Red Zinfandel – California’s other Zin!

  • Feb. 22, 2018 7:30 a.m.

Typically, ‘Old Vine’ wines come from vineyards that are more than 50 years old.

In a backhanded kind of way, the demand for grapes for the 1970s White Zinfandel phenomenon is arguably responsible for the fact that so many acres of ‘Old Vine’ Zinfandel survived into the 1980s.

Pepperwood Grove Old Vine Zinfandel (406132) $11.99 comes from Don Sebastiani & Sons. Made from 100 per cent old vine zinfandel grapes it shows off a medley of berry fruit flavours and aromas – raspberry, blackberry, ripe plum, prune and dried figs with tantalizing notes of vanilla and caramel.

Starting out a few years ago with a luscious Cabernet Sauvignon clearly aimed at meat eaters, Carnivor Wines have since branched out to making a big, bold Zinfandel, too – even if the vines the grapes come from are mere teenagers!

Made from fruit from sun-drenched Lodi, in the north of California’s Central Valley, Carnivor Zinfandel (35637) $14.99 is aged in French and American oak. Cabernet Sauvignon adds color and structure, and Merlot enhances the texture. Aromas and flavours of blackberry, plum and boysenberry meld into mocha, chocolate, pepper, cinnamon, vanilla and toasty almond.

A rakish raconteur whose erudition and down-to-earth enthusiasm make him an articulate spokesman for Ravenswood, Joel Peterson has been making red Zinfandel wines since 1976. He has played a big part in making Zinfandel the phenomenon it is today.

There’s a smoky, earthy edge under the blueberry and blackberry aromas and flavours of Ravenswood Vintners Blend ‘Old Vine’ Zinfandel (359257) $15.49. Subtle notes of cappuccino and anise fill out the finish.

California’s Zinfandel originated in Croatia. The Croatian name for Zinfandel is Crljenak (Tsir-le-a-nautz) Kastelanski (“black grape of Kastel”). Zinfandel is genetically identical to Primitivo which probably migrated from Croatia to Italy in the late 1700s.

Created in 1983, the 78,000 acre Dry Creek Valley appellation runs from Healdsburg north to Lake Sonoma, with its first plantings dating to 1870. Some ‘Old vines’ here can claim to be more than 100 years old. Today, more than two dozen different grape varieties grow in Dry Creek Valley but none is more widely planted than Zinfandel.

Redemption Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel (709923) $19.99 offers aromas of blackberry, blueberry, plum dark chocolate, black pepper, oak and vanilla. There are spicy flavors of black pepper, blueberry, black cherry and chocolate. As winemaker Kevin Hall says, “There is mouth filling texture with a long finish on this big wine”.

Good red Zinfandel comes in a wide range of styles – herbal, spicy, bright and fruity, dense and powerfully alcoholic. The most interesting wines are often blends of grapes from various regions.

Some of the most renowned Zin growers in Lake County, Sonoma County, Mendocino County, Amador County, Dry Creek and Napa Valley contribute to the blend of Copper Cane’s Beran Zinfandel.

Aromas of fresh tobacco leaf, blackcurrant, raspberry jam, chocolate and cigar box slide into flavours of cherry, cranberry, raspberry and blackberry jam with hints of cedar and cinnamon in every sip of Copper Cane Beran Zinfandel (592147) $32.49.

The Mettler Family has roots in the wine industry dating back to the 1770s and has been growing wine grapes in the Lodi since the late 1800s when their first Lodi vineyards were planted. Their oldest vines are planted in rich, sandy loam soils.

The grapes for Mettler ‘Epicenter’ Old Vines Zinfandel (32100) $36.99 come from a 50-year old vineyard in Lodi’s old vine Zinfandel district. These vines are organically and sustainably grown. Blending 85 per cent Zinfandel with 10 per cent Petite Sirah, 3 per cent Cabernet Franc and 2 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, this is a powerful mouthful of black plum and dark berries, tobacco, cinnamon, molasses, coffee and sweet oak.

Michael and David Phillips, are 5th generation grape growers who have raised their families in the Lodi Vineyards and now the 6th generation has joined the team. They, too, make wine in a sustainable manner: environmentally, socially, and economically.

The 2013 vintage of Michael David’s Earthquake Zinfandel (336925) $38.99 is 100 per cent Old Vine Zinfandel from Lodi, aged in American oak. It is no wimpy Zinfandel at 15.5% alcohol – full-bodied, boasting briary, peppery, meaty and herbal black fruits and some ripe red fruit flavours.

Indulge yourself with a glass of California’s specialty red wine soon!

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