Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Many of the benchmark wines, role models for the world at large, are in France. While not American in origin, it is only here that zinfandel has excelled. Today the best zinfandels in the world are, without a doubt coming from the state of California. Possibly migrating from Greece, it turns out that Zinfandel is genetically similar to the Croatian grape, crljenak.

In 1820, a New York nurseryman brought several zinfandel cuttings over from the Imperial Austria plant species collection. This and others from the collection became popular table grapes. It was planted for wine in northern California during the Gold Rush, but a century and a quarter later was dying out. In the early 1980s, the Trinchero family  accidentally “invented” White Zinfandel, which met with instant success. Because of this, many priceless old-vines were saved from extinction.

Zinfandel has a hearty nature, is adaptable to a wide range of soils and climates, and tends to produce a large crop. It ripens unevenly within the same cluster, causing a challenge at harvest time. Styles range from the pink and sweet White Zinfandel, to light, accessible, fruity styles for barbecues, to claret or Bordeaux styles, and to the extreme, port-like cult style.

The best Zinfandels come from Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley, Napa Valley, Contra Costa’s sandy-soiled Oakley area, Lodi, Amador County, and Paso Robles. In all but Paso Robles, there are 70- to 100-year-old vines, giving the depth of character and exquisite balance impossible to attain from young vines. A Heritage Vineyard is planted in Oakville, Napa Valley to isolate these old vine clones and reproduce them. The wines from these areas, Paso Robles aside, are sumptuously fruity and rich enough to attain high scores, but they also maintain a backbone of natural acidity. Oak usage is judicious for the most part. The wines are delicious to drink on their own or with food.

Harney Lane Lizzy James Vineyard Zinfandel, Lodi, California (USA)
Mazzocco Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, California (USA)
Peterson Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, California (USA)
Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, California (USA)
Esterlina Bacigalupi Vineyards Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, California (USA)
Ottimino Little 8 Von Weidlich Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, California (USA)
Storybook Mountain Zinfandel Eastern Exposure, Napa Valley, California (USA)

Best Value
St. Amant Mohr-Fry Ranch Old Vines Zinfandel, Lodi, California (USA)
Clayton Zinfandel, Lodi, California (USA)
Jessie's Grove Reserve Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi, California (USA)
Lucas Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi, California (USA)
Sobon Estate Rocky Top Zinfandel, Shenandoah Valley of California, California (USA)
Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel Vintners Blend California (USA)

© Copyright 2014 Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, Planet Grape LLC. All Rights Reserved.

No comments:

Post a Comment