A Taster's Journey is a newsletter on food, wine and travel. After 15 years of studying, tasting, teaching, and selling wine, I created this newsletter to not only share my passion about wine, but of food and travel as well. Each month I hope to share wines that I am drinking, food that is in season, restaurants that I have enjoyed, and places I have traveled. Enjoy!"


Wine Tasting – Zinfandel

May 19th, 2004

Zinfandel is a great grape for spring and summer because it pairs so well with everything you are grilling on the barbeque. Zins are known as an American wine, and the grape is typically grown in very hot climates, resulting in bold, spicy wines with a high alcohol content. These wines typically have plenty of flavors, most notably: black cherry, raspberry, pepper, clove, and chocolate. But all Zins are not created equal; some are light and fruity, while the best ones have considerable backbone and structure. I recently went to a tasting with wines by 53 different Zinfandel producers, and although my favorite producer, Turley, was not there, there were some excellent wines. My favorites wines were…

Ridge has set the standard year in and year out, and this year was no exception. Lytton Springs 2002 ($30) was the best wine at the tasting, it is a blend of 75% zinfandel, 20% petit syrah, and 5% carignane. It is a full bodied wine with character, spice and great balance. Although you can drink it this summer, Paul Draper the winemaker prefers to age it about ten years. Ponzo 2002 ($25) was a new label offered by Ridge using grapes from the Russian River Valley. This wine is 96% zinfandel and was also full bodied with many layers of fruit and spice. It was smooth with a long finish.

Ravenswood was another top performer that consistently makes bold zins. Teldeschi 2001 ($30) is a single vineyard wine from Dry Creek that is mostly zinfandel with a little petit syrah and carignane blended in. This wine is a gorilla. Although it has many layers of fruits and spices, the tannins are very prevalent. This wine will be delicious, but I would age it at least 5 years. Monte Rosso 2001($30) is another Ravenswood wine, this one from Sonoma, and it’s composed of 100% zinfandel. It is also a very big wine, but more approachable than the Teldeschi. It’s delicious with character and style.

Montevina Winery was a newer zinfandel producer that impressed me. Their Terra d’Oro Schoolhouse Road 2000 ($20) was a unique blend of 80% zinfandel, 13% petit syrah, and 7% barbera. The barbera heightened the forward fruit, but this fruit was balanced with good acidity and body providing a lush, well made wine. The Terra d’Oro, Deaver 2001 ($20) was made with 100% zinfandel grapes from 118 year old vines. It was a big, bold wine that will age for many years.

The two best offerings under $20 were Peachy Canyon Westside and Rancho Zabaco Sonoma Heritage. These wines were more medium bodied compared with the wines above, but they had good flavor, were not too fruity, and provided good value.

Many times when people talk about zinfandels they refer to the “R’s”, most notably Ridge, Ravenswood, Renwood, and Rosenblum. Redwood has been a good producer in the past, but their 2001 vintage lacked body and character. The wines from Rosenblum were from the 2001 & 2002 vintage, and they were all too plumy.

Zinfandel is a fun grape. The combination of bold fruit and spices make it a great match for a grilled steak. So stoke up the barbeque and crack open a zin.


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