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02.04.2012

The Best Zinfandels of California: Tasting at ZAP 2012

IMG_0671.jpgYou can always count on the ZAP Zinfandel festival in San Francisco to draw a crowd, no matter what the economy is doing. The fact that things are picking up, both for business, and specifically in the wine world, meant for a very lively event last week.

The big news was a new venue for this traditionally mobbed tasting, that most attendees seemed to love, myself included. While the arrangement of vintners left something to be desired (tables were supposed to be alphabetical, but it was more like alphabet soup than a line from A to Z), everything else about the Concourse Exhibition Center was better than the usual venue, Fort Mason. Carpeted floors meant for a much lower level of ambient noise, the lighting was better, and the wood structured building felt much more pleasant to be in than an old army assembly hall.

But we weren't there for the building, we were there for Zinfandel, the wine that refuses to take itself too seriously. While there are certainly a few cult Zinfandels that are lauded by critics, somehow Zinfandel doesn't have the gravitas of Cabernet, or the mystique of Burgundy. Though some can age into very interesting concoctions, most Zinfandel is best drunk young, and therefore is almost never hoarded by collectors. Zinfandel is a wine of immediate pleasure, and easy passion, that, when great, brings a ready smile to the lips and a warmth to the heart. And it doesn't hurt that you can get great bottles for under $25.

This year's tasting featured many 2010 wines, which have a slightly leaner, cooler quality to them than the 2009s or 2008s. The vintage was generally accorded to be a challenging one (though nothing compared to 2011), but quite different between, say, Healdsburg, and Lodi. While I found much to like about the seemingly cooler 2010s I definitely favor the 2009 vintage in comparison.

That said, there were some fantastic wines on offer. I did my usual scattershot tasting for five hours or so, and offer the scores and some tasting notes for my favorites below. All wines are Zinfandel unless otherwise noted.

TASTING NOTES:

WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5

2009 Bella Wines Lilly Hill Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma. $38
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberry and wet dirt. In the mouth a gorgeous melange of blackberry, blueberry, and black pepper mix amidst faint powdery tannins and bright acidity. Juicy and luscious without being overripe, the wine lingers for a long time in the finish. Outstanding. click to buy.

2010 Hartford Family Winery Highwire Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Sonoma. $55
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine has a deep dark nose of cassis and blackberry fruit that makes you want to dive into the glass. In the mouth juicy, cool blackberry and cassis fruit have an almost metallic quality as their juicy flavors are wrapped in fine powdery tannins. Great acidity, wonderful balance, deep richness. Outstanding. click to buy.

2010 Carlisle Monte Rosso Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma. $45 click to buy.
2010 Ravenswood Winery Dickerson Vineyard - Barrel Sample, Napa. $35
2010 Turley Vineyards Hayne Vineyard - Barrel Sample, Napa. $75

WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5

2008 Hendry Primitivo, Napa. $35
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine has a wonderful chocolatey nose of earth, cocoa, and blackberry aromas. In the mouth rich blackberry and chocolate flavors are underwritten by a leathery earthiness that is quite compelling. Thick grippy tannins surround the wine, but good acidity keeps things juicy and tasty through the finish. Delicious and quite possibly the best California Primitivo I've ever had. click to buy.

2006 Storrs Winery Rusty Ridge, Santa Clara County, Central Coast. $30
Medium ruby in the glass, this wine has a mysterious nose of orange peel, cedar and blackberry aromas. In the mouth, flavors of brown sugar, mixed berries, and exotic spices swirl in a lithe texture. Good acidity and wonderfully soft, faint tannins round out the package. Gorgeous, and proof positive that some Zinfandel does, indeed, improve with age. click to buy.

2009 Valdez Family Vineyards St. Peter's Church Vineyard, Alexander Valley, Sonoma. $45
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine has a wonderful mix of woody aromas and black fruit scents. In the mouth a burst of blackberry, wet earth, and a bit of blueberry are encased in a glove of suede-smooth tannins. Good acidity and nice length. Delicious. click to buy.

2009 Bella Wines Belle Canyon Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma. $35 click to buy.
2009 Bella Wines Maple Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma. $38 click to buy.
2010 Carlisle Martinelli Road Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Sonoma. $45 click to buy.
2010 Cedarville Vineyards Estate Vineyard, El Dorado, Sierra Foothills. $22 click to buy.
2009 Fritz Winery Reserve, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma. $50 click to buy.
2009 Gamba Family Winery Gamba Family Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Sonoma. $43 click to buy.
2009 Hartford Family Winery Dina's Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Sonoma. $55 click to buy.
2009 J.C. Cellars Iron Hill Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma. $38 click to buy.
2009 Kokomo Pauline's Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma. $32 click to buy.
2010 Outpost, California Howell Mountain, Napa. $44 click to buy.
2008 Ravenswood Winery Dickerson Vineyard, Napa. $35 click to buy.
2008 Ravenswood Winery Big River Vineyard, Alexander Valley, Sonoma. $35 click to buy.
2008 Ravenswood Winery Belloni Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Sonoma. $35 click to buy.
2008 Ravenswood Winery Teldeschi Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma. $35 click to buy.
2010 Ravenswood Winery Teldeschi Vineyard - Barrel Sample, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma. $35 click to buy.
2010 Ravenswood Winery Old Hill Vineyard - Barrel Sample, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma. $60 click to buy.
2006 Storrs Winery Lion Oaks, Santa Clara County, Central Coast. $30 click to buy.
2007 Valdez Family Vinyards Lancel Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Sonoma. $38 click to buy.
2007 Woodenhead Martinelli Road Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Sonoma. $45 click to buy.
2009 Woodenhead Braccialini Vineyard, Alexander Valley, Sonoma. $34 click to buy.


WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9

2010 Ridge Vineyards Geyserville - Barrel Sample, California, Sonoma. $37
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of wet earth and black fruits. In the mouth bright acidity makes slightly leathery flavors of blackberry and and wet stones juicy. The fruit is cool and surrounded by dusty tannins. Moderate finish.

2010 Ridge Vineyards Lytton Springs - Barrel Sample, California Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma. $37
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cassis and wet stones. In the mouth smooth tannins wrap around tart earthy flavors of cassis and blackberry. A long finish that is bright with acidity lingers in the mouth.

2009 Ballantine Old Vines, Napa. $21
2010 Bedrock Wine Company Heirloom Red Blend, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma. $36
2010 Bedrock Wine Company Old Vine, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma. $24
2008 Bucklin Old Hill Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma. $34
2009 Bucklin Bambino Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma. $24
2009 Cedarville Vineyards Estate Vineyard, El Dorado, Sierra Foothills. $22
2009 Charter Oak Monte Rosso Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma. $48
2008 D-Cubed Cellars Cotati Ranch, St. Helena, Napa. $32
2009 Easton Wines Rinaldi, Fiddletown, Sierra Foothills. $28
2010 Fontanella Family Winery Barrel Sample, Napa Valley, Napa. $36
2009 Frank Family Vineyard, , Napa. $??
2009 Gamba Family Winery Moratto Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Sonoma. $43
2009 Hendry Block 7 + 22, Napa. $35
2009 J.C. Cellars Dusi Ranch, Paso Robles, Central Coast. $35
2009 J.C. Cellars Sweetwater Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Sonoma. $38
2009 J.C. Cellars St. Peter's Church Vineyard, Alexander Valley, Sonoma. $45
2009 J.C. Cellars The Impostor Red Blend, Sonoma County. $35
2009 Joel Gott, Amador County, Sierra Foothills. $??
2009 Klinker Brick Old Ghost, Lodi, Central Valley. $37
2009 Kokomo Timber Crest Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma. $32
2009 Kokomo, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma. $26
2009 Milliare Clock Spring Vineyard, Amador County, Sierra Foothills. $??
2008 Ravenswood Winery Barricia Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma. $35
2008 Ravenswood Winery Old Hill Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma. $60
2009 Ravenswood Winery Icon Red Blend, Sonoma. $75
2010 Ravenswood Winery Belloni Vineyard - Barrel Sample, Russian River Valley, Sonoma. $35
2010 Ravenswood Winery Barricia Vineyard - Barrel Sample, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma. $35
2009 Ridge Vineyards Lytton Estate, California Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma. $30
2009 Rock Wall Wine Company St. Peter's Church Vineyard, , Sonoma. $40
2009 Tin Barn Vineyards Chamisal Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma. $28
2009 Turley Vineyards Dogtown Vineyard, California Lodi, Central Valley. $38
2008 Valdez Family Vinyards Landy Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Sonoma. $38
2008 Valdez Family Vinyards Botticelli Vineyard, Rockpile, Sonoma. $42

WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9
2008 Acorn Winery Heritage Vines Field Blend, Russian River Valley, Sonoma. $35
2010 Acorn Winery Heritage Vines Field Blend - Barrel Sample, Russian River Valley, Sonoma. ??
2009 Ballantine Block 9 Reserve, Napa. $28
2010 Brown Estate Chaos Theory Red Blend, Chiles Valley, Napa. $40
2010 Brown Estate Rosemary's Block, Chiles Valley, Napa. $55
2008 Bucklin Mixed Blacks, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma. $??
2009 Charter Oak Roberto Fanucci Vineyard, Napa. $42
2010 Cline Ancient Vines ,. $18
2007 D-Cubed Cellars, Howell Mountain, Napa.
2007 D-Cubed Cellars Brown Vineyard, Chiles Valley, Napa. $40
2008 D-Cubed Cellars, , Napa. $27
2009 Easton Wines Estate Vineyard, Shenandoah Valley, Sierra Foothills. $32
2009 Fontanella Family Winery, Napa Valley, Napa. $36
2010 Hartford Family Winery Old Vine Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Sonoma. $35
2009 Kokomo Mounts Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma. $28
2010 Kokomo Timber Crest Vineyard Primitivo, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma. $32
2010 Mauritson, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma. $29
2010 Mauritson Rockpile Ridge, Rockpile, Sonoma. $39
2010 Novy, Russian River Valley, Sonoma. $20
2009 Ottomino Rancho Bello Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Sonoma. $28
2009 Ottomino Estate Vineyard, Russian River Valley, Sonoma. $28
2010 Ottomino Biglieri Vineyard - Barrel Sample, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma. $32
2009 Ridge Vineyards Carmichael Ranch, California, Sonoma. $28
2010 Ridge Vineyards Paso Robles - Dusi Ranch, California San Luis Obispo, Central Coast. $30
2010 Ridge Vineyards East Bench, California Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma. $28
2009 Rock Wall Wine Company Monte Rosso Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma. $40
2010 Rock Wall Wine Company Obsidian Red Blend, North Coast. $20
2009 Rosenblum Cellars Annete's, Redwood Valley. $40
2009 Rosenblum Cellars Maggie's Reserve, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma. $40
2008 Storrs Winery, , Central Coast. $23
2008 T-Vine Winery, , Napa. $32
2009 T-Vine Winery Frediani Vineyard, Calistoga, Napa. $42
2009 T-Vine Winery Mixed Blacks Red Blend, Napa. $42
2009 Tin Barn Vineyards, Russian River Valley, Sonoma. $27
2007 Woodenhead Guido Venturi Vineyard, , Mendocino. $35

WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5
2007 Ballantine Block 11, Napa. $25
2009 Beekeeper Wines Madrone Spring Vineyard, Rockpile, Sonoma. $60
2010 Brown Estate, Chiles Valley, Napa. $40
2009 Chateau Montelena, , Napa. $??
2010 Cline, , Sonoma. $28
2009 Cypher Dusi Ranch, Paso Robles, Central Coast. $32
2010 Deep Purple, Lodi, Central Valley. $12
2009 Dry Creek Vineyard Heritage, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma. $??
2009 Easton Wines, Fiddletown, Sierra Foothills. $22
2010 Easton Wines, Amador, Sierra Foothills. $17
2009 Federalist Dueling Pistols, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma. $??
2009 Four Vines Anarchy Red Blend, Paso Robles, Central Coast. $40
2009 Fritz Winery, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma. $18
2009 Gamba Family Winery Family Ranches, Russian River Valley, Sonoma. $35
2009 Hendry Block 28, Napa. $35
2009 Hendry HRW, Napa. $35
2009 J Dusi Vineyards, Paso Robles, Central Coast. $??
2008 J. Rickards Ancestor, Sonoma. $22
2009 Klinker Brick Old Vine, Lodi, Central Valley. $18
2006 Mara Wines Luvisi Vineyard, Napa. $39
2007 Mara Wines M, Sonoma. $49
2010 Mauritson West Fall Ranch, Rockpile, Sonoma. $37
2010 Ridge Vineyards Lytton Estate - Barrel Sample, California Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma. $28
2010 Ridge Vineyards Carmichael Ranch, California, Sonoma. $30
2009 Rock Wall Wine Company West Fall Ranch, Rockpile, Sonoma. $40
2009 Rock Wall Wine Company, , Sonoma County. $25
2009 Rock Wall Wine Company Stagecoach vineyard, Napa. $40
2009 Rock Wall Wine Company Jessie's Vineyard, Contra Costa County. $28
2009 Rosenblum Cellars Harris Kratka Vineyard, Alexander Valley, Sonoma. $30
2009 Rosenblum Cellars Monte Rosso Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma. $45
2009 T-Vine Winery, , Napa. $32
2008 Vino Noceto OGP Original Grandpere Vineyard, Shenendoah Valley, Sierra Foothills. $??
2009 Woodenhead Guido Venturi Vineyard, , Mendocino. $34

WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 8 AND 8.5
2009 Cline Heritage, Contra Costa County. $38
2010 Cline Live Oak Vineyard, Contra Costa County. $32
2009 Cypher Preston Vineyard, Paso Robles, Central Coast. $32
2008 J. Rickards Old Vine, Sonoma. $28
2009 Jerome Cellars Colored Soldier, Arizona. $27
2006 Mara Wines Dolinsek Ranch, Russian River Valley, Sonoma. $39
2010 Miro Grist Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma. $??
2009 Rosenblum Cellars Carla's Reserve, Contra Costa County. $35
2010 Rosenblum Cellars Monte Rosso Vineyard - Barrel Sample, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma. $45
2010 Rosenblum Cellars Maggies Reserve - Barrel Sample, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma. $40

WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8
2007 Collier Falls, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma. $??
2009 Headbanger, , Sonoma County. $??
2009 Jerome Cellars Grandpa, Arizona. $27
2008 McCay Cellars Paisley Vineyard, Lodi, Central Valley. $28
2008 McCay Cellars, Russian River Valley, Sonoma. $28
2008 McCay Cellars Equity Vineyard, Lodi, Central Valley. $24
2009 Rosenblum Cellars Rockpile Road, Rockpile, Sonoma. $30

WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 7.5 AND 8
2010 Cline, California. $12
2009 McCay Cellars Jupiter Vineyard, Lodi, Central Valley. $28

WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 7.5
2009 Rombauer, , Napa. $??
2009 Rued Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma. $25

WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 7
2007 Chatom Vineyard, Calaveras County, Sierra Foothills. $??
2005 Jerome Cellars Black and White Soldier, Arizona. $28
2010 Predator Winery Old Vine, Lodi, Central Valley. $??

WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 6
2007 Gann Family Cellars, Alexander Valley, Sonoma. $??

Comments (8)

Stephen C wrote:
02.04.12 at 10:54 AM

It's good to see more Amador, El Dorado and Calaveras County wines place this year. What the Shenandoah Valley has done in the last thirty years with Zin and Barbera is truly special, and those not aware of the region are really missing out on how artisan really big wines can actually be. Anyone who has fallen in love with Australian Shiraz would likely equally fall in love with Amador County Zin.

Cody Rasmussen wrote:
02.04.12 at 1:58 PM

Alder -

Do you taste on the floor, or do you choose to sit and taste in the media lounge? Why?

Alder wrote:
02.05.12 at 8:53 PM

Cody,

I taste on the floor until it gets really crowded, because I like to taste most wineries' full lineups and be able to ask questions of the vintners, and then I go to the media lounge. When I'm in the media lounge (which only has 1 wine from each winery) if I come across a wine I particularly like, I will sometimes go back out on the floor to that winery's table to taste through their full lineup.

Cody Rasmussen wrote:
02.05.12 at 8:57 PM

Very interesting; thanks for your response Alder!

Bill Smart wrote:
02.06.12 at 10:44 AM

Alder - nice notes! The Dry Creek Vineyard Heritage Zinfandel is $19 SRP. Cheers!

David Price wrote:
02.06.12 at 1:42 PM

Thanks for your great tasting notes and scores - we're going to be in Sonoma early March for their barrel tasting so I'm taking your reviews of Sonoma Zins with me. I'd also like to thank you for your minimal use of "winespeak" in your reviews, and the fact that you don't include lists of 12 different aromas/tastes which, as far as my palate goes, is a waste of space. Kudos for your good work!

Andrew wrote:
02.29.12 at 1:28 PM

I love your reviews, particular those covering the yearly ZAP festival. I recently visited Kokomo Winery with some friends and family based on how you often rated their wines quite highly, and we were all very impressed with their wines and the winery as a whole. Thanks!

singles wrote:
10.31.14 at 1:01 PM

- Controleer uw rijbewijs te zorgen dat het blijven geldig ,
terwijl je op reis bent . Hun eerste opus , " Inkt De EP , " werd
opnieuw uitgebracht in 2009 . Hier selecteert u eenvoudig Het scherm van UW Keuze .

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