8 Elegant Zinfandels

GDP gives us his top 8 Zinfandels for summer


2009 Murphy-Goode Liar’s Dice Zinfandel Sonoma County 15.5% $17
This is pretty intense on the nose with fleshy fruits, wild cherry aromas and a very well integrated cigar box and vanilla-toned veneer. Very smooth on entry, this is fairly seamless with lots of red berry fruit that is fresh and juicy, showing a cognac cream edge from the wood along with some sandpaper tannins. The finish is large-scaled with cherries jubilee and plenty of wood spice. A bit aggressive today but long and flavorful. 88pts
2009 Sausal Private Reserve Zinfandel Alexander Valley 14.7% $20

Toasty on the nose but also quite spicy. Full of nuanced Middle Eastern spice notes of cumin, coriander and fenugreek along with some black pepper, all over some fudgy black raspberry fruit. Rich, round and creamy in the mouth with super fine tannins and enough acidity to keep the raspberry and cherry fruit fresh. This has a lovely texture, at once both tense and soft, with some nice earthy nuances creeping in on the back end along with a nice base note of old wood. The moderate finish is very fresh and crisp, full of high-toned cherry and raspberry fruit along with subtle old wood accents. I wouldn’t mind a bit more acidity and length, but this is pretty attractive. 88pts

2009 Sausal Family Zinfandel Alexander Valley 14.5% $17

Creamy and lightly spicy oak accents add vanilla and toasted cinnamon Pop Tart notes to the fruit here, which shows red cherry and raspberry notes. Smooth and medium weight on entry, this shows a nice bed of tannin and good acidity supporting a nice balance of raspberry fruit and spicy oak notes. The fruit turns a bit blacker on the back end, which gives way to a slightly oak-dominated finish. This is fairly elegant and long, certainly not a bruiser though I do think it needs 12 -18 months to fully integrate. 87pts

2008 Dry Creek Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 14.5% $28

A little smoky and earthy on the nose with some leathery notes accenting the spicy, candied black berry fruit. There’s a nice streak of vanilla here as well as some spice notes, but the fruit still has the starring role. A little lean on entry, this shows off some pretty aggressive acidity and fine grained yet abundant tannins on entry, all supporting earthy, slightly lean and slightly herbal blackberry fruit. The finish is a bit dry and tough with attractive bitter chocolate notes and fairly noticeable wood tannin on the long finale. A bit raw around the edges, this could stand a year or three in the cellar to see what develops, but I think it will never be generous. 87pts
2010 Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel California 15% $15
A little blueberry-toned on the nose with some cocoa and a nice aromatic wood note accenting the black raspberry fruit. This is light and fairly bright with acidity supporting the blueberry notes from the nose. There’s a light lashing of vanilla here along with some toasty wood spice accenting the core of light black berry fruit. Easy and smooth with soft and juicy tannins making this easy to drink, though it does drop off a touch on the finish. 87pts

2010 Frei Brothers Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 14.9% $20

Spicy blackberry and bramble greet the nose along with gentle oak notes of toasted nuts, dried ginger and a bit of nutmeg. Round, soft and transparent in the mouth, this has great Zin character with red cherry and wild raspberry flavors bursting in the mouth. It’s medium-bodied and middle of the road in style, so it’s not going to make many go wow, but it is a classic Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel with great flavors and balance. This really does have some great aromatics, though the finish is a bit on the short side. Still, this is an easy to drink, easy to like Zinfandel. 87pts

2009 Sbragia Family Vineyards La Promessa Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 15.5% $34

Fairly complex on the nose with notes of vanilla, coffee, raw beef and matchstick all over medicinal black cherry fruit. This is soft, creamy and rich with big black cherry flavors that show some intensity and depth but ultimately seem a bit monolithic. The oak nicely plays its supporting role with more spice and chocolate emerging on the finish, but this is just a bit too intense and powerful for my palate. Others looking for intensity will love this wine and its long black raspberry, black cherry finale. 87pts

2009 Lake Sonoma Winery Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 15% $16
A bit woody on the nose, though it has attractive cedar and spice notes over licorice-draped black cherry fruit. This is nicely plump on entry with a classic vanilla, black cherry fruit profile that offers up flashes of blueberry and strawberry with the wine’s relatively bright profile. A little creamy in the mouth, this finishes with jammy and lightly spicy black cherry fruit. Simple yes, but it does ring all the right bells. 87pts
2009 Kenwood Zinfandel Sonoma County 14.5% $14
Very lightly scented with a nice cocoa top note and some tarragon, mint and soapy floral notes all topping light berry fruit notes. This is lovely, a bit small-scaled and a bit simple. It shows fine balance, soft tannins that add a hint of mouth grab, and fresh flavors of berries, cream and vanilla, topped with a touch of dried strawberry. It’s another simple wine but one that is easy to drink and true to type. It turns a little dry on the finish, but pair this with a nice rack of beef ribs and that will be the last thing you notice. 86pts

2009 Darcie Kent De Mayo Vineyards Zinfandel Livermore Valley 14.5% $30

With aromas of old wood and something vaguely dirty here, this takes a while to pull itself together. Air does reveal some spicy carob notes and vaguely red currant like fruit. Very smooth on entry and pretty well balanced, this actually has a lovely mouth feel, fairly full but bright and lively. The flavors tend towards subtle with a bit of sour cherry, some dried strawberry, a hint of earth and a little late arriving vanilla all coming together nicely. The finish is a touch lean and drying. The tannins here really are managed very well. There’s nice length to the finish, which shows a certain unripe cherry tone. I like this more than others might. It’s a bit in the Claret mold of Zinfandel and doesn’t show great varietal typicity, but it is a pleasure to drink. Will show better with food. 85pts

2009 Bella Barrel 32 Zinfandel Sonoma County 14.5% $40

This is decidedly oaky on the nose with notes of dried mushroom, caramel, white pepper and allspice accenting the reticent core of blackberry fruit. This is large-scaled in the mouth, though it is quite soft and creamy. There's some attractive fruit here but it lacks a middle, with the wine fairly dropping off the palate. The fruit perks up on the back end, aided by some wood spice and showing a nice wild red cherry note before fading quickly on the modest finish. It seems like there is a lot here, but the wine feels fairly closed at this point. It’s big, that’s for sure, and the finish shows some nice potential, but today this is a bit simple and dull. 86pts


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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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