers Four Acre Zinfandel Napa Valley 14.2% $34

Smoky oak, vanilla and espresso foam all come together on the nose along with some black pepper, black cherry and a hint of sweet pork. Full and broad in the mouth, this shows some assertive if polished tannins early on along with rich flavors of black cherry and black raspberry. There’s a certain hardness on the palate, though a nice brambly note emerges on the back end. The fruit pops just before the coffee and toasty oak emerge again on the moderately long finish. This is fairly intense Zin, well balanced but a little youthfully rambunctious. If you want to enjoy this now, throw a porterhouse on the BBQ, otherwise wait 12 months. 90pts

2008 Benessere Black Glass Vineyard Zinfandel Napa Valley 14.7% $32

This wine announces itself with an initial blast of truffle greeting the nose, following up with earthy, beefy and spicy aromas as well as some floral top notes, a hint of habanero chile and fine black cherry fruit. Lean on entry and a bit tight, this is not a fruit-forward wine. It is laden with earth, light notes of dried fruit and zesty black raspberry in the mouth. A bit of a throwback style. The finish continues the lean theme, throwing on a bit more wood spice but otherwise tending towards austerity and earthy length. This needs food. It does have a light herbal top note in the mouth adding additional complexity, but is not for everyone as it is a savory and austere if fully ripe Zinfandel. Powerful in its own right. 90pts

2009 Ridge Vineyards Lytton Springs Dry Creek Valley 14.5% $38

A nose dominated by creamy vanilla oak, ash and leather shows faint hints of wild raspberry and dried strawberry fruit. On entry, this is smooth and seamless, a bit creamy and a touch soft for my palate, but it does deliver slow to build yet beautifully balanced flavors of plum, black cherry and a nice nutty accent. There is a lot of oak here, no doubt about that, and the oak tannins are a bit out of balance today, but this has the balance to age well for quite a long time. There’s a nice richness to the underlying fruit and already an emerging complexity accenting the plum, blueberry and boysenberry fruit on the back end. Elegant and finely balanced, though this needs 2-4 years for the wood to integrate. 89pts

2009 Sausal Century Vines Zinfandel Alexander Valley 14.5% $18

Big black cherry, blackberry fruit greets the nose with nuanced spice notes and accents of chocolate, carob and mint. Medium-full in the mouth, this shows lovely ripe tannins adding structure under the slightly creamy black fruit and anise-toned spice flavors. There’s a nice suggestion of something minty on the palate along with a hint of cocoa. The finish shows a nice pop of fruit with oak playing a decidedly supporting role here. Decent length and a really nice raspberry cream finale show the depth. 89pts

2009 Folie a Deux Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 14.5% $14
There’s a lot of caramel and licorice on the nose early on, though it is joined by black cherry, plum and a little bit of a bouillon note with time. This is smooth and soft with plenty of cherry and strawberry fruit layered over lightly toasty and spicy oak. There’s lovely balance here, both structurally and with the flavors. While this may not blow anyone away, it’s a really well done bottle of Zin that shows off the wine’s fruity side without turning monolithic. The finish shows a bit of darker fruit but the tannins remain soft and the hint of sugar here drives the finish to a red currant jam/cocoa powder finale. 89pts

2007 Del Carlo Old Vine Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 15% $32
A bit reticent on the nose building with layers of earth, mint, black currant and chocolate covered cherry aromas. Very smooth on entry with nicely defined cherry flavors early on the palate. Then, notes of blueberry, candied cherry and well integrated wood spice. The tannins are soft but present, as is the acidity. The finish is nice and bright with wild berry and raspberry notes supported by a very judicious use of oak, good length as well as persistence of fruit. A bit subtle but well put together. 89pts

2009 Bella Maple Vineyards Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 14.4% $32

Lots of oak here with deep, oily notes of cloves joined by dried herb tones and a fennel top note. This is lovely in the mouth, very transparent with a red raspberry core that shows attractive purity picking up earth-driven spice accents on the mid-palate. The tannins are crisp and well judged and the acidity is sufficient to keep things bright. There is an effortlessness to this wine that is attractive; it’s not the biggest nor the most intense, but it is persistent and shows admirable purity. This would benefit from being served at the table today, but I can see this aging well for up to a decade. 88pts

2009 Clif Family Winery Gary’s Improv Zinfandel Napa Valley 14.5% $32

Very varietal on the nose, a bit creamy and with a nice oak spice base. This delivers plenty of brambly blackberry fruit with gentle, almost floral top notes and a hint of Red Hots. Soft, creamy and rich in the mouth, there’s plenty of fresh black cherry and black plum fruit here and it really lies over the oak like a blanket. On the finish, the oak pops through with caramel and butterscotch flavors along with drying tannins. There’s also a bit of heat here marring the finish. This is a fairly big, rich and intense example of Zinfandel, structured and dense. 88pts

2008 V Sattui Black Sears Vineyard Zinfandel Howell Mountain Napa Valley 15% $44

Pretty medicinal on the nose with a fair amount of toasty oak, vanilla and cedary notes accenting the core of minty, dried blackberry fruit. Smooth and a bit soft, this shows of a lovely combination of earth and fruit-driven flavors all gently wrapped in some creamy, lightly caramelly oak flavors. The tannins are pretty firm here, adding a bit of pepperiness to the palate. The fruit is a bit restrained, nicely showing off black cherry notes on the palate and making this a bit tough around the edges. I do find the muscular nature, clean fruit and cocoa-dusted finish appealing. This could use three years in the cellar. 88pts


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8 Elegant Zinfandels

Alysian Bradford Mtn Block Three Zinfandel (2009)
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Dashe "Les Enfants Terribles" Mcfadden Farm Potter Valley More United States Zinfandel (2010)
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Klinker Brick Zin 375 (2009)
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Bella Vineyards & Wine Caves Zinfandel Belle Canyon Estate (2009)
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Frank Family Zinfandel Napa Valley Wines Domestic Zinfandel (2009)
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Benessere Zinfandel St. Helena Estate Black Glass (2008)
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Summers Four-Acre Zinfandel Italian Miscellaneous White Miscellaneous White (2009)
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Dashe Zinfandel Dry Creek (2010)
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Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: Billr85
    1122577 23

    Not one from Paso Robles area??

    Aug 07, 2012 at 4:35 PM

  • Snooth User: tracyd
    208444 45

    My two (three) faves didn't make it, either... From Michael David - Earthquake and Seven Deadly Zins. And a new favorite - Edmead. That last one was a complete surprise.

    Aug 07, 2012 at 7:03 PM

  • I agree with comment about Paso Robles

    Aug 07, 2012 at 8:34 PM

  • Snooth User: Capnkrusty
    613797 31

    I have had 4 of those wines and absolutely agree that they are excellent. I just have to say you need to try the 2010 Dashe (both) with grilled Lamb, it doesn't get any better!

    Aug 08, 2012 at 12:13 AM

  • Snooth User: skwirskm
    985184 19

    Glad to see that Frank Family made it in there. Drank a bottle last week and loved it! Excellent wine!

    Aug 08, 2012 at 11:39 AM

  • Snooth User: homestar
    512161 83

    I haven't had any of these wines, some great zins I have had are Talty, Joseph Swan, and Cosentino. Seghesio hasn't been mentioned in the zin series,despite having two wines in the WS top 20 or so the last few years. These lists only prove GDP's basic point that there is a lot of very good Zinfandel being made, eh?

    Aug 09, 2012 at 8:20 AM

  • Snooth User: Buds Girl
    1126909 22

    Seghesio and Frog's Leap....

    Aug 10, 2012 at 2:20 PM

  • Don't forget Sausal and Nalle

    Aug 12, 2012 at 2:25 PM

  • Totally agree with you, Zinfandel is the best wine I have ever tasted. Among red wines, of course

    Aug 14, 2012 at 8:56 AM

  • Snooth User: Hrabrina
    291264 11

    Hendry and Turley

    Sep 07, 2012 at 1:32 AM

  • Snooth User: Caveman6
    1279793 15

    Oh, I'm crying...This wine is so delicious, but I can't drink it 'cause I keep to the diet


    Apr 27, 2013 at 2:08 AM

  • Snooth User: jamchimps
    1385295 43

    Thats very good...

    Oct 28, 2013 at 2:47 AM

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