Zinfandel is widespread and well-known in California. In fact, a legislator in the Golden State once tried to have this lovely grape established as the state grape. While that effort failed, the value and quality of the varietal lives on. Its lighter tannic structure and jammy expression are perfect for many occasions. It produces big rich and luscious styles of red wines where the price point is always welcome.
Zinfandel was introduced to California during the Gold Rush somewhere between 1852 and 1857 and became widely planted because it thrived so well in the state’s climate and soil. Today, Zinfandel is the third-leading wine grape variety in California, with more than 48,000 acres planted and 469,216 tons crushed in 2013, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
I have found two excellent wineries that consistently deliver in quality and character with Zinfandel. They may be hard to find, yet I want to share them with you, so if you find them on a wine list or in a local store – do not hesitate. They are wines to enjoy that offer great fruit and depth. Below are excerpts from Wine Spectator describing recent releases from both of these wineries. I have bottles in my cellar from both wineries and have never been disappointed.
From Carlisle Winery
Zinfandel Napa Valley Hayne Vineyard 2012
93 points | $46 | 450 cases made | Red
Powerful and rich, with intriguing wild berry, licorice and floral bay leaf aromas and deep flavors of black cherry, smoky black pepper and sweet Asian spice. A backbone of tannins and acidity keeps this focused. Drink now through 2022. —T.F.
Zinfandel Russian River Valley Limerick Lane Vineyard 2012
93 points | $46 | 634 cases made | Red
Fleshy and vibrant, with an elegant structure that slowly builds in complexity. Lush cherry, raspberry and cinnamon aromas open to rich and layered flavors of wild berry, cracked pepper and sweet licorice. Drink now through 2021. —T.F.
Zinfandel Russian River Valley Carlisle Vineyard 2012
92 points | $46 | 634 cases made | Red
This agilely balances bold fruit with a core of firm acidity and minerally tannins. Aromas of pomegranate, cherry and fresh anise combine with focused flavors of blueberry, eucalyptus and cracked white pepper. Drink now through 2022. —T.F.
Zinfandel Russian River Valley Papera Ranch 2012
92 points | $46 | 658 cases made | Red
Supple and well-structured, with a succulent core of fruit. Floral, boysenberry and licorice aromas lean toward sleekly jammy flavors of blueberry, cherry, brown baking spices and pepper. Drink now through 2021. —T.F.
Zinfandel Russian River Valley Saitone Vineyard 2012
92 points | $46 | 456 cases made | Red
Rich and ripe, yet nicely structured, with floral raspberry and strawberry aromas and bold, jammy flavors of cherry pie, Asian spice and sage, balanced by a core of fresh acidity and lively tan- nins. Drink now through 2021. —T.F.
Zinfandel Sonoma Valley Bedrock Vineyard 2012
91 points | $43 | 333 cases made | Red
Supple, with a gutsy core of focused fruit. Aromas of smoked pep- per, black cherry and spice cake open to layered flavors of wild berry and licorice. Drink now through 2022. —T.F.
From Bedrock Wine Co.
Zinfandel Russian River Valley Belle de Jour Vineyard 2013
92 points | $45 | 200 cases made | Red
A lovely Zinfandel, combining subtle power with great balance and structure. Floral black raspberry and dried sage aromas lead to flavors of cherry, fresh anise and loamy white pepper. Drink now through 2021. —T.F.
Zinfandel California old Vine 2013
91 points | $25 | 3,000 cases made | Red
A zesty red, with briary cherry and sage aromas that lead to lively and layered flavors of wild berry, anise and smoky cracked pepper. Drink now through 2021. —T.F.
As you can see with the number of well-rated wines, these guys know what they are doing. Mike Officer is the winemaker and owner of Carlisle and is dedicated to the quality you see above. Bedrock Wine Co. was founded in 2007 by Morgan Twain-Peterson; and, while he is newer on the scene, you can see the quality is coming through.
While these listed wines are all Zinfandels, both wineries produce a wider portfolio including Grenache, Syrah, and some Cabernet. Remember, there is always the chance that you could secure some wine from the winery directly. I know that the waiting lists can get long, yet it is always worth investigating if you can purchase on-line directly from the winery. It is always worth a shot.
Old Vine Zinfandel