Wine Talk

Snooth User: czarina908

My Zinfandel Report

Posted by czarina908, Aug 26, 2014.

So, I finally re-introduced myself to Zinfandel.  I bought a half bottle of Seghesio Sonoma '12.  I decantered it for 1 hour and ate it with spaghetti w/tomato-basil sauce.  The wine was dominated by the alcohol -- 14.8% -- and while I tasted black fruit and a very interesting roasted sage note on the mid-palate, the alcohol drive of the wine made it disappointing.  Are the vast majority of Zins driven by the high alcohol content?  Anyway, it seems that Zin is too overpowering for my delicate palate.  With regard to reds, I still lean towards fruit-forward, smooth, low tannic varietals like Pinot Noir, Cru Beaujolais and a couple of Chianti Classico Riservas like Monsanto.


Reply by kjt42, Aug 26, 2014.

Years ago it was a great value wine . I bought it all the time. Now the zin has been unremarkable for at least 10 years, maybe more. Good but there are better for much less.

Thanks for your articles on Zin.

Reply by Really Big Al, Aug 26, 2014.

Although I enjoy the Zinfandel's from St. Francis (Napa) and a few others, I've recently tried some of the Ridge Winery Zinfandel blends.  They are quite nice but overall I think you will find that Zinfandel wines have high alcohol content.  I don't mind the extra kick though.  Just have some charcuterie on hand.

Reply by EMark, Aug 26, 2014.

How disappointing, Czarina.  I am the guy, here, who is not that sensitive to alcohol.  So, it does not bother me.  If you are that sensitive, then you might want to just avoid Zinfandel -- or step up a bit in $$ and look at a Ridge Lytton Springs or Geyserville bottlings.  Heck, if PN or Gamay hit your sweet spot, keep on exploring them.  I am not a PN fan, at all.  So, I can't give any recommendations, but I'm sure somebody can jump in here with some ideas.  It's funny that you mention Beaujolais, though.  I had a Chanrion Cote-de-Brouilly, last night with my grilled tuna sandwich.  From my perspective it was OK, but I'm guessing that this is more the type of wine that you seek.  At $20, it was pretty easy on the wallet.  

I am on the same page with you regarding Chiantis, but I don't drink enough of them to give you any recommendations.

Thank you for coming back with the report.

Reply by czarina908, Aug 26, 2014.

Al - Thanks for the beautiful charcuterie pic.  My last job was in a high end deli and I sold all those meats and cheeses.

Emark - Cote de Brouilly is my fave Gamay varietal.  The Chavannes Cote de Brouilly Cuvee Ambassades is a beauty especially at about $20.  It's a shame about Zin.  Zin and me aren't meant to be.  :-(  Regarding Chianti CR, give the Monsanto a try if the mood strikes you.  Under $20 and wonderfully delish.

Reply by dmcker, Aug 26, 2014.

Czarina, when I started drinking zin back in the '70s, it only had 12~12.5% alcohol from any maker. Now sometimes even 16%. This is not only a problem for zin, but also for cabernet sauvignon and other varietals in California. Really bad in places like Paso Robles and Lodi, but plenty of culprits up in Napa and even Sonoma. Unfortunately it's also a problem that has spread internationally, thanks to changes in winemaking since Parker's ratings for the styles he liked began making such a huge economic difference to winery owners. Even your Chianti Classicos that used to struggle to make 12% are now pushing 14%.

Keep trying zin, with an eye out towards lower alcohol content. Certain makers don't let it get that high, while others are skilled enough to balance alcohol with other aspects of a wine's structure so it doesn't come across in the drinking experience as 'hot' (just as fruit and tannins also need to be in balance!--frankly I have no interest in a pinot noir that is fruitforward and lacking tannins; both need to be in balance). The key is thus the winemaker. Ridge is a good place to start, but there are others in Sonoma up towards Mendocino, as well. You may have to up your budget a little, but the rewards are, IMHO, worth it. 

Do you drink mostly North American pinots, or also French? And any sangiovese besides Chianti?

Hopefully one or our regulars who lives in Sonoma and qualifies as an industry insider will weigh in with some up-to-date recommendations.

Reply by czarina908, Aug 26, 2014.

DMCKER - Yes, I drink exclusively Calif. Pinots, such as Acacia Carneros, Cambria, Calera and Greg Norman.  Someday I'll get around to trying Meiomi and Flowers. I hate Willamette PNs.  They lack structure and flavor.  I tried a French PN recently and it wasn't fruit forward enough for me.  The only other Italian red I drink is Montepulciano d'Abruzzo.  Cantina Zaccagnini is always on my wine rack. 

Reply by GregT, Aug 27, 2014.

The basic bottlings of those Pinots are generally right around 13.9%. But Calera also makes a number of vineyard designated bottlings, like those from Mt. Harlan, that come in at 14.9. So does Acacia - DeSoto and Horseshoe Bend for example, and Cambria - like Barbara's.

That's right around what the Seghesio Sonoma Zin usually is. Then there are bottles like Ridge 3 Valleys Zin - the 2011 came in at 13.8 (I didn't like that wine though), or Dashe's Les Enfants Terribles, which comes in even less, at around 13.1.

Zin ripens late and it grows in warm places, so it tends to have a lot of sugar in the grapes. Also, it ripens unevenly, so to get all the berries ripe, you end up with some berries very very ripe. But it's not all hot and it can often handle the alcohol well. Unfortunately, like many things California, at the sub-$20 range, it's hard to find good examples.


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