A look at some recently released Zinfandels.
By Louis Marmon
Gazette Newspapers July 16, 2008
The Zinfandel Advocates and Producers, ZAP, were recently in D.C. to showcase examples of California’s quintessential wine. Genetically identical to the Croatian grape Crljenak, and related to the Italian Primitivo, Zinfandel was brought to West Coast during the 1850s Gold Rush; by the end of the 1900s, it was the most common varietal planted in California. Prohibition led to the destruction of many of the vineyards, but the 1970s saw a renewed interest in the grape by winemakers and consumers. Zinfandel’s popularity has rebounded with new plantings and efforts to preserve any of the remaining older vines prized for their intense flavors. Zin is now the second most planted red wine varietal in California, behind only Cabernet Sauvignon.
Carol Shelton is the creator of the excellent, richly-flavored Rocky Reserve Zinfandel 2004, sourced from Jack Florence’s Rockpile vineyard. The multi-award winning Shelton ‘‘made everything from sparkling wine to port” during her 19 years at Sonoma’s Windsor Vineyards. In 2000, she started her own winery focusing on single-vineyard Zins because they are ‘‘uncomplicated and food-friendly.” Her energy and enthusiasm for the grape is seen in the delicious, nicely structured Carol Shelton Monga Zin 2005 ($21), which has earthy raspberry, pepper and cola flavors along with a touch of spice. Also very good is the Carol Shelton Wild Thing 2004 ($28), with peppery red and dark berry notes and hints of sage and mocha. Bigger in style is the well-made Carol Shelton Karma Zin 2005 ($33) with anise, plum, black fruit and pepper held together with more noticeable tannins, which will require a few more years in bottle to reach their peak.
Also at the ZAP road show were representatives of Cline Cellars who have donated nearly $100,000 from the sale of its Cashmere Rhone-varietal blend to charities since 2003. This year, owners Nancy and Fred Cline have pledged an additional $25,000 to the Breast Cancer Network. In addition to fine Rhone varietals, Cline also produces some first-rate Zins, including the value priced Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel 2006 ($18) with savory red cherry, herbs and plum flavors, as well as the delightful Cline Sonoma Valley Zinfandel 2006 ($23) that has spicy dark fruit, anise and sage notes. Cline Live Oak Contra Costa County Zinfandel 2006 ($30) is spicier, with deep black cherry and licorice flavors, nice balance and a long smooth finish.
Other enjoyable Zins from the road show include the value-price, organically grown Bonterra Vineyards Zinfandel 2006 ($16), an easy drinking effort with soft tannins, black pepper and big fruity flavors like red cherry, blackberries and plums. Starting with some interesting floral and smoky aromas, the Dogwood Mendicino Zinfandel 2005 ($28) opens into well-balanced black pepper, black plum and raspberry flavors. Another tasty wine is the Four Vines Maverick Zinfandel 2005 ($25), which has earthy red plum and dark berry notes along with spicy pepper during a nicely balanced finish. The fuller-bodied XYZin 100 year Old Vine Series 2005 ($45) has coffee, herbs and hints of chocolate mixed with rich blackberry and pepper flavors leading to a longish finish.
Two worth searching for are: the very smooth D-Cubed Cellars Napa Valley Zinfandel 2005 ($29), with red and black cherry, anise, pepper and smoke notes; and the vanilla scented John Tyler Bacigalupi Vineyard Zinfandel 2004 ($36), with rich spicy black fruit, anise and mocha flavors. Also try the full-bodied Edmeades Chase Vineyard Zinfandel 2005 ($29), which has deep spicy raspberry, black cherry, plum and pepper notes.