Zinfandel is know as the All American grape and has been grown in California since the 1800’s. Yet the grapes true roots are in Croatia where it’s known as Tribidrag. In Italy Zinfandel is called Primitivo. Although the majority of California producers label their wine as Zinfandel, you may see a few Tribidrag’s and Primitiov’s too. Zinfandel is a medium-bodied dry red wine with a range of dark fruit flavors that include raspberry, blueberry, red and black cherry, and plum. Notes of tobacco, brambles, hickory and spice are common as well. Medium tannins make it a versatile food pairing wine, with flavors ranging from juicy and jammy, to lean and elegant depending on climate.
Here are capsule reviews of Zinfandel’s you may find along the Wine Road.
The Acorn 2018 Heritage Vines Zinfandel is a field blend of 78%
Zinfandel, 11% Alicante Bouschet and 9% Petite Sirah fermented with
eight other varieties including Carignane, Trousseau, Sangiovese, Petit
Bouschet, Negrette, Syrah, Black Muscat, Cinsaut, and Grenache which
comprise the final 2% of the blend. On the nose a rush of mocha and
peppercorn rise up from the glass with a prominent note of rooibos.
Generous body with bright initial notes of blueberry and menthol is
balanced with deep lush flavors of blackberry and mocha. Lovely balance
of tannin and fruit with long gentle finish that rings with spice. But
do those eight other varieties that make up the 2% of the blend matter? I
say yes! It brings a certain something, a je ne sais quoi, not easy to define, but ultimately delicious.
The OG* Zinfandel—Carol Shelton’s 2019 Wild Thing Old Vine Zinfandel
is a love note to the grape and an astounding value to boot. On the nose
you’ll find notes of plum sauce, and sweet briar with touch of cedar.
As the wine opens there is a wonderful layer of bacon fat and mocha too.
Wild Thing is zippy and alive with juicy flavors of raspberry, clove,
fennel, and blackberry crumble. The long round finish walks a savory
tightrope of texture between creamy and bright. Pair with Moo Shu Pork
for a savory call-and-response interplay of flavors. NOTE: *OG =Original
Gangster, slang for someone/something incredibly exceptional,
authentic, or “old-school.”
In the glass the 2020 Ehret Zinfandel is deep dark purple with a
pinkish rim. Juicy with an intense with black fruits and a savory
quality of smoked meat and bacon fat too! Spiky tannins hit all the
pleasure points with a peppy sour cherry finish. A lot of oomph going on
in this 2020 youngster and I find it reminiscent of Primitivo, the
doppelgänger of Zinfandel in Italy. Expect this to age and blossom with
elegance, yet it’s eminently quaffable right now. Pair with spicy food
and your most finicky guests, as this will surely gain their attention
The Pedroncelli family has been producing wine for close to a century
and the 2019 Zinfandel from Bushnell Vineyard is a great example of
their decades of experience. On the nose toasty nutmeg and clove
intermingle with lush aromas of black and blueberry crumble and an
intriguing note of butterscotch. Full bodied and rich with primary
flavors of cola and spicy strawberry preserves. The bright and bouncy
acidity delivers a ribbon of red fruits and raspberry fizz that merges
seamlessly into a creamy long elegant finish with taut tannins. Pair
with a classic sausage pizza.
The 2017 Peterson Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley is a blend of 82%
Zinfandel, 7% Petite Sirah, 6% Carignane, and 5% Grenache. On the nose a
heady bouquet of garrigue – aka a veritable potpourri of
juniper, thyme, rosemary and sage, with a fresh minty-herbal top note.
Lush and delectable, it has deep flavors of tobacco, dark plum and
earthy brambles, with secondary notes of cherry and rhubarb that are
both bright and savory. It’s a shape-shifting marvel of fruit, acid, and
tannin. Pair with something tangy and saucy like barbecue ribs or try a
savory slow roasted pork shoulder.
The 2019 Seghesio Zinfandel hails from the storied Todd Brothers
Ranch in Alexander Valley. On the nose sweet briar and graphite mix with
blackberry jam and a touch of vanilla. Very soft and plush mouth feel
with concentrated flavors of mocha, black cherry, and all spice with a
dash of smoked hickory wood. Great texture and body. Taut long tannins
balance the rich black fruit flavors with notes of leather and sweet
tobacco. Pair with rich mushroom risotto or hearty lasagna.
Deep dark and alluring in the glass the Taddei 2018 Zinfandel from
Ionnatti Vineyard in Dry Creek Valley is both engaging and enigmatic.
The nose is a riddle of sassafras, cinnamon, black plum, tobacco and
sweet briar. Lots going on here with a yin and yang of plush sweet notes
and tart bright flavors that slowly build to a power punch of
strawberry jam over crushed gravel, dotted with white pepper and clove.
Tannins so long they extend into the next week! Pair with a suitcase
packed for adventure because this wine will take you somewhere
On the nose, the 2016 Trione Zinfandel has deep earthy aromas of
sage, blackberry preserves and nutmeg. On the palate it has plush juicy
flavors of plum and olallieberry, followed by bright notes of raspberry
and rhubarb. Soft and balanced tannins deliver a long spicy finish of
tart red cherry, pink peppercorn and a touch of thyme. Pair with spicy
beef empanadas or slow roasted barbecue short ribs.