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Review: Zinfandel round-up

Written By | Oct 15, 2013

SEATTLE, October 15, 2013 – Zinfandel can be rather polarizing. Folks either adore it or are completely indifferent to it.

A hearty, zesty varietal, Zinfandel typically goes very well with smoked foods, Mexican-inspired dishes and foods that have any kind of spicy heat to them.  While California is still the biggest producer of Zinfandel (most people think of Sonoma for great Zinfandel), however, there are a few other regions in that state such as Paso Robles and the areas near the Sierra foothills like El Dorado Country that are also gaining popularity.

Washington State has been producing Zinfandel for quiet awhile now and you’ll find a few of them here as well.

Here is a collection of Zinfandel wines that you should take the time to get to know.

Sonoma County California:

2010 Dry Creek Heritage Zinfandel – $19:
On the nose: Dried raspberries, cherries, chewing tobacco, bubble gum, baseball mitt and sprinkles of dark cocoa.

On the palate: Nice combo of dark, red fruit, leather, dark chocolate with a nice bit of spiced bark and forest floor. A very tasty Zinfandel that has good complexity and begs to be paired with spiced meats.

2011 Seghesio Zinfandel – $24:
On the nose:  Dried cherries, cigar, dark chocolate and some black raspberry. Also get notes of vanilla, spice and a hint of bramble.

On the palate: Still a very young wine, it does exhibit some solid fruit and spice which are hallmarks of this varietal. After an hour or more of decanting, the wine opens up rather well with a more relaxed palate and a rewarding, lingering finish.

2011 Pedroncelli Dry Creek Mother Clone $17:
On the nose: Tar-laced raspberries and cherries. I also get notes of dark chocolate, spice, leather and tobacco.

On the palate: If you took a pot of raspberries and cherries, reduced them down in a simple syrup with peppercorns and tobacco leaf, you’d have a good start to what this wine tastes like. Not in a sweet way at all but in a fruity, spicy and savory way. A solid mid palate and good finish make it an easy pick for spiced meats or bbq.

2011 Pedroncelli Zinfandel Bushnell Vineyard – $20:
On the nose: Black plums, blackberry jam, peppercorn, leather, road tar and smoked black licorice.

On the palate: A rather weighty Zinfandel that needs some time to open up. Once it does you’re rewarded with an onslaught of blackened fruits, smoke, spice and texture. It’s a bit over oaked for my palate, however, you won’t really notice that as you’re free-basing a platter of ribs while pounding copious amounts of this wine with reckless abandon.

2011 Ridge Vineyards Ponzo Zinfandel – $30:
On the nose: Prune, roasted fig, red pepper flake, dirty cherries, cola, tar bubble, leather and ink.

On the palate: In a very classic “Ridge” style, this wine presents a near-perfect combo-attack of fruit, tannin and acid. The combination of dark fruit and red fruit work very harmoniously with the notes of leather, dirt and spice. Drink now or hold for 9 to 12 years.

Eldorado County California:

2009 Mount Aukum Sierra Foothills Zinfandel – $26:
On the nose: A tidal wave of blackened plums, peppercorns, burnt caramel, cigar and dark chocolate.

On the palate: A very Port-like wine due to its rich mouthfeel and a relatively high alcohol level. A great deal of charred and toasty fruit, which likely is a result of a high level of oak for the cooperage program. This is a Zinfandel that is huge, heavy and begs for barbeque-sauced foods.

2009 Jodar El Dorado County Zinfandel – $25:
On the nose: Dried cherries, cigar wrapper, dark chocolate, cassis, raspberry and some white peppered mushrooms.

On the palate: A delightful wine that shows some restrain but yet plenty of fruit at the same time. Good balance of tannin and acid but the alcohol creeps up just a tad in the back-end of the palate. This is a good-tasting Zin that is reasonably priced for the quality.

2010 Crystal Basin Cellars Zinfandel – $24:
On the nose: Bing cherries, golden raisins, cigar tobacco, star anise, red licorice, tar and fruit roll-up.

On the palate: A bit jammy with raspberries, cherry cola and spice. Lush fruit that is quite lively on the palate but could use a bit more acidity to balance things out and a bit “hot” going down.  Overall a good Zin to pair with barbeque. It really needs a hearty piece of meat to go with it.

2010 Lava Cap Reserve Zinfandel – $24:
On the nose:  Cola, black raspberry, marionberry, blackberry, black peppercorns, leather, vanilla, spice and toasted oak.

On the palate: A very zesty Zinfandel that does a good job of showcasing the nice fruits that are in this grape but also the zest. While I do think it drinks a bit “oak-heavy” right now, I think it’ll taper off a bit with decantering or waiting a few more years before opening a bottle.

Paso Robles California:

2010 Jdusi Zindanfel – $32:
On the nose: Chocolate, raspberry, cherry, menthol, dark chocolate shavings, cola and a hint of leather.

On the palate: A very well-balanced Zinfandel that brings about everything there is to enjoy about this grape. Spice, red fruit, a hint of jam, dark chocolate and chunks of leather bits. Good mid palate transition that leads into a long finish which hangs out for days.

2011 Peachy Canyon Westside Zinfandel – $22:
On the nose: Cool raspberry with a hint of menthol and cola. I also get some spiced juniper berries, blueberry and smoked cocoa.

On the palate: A lighter style zinfandel that would do well with herb-crusted chicken or grilled Asian foods such as Korean barbeque.

Amador County California:

2010 Andis Estate Zinfandel – $28:
On the nose: Charred raspberry, strawberry, peppercorns, leather, cigarette butt and cherry cola compote.

On the palate: A very well integrated Zinfandel that comprises of cherry, raspberry, pepper, leather and tobacco with a little bit of dark chocolate shavings and black truffle. The mid palate brings on some cola action and leads into a lingering finish of fresh berries, charcoal and cherry.

Washington State:

2010 Forgeron Zinfandel- $30:
On the nose: Cherry cola, shoe polish, raspberries, leather, dark cocoa powder and black peppercorn.

On the palate: Actually a very nice Washington State Zinfandel and frankly one that shows a bit more restraint. While it has plenty of the 2010 acidity I adore about that vintage, it still has enough fruit and “zip” to it that lets you know it’s a Zinfandel. My only issue with it, really, is that it doesn’t seem to have a smooth enough mouth feel but that should arrive in a few more years of bottle age.

2009 Maryhill Reserve Zinfandel – $36:
On the nose: Cherry compote, dark chocolate, black pepper, leather glove, asphalt, blackberry pie filling and blueberry.

On the palate: An almost port-like experience with the underpinning of sweetness going on with this wine. It works, however, in that it helps create a big, jammy Zinfandel that begs you to pair it with barbeque or smoked foods.

2010 Smasne Cellars Zinfandel – $34:
On the nose: Cola-laced rainier cherries, red clay, cigar box, cedar smoke, black licorice and tar.

On the palate: This is a good Zinfandel but not great for $34. That is to say, if it was priced at $18 or less, it’d be a no brainer. At its price point, it’s competing with Zinfandel from other producers that present a better value proposition. It has good spice, fruit and acidity but could use a more rounded mouthfeel.

Top picks:

  • 2010 Forgeron Zinfandel
  • 2011 Pedroncelli Zinfandel Bushnell Vineyard
  • 2011 Ridge Vineyards Ponzo Zinfandel:
  • 2010 J Dusi Zindanfel
  • 2010 Andis Estate Zinfandel

Duane Pemberton

Duane Pemberton is a lifestyle writer and CDNs Auto Editor. Pemberton loves anything that helps bring people together which is why he writes about food, wine, cars, and travel.