Category Archives: Zinfandel

Zinfandel and blends

Gallo Sonoma Reserve Zinfandel 2004

Gallo Sonoma Reserve ZinfandelPrice: $10
Maker: Ernest & Julio Gallo, Modesto, California
Varietal: Zinfandel
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 13.9%
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Gallo Sonoma Reserve Zinfandel 2004 is the second of Gallo’s Sonoma Reserve series we’ve tried lately, and we liked this one just about as much as Gallo Sonoma Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2004. This Zinfandel has a likable nose of raspberries, spice, and licorice. Its flavor is rounded and fruity, with raspberries and cherries leading the charge, and oak and tannins providing complexity and a fairly long finish. Bold, fruity Zinfandels are one of our favorite categories, and this Gallo wine does a reasonable job of representing that varietal.

We seem to be on a Gallo roll here… we haven’t found many Gallo products we like, but both of the Sonoma Reserve products we’ve tasted lately would be very acceptable at a nice dinner or party. We’ve seen this Zin on sale for well under $10, and at that price it’s real value.

Valley of the Moon Zinfandel 2004

Valley of the Moon ZinfandelPrice: $15
Maker: Valley of the Moon Winery, Glen Ellen, California
Varietal: Zinfandel
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 15%
Our Rating: 9 out of 10

Valley of the Moon Zinfandel 2004 was a find on a recent trip to a Chicago suburb, where we stumbled across a WineStyles outlet. We’re glad we stopped, because this Zin has a lot going for it. The nose is nice but not overwhelming – berry aromas mixed with oak and vanilla. The wine really explodes on the palate, though. Lush, jammy raspberries and strawberries give this Zin its fruit-forward character, while soft tannins and a bit of oak provide a lengthy finish.

According to the Valley of the Moon website, the winery has been in operation since 1863. At one point in the winery’s history, it was owned by Senator George Hurst, father of William Randolph Hearst. This is a wine that the publishing magnate himself might have been happy to serve his celebrity guests at San Simeon.

Bocce Zinfandel 2004

Bocce ZinfandelPrice: $9
Maker: Bocce Cellars, Graton, California
Varietal: Zinfandel
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, artificial cork
Alcohol: 13.9%
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Bocce Zinfandel 2004 features a colorful, old fashioned label that is reminscent of the winery’s history and the Cesar Mondavi’s love of playing bocce. The wine has a pleasant nose with lots of blackberry, licorice, and spice. Its flavor is fruit-forward with cherries and blueberries, and a somewhat tannic finish. With time, the flavor deepened and the finish became longer and more pleasant. This Zin doesn’t excel in any single area – it’s not big, it’s not complex, and the finish is comparatively short – but the overall effect is very, very nice. Bocce Zinfandel is likable and a fine pairing with Marinara-based dishes.

We like the philosphy espoused by a member of the founding family, Rosa Mondavi: “Simply, Rosa believed that when offered wine, a friend or relative was being polite by consuming one glass. Two or three glasses, however, meant the wine was very good and you had truly done your job as a winemaker.” For more information about Bocce Winery and its products, as well as a full set of instructions on how to play the game of bocce, visit the winery’s website.

Montevina Sierra Foothills Zinfandel 2003

Montevina Sierra Foothills ZinfandelPrice: $7
Maker: Montevina Winery, Plymouth, Amador County, California
Varietal: Zinfandel
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 14.2%
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

The winery presents Montevina Sierra Foothills Zinfandel 2003 as a fun, informal wine, describing it as a “perfect complement to everyday celebrations like balanced checkbooks, successfully parked cars, and Wednesday evenings.” (Don’t forget to complete the parking job and exit the car before starting the celebration!) This Zin has a beautiful ruby red color, and a nose with raspberries and licorice. The flavor is nicely structured, with pleasant red berry notes and a long-lasting finish with chewy tannins. A bit more complexity would make this Zin even more attractive, but the structure and fruitiness make for a very pleasant experience.

You might enjoy visiting the Montevina website – it’s a bit heavy on animation and short on content, but worth a look.

This isn’t the most spectacular Zin we’ve tasted, but for under $10 we’d rate it a nice bargain.

Eventus Zinfandel Primitivo 2005

Eventus Zinfandel PrimitivoPrice: $9
Maker: F. Giordano S.p.A., Diano d’Alba, Italy
Varietal: Zinfandel (Primitivo)
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 14%
Our Rating: 8 out of 10

Eventus Zinfandel Primitivo 2005 is the second Eventus product we’ve tried, and like its sibling, Eventus Pinot Rose, it’s a simple but pleasing wine. Although the winery’s website shows the label as just “Primitivo,” they note that it’s identical to the American Zinfandel grape. The bottles distributed in the US use both varietals. The nose of this Zin is strong and enticing, mostly berries with some woodiness. The flavor is all blackberries and cherries, with a bit of oak and a lengthy finish. There’s an acidic quality that adds some bite, but not in a bad way. We paired it with juicy T-bones right off the grill, and it was a winning combination.

The Eventus line of wines is nicely packaged – the bottles are slightly frosted to provide a matte finish and they have a deeply embossed circle where the vintage label is applied. The labeling has a metallic foil look, and overall the look is contemporary and elegant. We’ve enjoyed the Pinot Rose and Zinfandel/Primitivo – both of these were simple, fun wines. There are a total of eight varietals in the Eventus series, though we haven’t seen all of them in local distribution.

Old Moon Old Vine Zinfandel 2005

Price: $6
Maker: Trader Moon Wine Co., Manteca, California
Varietal: Zinfandel
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, artificial cork
Alcohol: 14.5%
Our Rating: 7.5 out of 10

We suspected that Old Moon Old Vine Zinfandel 2005 was related to the makers of Purple Moon Shiraz – the winery names differ, but both are in Manteca, California. Both came from Trader Joe’s, and the “Trader Moon” designation on this one seems like an additional tipoff. This Zin was our first disappointment from our case of inexpensive reds from Trader Joe’s. The nose was fine, with spice and raspberries. The flavor seemed overly plummy, with a bit of spice and a rather weak finish. I expected a bigger wine from a 14.5% alcohol Zin, particularly one designated as being from “old vines.” This Zin didn’t offer the complexity or flavor intensity that one would like from an old vine Zin.

Looking around the Web, it seems that the 2003 vintage was a lot better. The World Wine Weblog found it to be a great, inexpensive Zin. Commenters on that post liked it to, until Jaime M tried the 2005 and found it mediocre. The Seattle Wine Blogger, though, found Old Moon Zinfandel 2005 to be a phenomenal bargain, finding the nose to be particularly appealing:

The wine has an amazing Zin nose of raspberries and spice with hints of vanilla, tobacco, pine and eucalyptus. The aromas virtually jump out of the glass at you…

Overall, Web opinions were mixed on this one, even the 2005. For six bucks, who knows… try it, you might get lucky.

Blackstone Zinfandel 2005

Blackstone ZinfandelPrice: $8
Maker: Blackstone Winery, Woodridge, California
Varietal: Zinfandel
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 13.5%
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Blackstone Zinfandel 2005 is a pleasant Zin after it has had plenty of time to breathe. Its nose has spice, smoke, and leather notes. It’s a medium-bodied wine, leading with juicy currant and plum notes into a powerful, spicy finish. Do not forget to give this wine plenty of air – our first sips were quite discouraging, but it turned into a very likable wine.

Though labeled as a Zinfandel, there are quite a few different grapes making cameo appearances in this wine – it is composed of:

76 % Zinfandel
8 % Syrah
6 % Merlot
4 % Petite Sirah
2 % Cabernet Franc
2 % Malbec
2 % Barbera

According to the Blackstone Winery website,

Our Winemaker Select wines are fruit-forward, easy to drink, and food-friendly – perfect for everyday celebrations. The cornerstone of this portfolio is Blackstone’s California Merlot, the number-one-selling domestic red wine in the United States at any price.

Can that really be true? I haven’t seen a strong retal presence in my area, and it’s hard to believe that it outsells Two Buck Chuck. This IS a nicer red than Charles Shaw wines, though, and I wouldn’t hesitate to serve it for company.

Falcon Ridge Lodi Zinfandel 2004

Price: $6
Maker: Accents Vineyards, Modesto, California
Varietal: Zinfandel
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 14.3%
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Falcon Ridge Lodi Zinfandel 2004 is one of the least expensive Zins we’ve run across (from Trader Joe’s, of course), and it’s not half bad. It’s definitely a wine that needs to breathe. Even after sitting in the glass for a bit, it seems rather thin and bland. It improved with time, though. In fact, we inadvertently left the bottle uncorked for quite about eight hours. Rather than being ruined, it had improved. I wouldn’t actually recommend leaving this Zin open on the counter overnight, but plan on decanting and/or extended breathing period. When we resampled the wine, we found spicy berries in the nose. We were surprised that the wine had become very juicy at the start, with cherries, strawberries, and a hint of chocolate. This segued into a spicy, slightly oaky finish. This Zin, considering its price, was reasonably complex and balanced. It’s not an outstanding Zin, but certainly one of the few very drinkable ones available for $6.

Looking around the blogosphere, we founds a few opinions. Quaffability thought, “not bad at all at this price, yet somehow vaguely disappointing.” Wine for Real People said the Falcon Ridge Zin said, “while smooth and drinkable, [it] was a little muted.” Like some other Trader Joe’s wine suppliers, Accents Vineyards seems to have no web presence, or at least one that’s findable by a good effort on Google. That’s too bad – for the minimal cost of a website, I’m sure the Falcon Ridge brand could be enhanced.

And don’t forget to give this one some air – we would have rated Falcon Ridge Lodi Zinfandel 2004 a full point lower had we not gotten past our initial tasting!

Black Mountain Vineyard Zinfandel 2005

Price: $6
Maker: Black Mountain Vineyard, Napa, California
Varietal: Zinfandel
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 12.5%
Our Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Black Mountain Vineyard Zinfandel 2005 (Cramer Ridge) is yet another find from my recent Trader Joe’s visit. And, like the other purchase so far, this one was a good find and a nice value. This may not be the biggest and boldest of Zins, but it’s certainly pleasant enough. It has a spicy, smoky nose. It’s medium bodied, and starts with plum and cherry notes, which segue into a brief, moderately spicy finish. There’s not a lot of complexity, but this Zin is well balanced and highly drinkable. Consider it a “crowd pleaser.”

We’d pair this wine with pizza or burgers – it’s a very accessible wine, and would make a good inexpensive party wine as well. We couldn’t find out anything about Black Mountain Vineyard on the Web. If you’ve got a link, feel free to post it.

Peachy Canyon Incredible Red Zinfandel 2005

Peachy Canyon Incredible RedPrice: $10
Maker: Peachy Canyon, Paso Robles, California
Varietal: Zinfandel
Packaging: 750 ml bottle, natural cork
Alcohol: 13.9%
Our Rating: 8 out of 10

Peachy Canyon Paso Robles Zinfandel 2005 – “Incredible Red” – is a simple crowd-pleasing red wine. It’s aroma is berries and more berries. The flavor has tart cherry and blackberry notes, with some oak and mild acidity in the finish. It’s medium bodied, and not really a big, complex Zin. Despite that, its fruit-forward nature will appeal to many, and we think it’s a nice selection for a picnic or outdoor party.

The winemaker says,

Even though the Incredible Red has grown in production, I still make it with the same ideas and style as our smaller Zinfandel lots. The 2005 vintage is very exciting and youthful. This wine has a medium body with the same light tannins. The visual presence is a beautiful crisp ruby color. Aromas consist of sweet cherries, blackberries & raspberries. There are nice black currant flavors along with brambly briery fruit. Enjoy this everyday Zinfandel throughout the next few years.

The blogosphere has mixed opinions. Quaffability thought the wine was “light and agreeably fruity, but also shows some plonky vegetative notes…” Ken’s Wine Guide scored the wine as 85.5, and thought Peachy Canyon Incredible Red was a “good value for those looking for a practical red wine choice.” Budget Vino proclaimed it “a Zin for all occasions,” noting that despite being “thin,” it was also more versatile than many Zins. The Vintner’s Daughter thought the Peachy Canyon Zinfandel was, “exactly what I needed to remind me how much I love Zins.”

Clearly, this is a wine that evokes subjective responses – try Peachy Canyon Incredible Red Zinfandel 2005, and let us know what YOU think!