Wine Talk

Snooth User: czarina908

Zinfandel for a Beginner

Posted by czarina908, Aug 13, 2014.

I haven't tasted a Zinfandel in many years and would like to get reacquainted.  Any recommendations for a fruit-forward one around $25?

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Replies

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Reply by outthere, Aug 13, 2014.

Seghesio Sonoma County 20ish

Rancho Zabaco Sonoma Heritage Vines 12ish

Klinker Brick 17ish

Dashe Dry Creek 20ish

St Francis Old Vines 17ish

 

These should all be available nationally.

 

 

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Reply by EMark, Aug 13, 2014.

2nd Outhere's recommendations.

I don't know where you live, Czarina, but if you are near a Total Wine store, they seem to always have Oak Ridge Ancient Vines Zin.  A pretty good example for (I think) less than $15.

Also take a look at the GDP's article, today, on Sierra Foothills Zinfandels.  The Sobons are fairly well-distributed.  Some of the others might be a bit harder to find.

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Reply by czarina908, Aug 13, 2014.

EMark, I'm in Northern NJ.  Also, I changed my price range up to $25.

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Reply by EMark, Aug 13, 2014.

I see that there are some Total Wine stores in N NJ.  It is easy to blow off Total Wine as a "big box store," but, once you get over that, you can find good wine there at a reasonable price.  I would expect that they would have Sobon and  Seghesio there, also.  

I have to tell this story.  About a month ago I was in one of my favorite wine stores--mostly picking up everyday drinkers.  This is a store that I have patronized for about 25 years.  They have pretty good prices for excellent wines.  I was in the Zinfandel aisle, and a clerk saw that I had just put a bottle of the 2012 Seghesio Sonoma County in my basket.  He said, "That is the best wine in this section."  I mentioned that year-in and year-out I have enjoyed this particular bottling and he continued that a great review from Wine Spectator for the 2011 vintage has pushed the price over $20.  (They were selling it for $21.)

Have fun, Czarina and please come back to report your findings. 

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Reply by Terrence , Aug 13, 2014.

I enjoyed a nice red zinfindal from the company dancing redbull under $10

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Reply by ApelsecS, Aug 13, 2014.

Klinker Brick  beats them all!

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Reply by michiganoenophile, Aug 13, 2014.

Outhere has a pretty good list of recommendations. I especially enjoy the Dashe, then the Seghesio. I find that you really can't go wrong with Zinfandel's from the Dry Creek region. I might add Terra D'Oro as an option because of it's price point and consistency in addition to it's relatively strong availability. A couple of other suggestions independent of one another is to slightly chill the wine or to decant the wine 20 minutes before serving to allow it to open and enhance it. I do enjoy Zinfandels and find that they are a nice compliment with BBQ, and pasta or even with a nice Insalata Caprese. This should welcome you back to Zinfandels and keep you coming back more often. Enjoy!

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Reply by outthere, Aug 13, 2014.

Just to show I practice what I preach I went somewhere I rarely go, Guerneville Safeway, and did something I rarely do, bought supermarket wine. God I hate that store.

The Klinker was a top shelf wine while the St Francis was second shelf. Burgers on the Weber tonight.

 

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Reply by Terrence , Aug 13, 2014.

Hey EMARK who's your favorite zinfindal?

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Reply by outthere, Aug 13, 2014.

Popped the Klinker Brick Old Vine 2011 Lodi

Fruit forward, you betcha. Nose is rich and concentrated. Tastes like a blueberry creamsicle. Ripe blueberry, vanilla from the American Oak. Mid-palate blast of black fruit, tart blackberry and chalk. For tonights 50/50 Bison/Beef burgers and baked beans this should work fine. Hides the 15.8%abv better than last nights, alleged, 13.9 Rhone White.

Safeway price - $15.99

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Reply by dmcker, Aug 13, 2014.

So I'm curious, OT. Wasn't under the impression you like blueberry creamsicles in your wine. To me that's a major putoff. How's the acidity, structure, balance? How long the follow, and does the chalk get overly persistent? Or does it just drop off?. 16% is more than plenty of alcohol for me, too. Fruit almost never hides the heat, no matter how hard it tries. I guess I just never grew up drinking cream sodas with my burgers, though I did have a coke or two until I switched to (unsweetened) coffee and tea for my caffeine in college. And my desserts/sweets need to have less sugar in them than most commercial offerings in the States.

Obviously I'm just going by your descriptions, since I haven't even had a Lodi zin in a decade. So these are all questions, meant to stimulate discussion, not putdowns.

What was the Rhone white the night before? Was it a CA 'Rhone blend' or actually from the Rhone?

I really don't like overly hot, alcoholic wines, at all, and when I encounter them I tend to drop my ranking of their winemakers immediately, and unless there are other factors involved, avoid further purchases.

The bison burgers and beans sound great. How did you find the match?

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Reply by outthere, Aug 13, 2014.

The night before was a Paso Robes white rhone blend. Just awful.

Tonight I took the wine for what it was, a $16 supermarket wine, and paired accordingly. The blueberry creamsicle was not a good thing but after some air the acid came forward, the fruit brightened up a bit and the chalk mellowed. Still had sweet oak bit for the price I'm just happy it wasn't a Prisoner clone. Alcohol was not an issue which is not uncommon for Zinfandel. It wasn't complex by any means, it was a burger wine and it did it's job admirably. For what it was. Not trying to compare it with something twice or three times the price. It fit the theme of the thread so I thought I`d follow up with some notes. Some people like blueberry creamsicles. This could be their wine find!

We ended up with roasted fingerling potatoes instead of baked beans. Actually worked better. Bought the Bison on a whim because I don't trust Safeway ground beef by itself. The mixture was pretty good.

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Reply by RandyFisher, Aug 14, 2014.

Earthquake zin from Lodi fits the bill but if you're going to spend $25.00 why not spend a few more and get Ridge Paso Robles which is really nice zin.

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Reply by dmcker, Aug 14, 2014.

So you're not a pink sludge fan?  ;-(

I'm curious that nobody's mentioning any of the Ravenswood offerings. Was wondering why. Can't say I've had many of them since he sold the winery, but my question stands.

Paso Rhone attempts are not anything I've had success with, other than maybe the Perrin family operation, but then again I'm far away right now and not tasting in anything approaching real time. Bombastic fruit, horrendous alcohol counts, very flabby balance and miniscule followthrough seem to be the rule, at least in my past experience.

Thing is, if you're in Europe you can get acidity, structure and balance at $15~20 or less as long as you avoid most of Bordeaux and some of Burgundy, whose prices have been impacted by external forces. Spain and Italy are even cheaper than France, without going even further afield to Germany, Austria, Portugal, Greece and Hungary. Their infrastructural costs (esp. France's) are generally no less than California's, so why are CA wines so pricey, even domestically, forget about on the international market?

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Reply by czarina908, Aug 14, 2014.

EMark, what do you like about the Seghesio Sonoma, and MichignOenephile, what do you like about the Dashe?

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Reply by gregt, Aug 14, 2014.

Terrance - the Dancing Bull is a Gallo wine. They get more shelf space by having a different label rather than putting their own name on it. It's the kind of thing they do rather well.

Czarina - Dashe makes several different bottlings, some single-vineyard, some blends. And he makes l'Enfant Terrible, which is about $20 and is rather different from most of the other Zins people would recommend. It's "native" yeast, lower alcohol, etc., etc. In other words, he treats the Zin and also a sibling Grenache like some small producer in south France rather than like a big Zin monster producer.  He's a good producer, making big, ripe wines but they're priced reasonably.

Fife Old Vines, if you can get it, is one of the few remaning from Napa. Usually not as big and flamboyant as some.

D - that is truly an excellent question.  $15 or less is really hard and nearly impossible these days. You have to move up to around $20 and then things escalate fast. I don't know the issue. Speculating, I'd imagine that a producer like Gallo, which is certainly able to put out wines at the low end, has to have a certain volume. Just like WalMart will sell you pickles for $1.50 a jar, they would only do that if they could sell a few million jars a week. So for a wine to get into Gallo's distribution channel, it has to be worth the time and effort of the wholesalers. Smaller guys can't amortize their costs over a huge inventory, so each bottle is going to be more, plus they're probably paying more for their grapes since they are not as old as Gallo with the same bargaining power.

Then there's the market itself, which is driven by fad and fashion. So people are drinking wine and people are asking for Pinot Noir, which is a big star right now, or Chardonnay, and they want a little residual sugar and nothing too complicated. Supermarkets are full of indistinguishable crappy Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Zin and Cab, with little else. Try to find a Petite Sirah or Syrah or heaven forbid, something other than one of the top 10 grapes.

My guess is that in Europe, if you go to the big markets, you find something similar. It's just that there are so many small shops still exisiting and so many local producers. In the US, it's CA followed distantly by WA and there's neither the diversity nor the history yet.

Just speculation though.

 

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Reply by JonDerry, Aug 14, 2014.

With the land costs and taxes in CA, it's no wonder the prices are high. The average consumer has Yellowtail, Charles Shaw, Trader Joes Private Label, and a few others under $10. Seems Gallo is big in the $10-20+ range...and their Frei Brothers Reserve label is actually very decent, at least for their Cabernet.

Also not sure about minimum wage in Europe, or if labor is cheaper where the wine is cheap?

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Reply by EMark, Aug 14, 2014.

Czarina -- I like all the Seghesios because they taste like wine--not something else.  I do get fruit flavors on the tip of my tongue, but it is not IN YOUR FACE fruit.  (In all honestiy I feel that Klinker Brick and, to a lesser extent, Oak Ridge are in your face with fruit.)  I like Seghesio firmness--which, in my parlance means there is noticeable tannin and noticeable acid.  Generally, all the Seghesio bottlings exhibit these characteristics.  The "Sonoma County" bottling comes in right at your price point (which is one reason why I buy it just about every year), and it is widely available.  Actually, most of the other Seghesio bottlings, which will have single vineyard or AVA designations, are not much more expensive.  So, you might find one of those in your $25 price range.  

Terrence -- Regular readers of this forum are probably tired of hearing about it, but my favorite is Ridge Lytton Springs.  Now, technically, this is not a Zinfandel varietal bottling.  It is a blend of mostly Zinfandel and a few other grapes such as Petite Sirah, Carignane, and Alicante Bouschet.  I refained from mentioning this one to Czarina, because I wasn't sure it would fit her "fruit forward" request, and it would certainly not fit her budget.  This wine would probably cost her over $30.  Now, while the Lytton Springs is my favorite, Ridge produces several Zinfandel-based bottlings.  All of them are good to great.  Actually,for that matter, Ridge also offers other bottlings that are not Zinfandel-based.  Again, all of them are good to great.  So, if you see any Ridge wine, it will be, at least, good.

DM -- You have a good point about the Ravenswood.  Their entry-level "Vintner's Blend" should be available in Czarina's geography, it certainly fits her budget, and it would have the fruit.  I am not up to date on most of their bottlings, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were a few more in her price range.  (I do have a couple SVD bottlings in my inventory, but now we're north of $40.)

Jon -- I think that most E.U. countries have a minimum wage.  Most European countries also seem to have a very civilized view of time off--Australia, also, I think.  For some reason or another most Americans seem to disdain vacation.

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Reply by dmcker, Aug 14, 2014.

Labor is not cheaper in France. You don't even want to ask about taxes.

Frankly in the south of France I have never shopped at a supermarket, for wine or food or anything, and that's sometimes staying months at a time. Smaller shops, farmer's markets and the like serve well. In Spain in touristy places like Ibiza then yes supermarkets, but the wine prices (and selection) are still better. Italy back to almost no need for supermarkets, though it depends on location.

It's supply and demand, of course, and marketers in CA and elsewhere are charging what they can get. There's no incentive to sell at 10~15 bucks if they can get $25 or more for the same stuff. Lowest-common-denominatoring the flavor profile also seems to work when the drinking populace still is so often overcome by the complexities of wine that they accept whatever something sweetish and fruity that is served up to them, as well as marketeers' descriptions of what they want consumers to think certain grapes should taste like.

Certainly the family tradition of decent wine with meals every day of the week and good wines on the weekends is something that very few people in North America have yet to be born into. Consumers need to demand lower-priced-and-better wine for things to get better. Not hop on the bigger-fruit-and-higher-prices bandwagon mindlessly, pulled along by the nose-ring by whatever wine guru they follow. I know no one who drinks for years who wants that big fruit and flab after their initial period of getting to know wine. It's the vinous equivalent of fast food, but at much higher prices.

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Reply by gregt, Aug 15, 2014.

D - I think you're right about labor. In fact, one reason that so much wine in Burgundy and Bordeaux is machine-harvested is the cost of labor.

But don't forget that the cheap wine is not coming from Burgundy, it's coming from the Languedoc and other areas in the south and those guys are very heavily subsidized. The lifestyle of the French farmer is so much a part of France's image of itself that the French government and the EU pump money into the vineyards and the winemaking, which basically supports businesses that should fail and makes the wine much cheaper. It's so cheap that the government then gives them more money so the juice can be fermented into brandy.

A few years ago they got EU money to finally rip out a lot of the vineyards and of course, the growers rioted, demanding that the government do something to increase demand. In other words, manufacture demand that isn't there for a product that nobody wanted. Eventually Gallo moved in and they're putting out some of the cheap wine from France and Spain. Kind of funny actually.

 

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