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In the wine world, what says “California” more than Zinfandel? It was not the first grape to have been brought here from the old world, but it is indeed the oldest of the varietals in vineyards still living and producing. Variations in style range from rosé and white Zinfandels through the spectrum to clarets and powerhouse reds, then on to port or late harvest styles. Today we will taste claret to high-extraction reds from the various production areas of the state.
Next Saturday, the 15th, we will be visited by Katie Finn of Epic Wines who will lead us in a discussion of Spanish reds from CUNE, which stands for Compania Vinicola del Norte de Espana, one of the best-known producers in the Rioja.
2006 Alexander Valley Zinfandel, “Sin Zin”, Sonoma
Sin Zin is one of the most highly recognized wines from the Alexander Valley and the winery that bears the valley’s name. There are the typical notes of boysenberry and wild strawberry along with some crushed black pepper. This vintage is a touch darker and richer than some previous versions, most likely due to the addition of a small amount of Zinfandel from the Dry Creek Valley to the blend before the wine was aged in French and American oak.
2004 Norman Vineyards Zinfandel, Paso Robles
Norman Vineyards is a small family owned winery in the hills west of Paso Robles on California’s Central Coast. The family has been growing grapes there for over 30 years, and making wine for over 15. Delicate, fruity aromas of blueberry and cassis mingle with spicy notes of sage and mint. The wine is full-bodied with intense fruit, and the lengthy finish is mouth-coating with caramel and chocolate flavors. Perfect with grilled beef or pork, it can also stand alone as an apéritif.
2005 Jake-Ryan Cellars Zinfandel, Bald Mountain, Napa
Located 1900-2100 feet in elevation, this vineyard is dry-farmed and terraced to accommodate the altitude and steep slopes of the mountain. Temperatures tend to be cooler than in most parts of Napa Valley; however, the vineyard is generally clear and sunny when the Valley is blanketed with fog. This Zin is bursting with aromas of cherry, raspberry and blackberry, with some integrated caramel and vanilla notes. In the mouth there are flavors of ripe cherry, rhubarb, and blackberry preserves with cedar and spice characteristics adding a punch of complexity and personality.
2004 Joel Gott Zinfandel, Dillian Ranch, Amador County
In 1996 Joel drove up to the foothills of Amador County to visit family friend and veteran vintner Tom Dillian. He came back to Napa Valley with his inaugural harvest. The mineral-rich, red soils of Amador County and the relatively longer growing season make this a wine that is unique in its depth and concentration, exhibiting classic Zinfandel red fruit and spice aromas. Look for rich black cherry, roasted plum, raspberry, and spice aromas. In the mouth it is full-bodied with sweet tannins on the palate. Balancing the juicy ripe fruit, are mocha and spice flavors.
2004 Edmeades Zinfandel, Ciapusci Vineyard, Mendocino Ridge
In 1878, Italian immigrant, Antonio Ciapusci, planted what is now the oldest vineyard in Mendocino County. Indeed, it is but a couple of years behind the oldest vineyard in California, the Grand Pere, in Amador County. Dried cranberries, cherries, pepper, boysenberries, and even stone fruits are part of the aromas ensemble. Layers of new French oak lead into the depths of the wine, framing nicely the rich, thick mélange of spices and berries.
2004 Rosenblum Zinfandel, Planchon Vineyard, San Francisco Bay
Rosenblum Cellars was founded in 1979 in a warehouse in Alameda where the wine continues to be made. A second tasting room was added in Healdsburg, Sonoma County to give the company exposure in the wine country. The wine begins with chocolate and black currants at first sniff, with vanilla bean and smoky sweetness in both nose and flavor. This is a fleshy tannic wine that will work best with savory meats and stews, or with walnuts and cheeses.