We suspect most of you are fed up with the cold weather. As this winter gets in its last gasps, it's a good time to pass the time with zinfandel, an all-American wine.
There have been countless arguments over where zinfandel was born, but the introduction of DNA analysis reveals it is a relative of Croatian grape varieties crljenak kastelanski and tribidrag. It is also related to Italy's primitivo grape. But zinfandel is more common in the United States, where it was brought here by Italian immigrant winemakers. Today, it accounts for 10 percent of California vineyards.
Alas, most of the grapes go into sugary white zinfandel. Vinified dry, however, zinfandel can be a heady, full-bodied wine that is a perfect match to ribs, pizza, burgers, pasta, and foods with tomato sauces. So, clean off that grill.
Grown in warmer regions, the zinfandel grapes accumulate a lot of sugar and alcohol levels can be as high as 18 percent. Your body will experience a difference, so watch out.
Here are several zinfandels we recently tasted:
Michael David The 7 Deadly Zins Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel 2015 ($16). Aromatic, medium bodied and with fresh cherry and raspberry fruit with a hint of chocolate.
Bear Flag Zinfandel 2015 ($25). Blended with petite sirah, teroldego, malbec, and other grape varieties, the Bear Flag is a sturdy and jammy zinfandel -- a great match to barbecue. Forward and ripe plum and blackberry flavors with a good dose of chocolate. It is one of our favorite zinfandels this year.
Frank Family Vineyards Napa Valley Zinfandel 2014 ($37). This producer continues to hit homeruns with its zinfandel. Loads of fresh raspberry and vanilla aromas with a smooth finish. Frank's 2014 cabernet sauvignon ($53) is also a stunning wine meant for the long haul. Gorgeous dark fruit flavors with aromas of cassis, cocoa and that eucalyptus hint so common to Rutherford cabs.
Artezin Zinfandel 2016 ($18). Blended with some petite sirah and carignan, this full-bodied Mendocino County zinfandel has broad and rich flavors of dark fruit, cassis, clove, cinnamon, and pepper with cherry and pomegranate aromas. Very expansive profile. It's a good example of what petite sirah can bring to a zinfandel.
Artezin Mendocino County Old Vine Zinfandel 2016 ($18). This producer makes several excellent zinfandels, but the Mendocino version represents a good value in full-bodied zinfandels. Ripe berry flavors, moderate tannins, and nice spice notes.
Jessie's Grove Royal Tee Ancient Vine Lodi Zinfandel 2013. ($42). Generous blackberry aromas are followed by long and ripe blackberry flavors with a hint of licorice and tobacco. Loved it!
Grgich Hills Estate Napa Valley Zinfandel 2013 ($36). The addition of petite sirah gives this zinfandel better structure and color. Expect black cherry and blackberry flavor, lush mouthfeel, and a lingering finish.
Cedarville Vineyard Estate Zinfandel El Dorado 2015 ($26). Fresh raspberry aromas are followed by ripe red fruit flavors and a touch of chocolate.
Peachy Canyon Westside Zinfandel Paso Robles 2015 ($26). Peachy Canyon has been making accessible zinfandel in Paso Robles for almost 30 years. Spicy berry fruit nose with distinct raspberry fruit flavors in the mouth with a cloak of balanced oak. Very agreeable and easy to drink. We also love the Peachy Canyon Clevenger Zinfandel 2014 ($35), an intense yet balanced zinfandel with juicy blueberry and blackberry flavors, and the Peachy Canyon Incredible Zinfandel 2015 ($15), a great value for an everyday wine.
Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin 2015 ($12). Using grapes from gnarled 35- to 80-year-old vines, this Lodi producer has crafted a delicious, rich and jammy blackberry flavors with a dash of mocha.
Dry Creek Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel 2014 ($32). Blended with a good dose of petite sirah and a little carignan, this zinfandel has depth and rich plum and blackberry aromas, cherry and raspberry flavors with a dose of spice and cocoa.
Perfusion Vineyard San Francisco Bay Pinot Noir 2014 ($40). You don't often see a wine from this AVA, located along the western side of Contra Costa County, but this micro-batch producer has a winner. Ripe, forward cherry and raspberry flavors with hints of vanilla and spice.
Herdade do Rocim Olho de Mocho Branco 2014 ($30). This unique white wine from Portugual made from the native antao vaz grapes is a delicious mouthful. Round in the mouth with citrus aromas and pineapple flavors.
Star Lane Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($50). Who wouldn't want to drink wine from a place called Happy Canyon? Relatively new as a Santa Barbara wine region, Happy Canyon is the source of this delicious, medium-bodied cabernet. Plum and dark berry fruit with dried herbal aromas.
Chateau Maucamps Haut Medoc 2009 ($28). This crus bourgeois from the Haut Medoc is pure pleasure. Honestly, it's been a long time since we have tasted something so delicious for a cru bourgeois. Made from cabernet sauvignon, merlot and petit verdot, it has effusive black currant aromas and extracted, juicy dark berry flavors. It's drinking well now.
Olema Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($23). Well priced for what you get, this rich and tannic Sonoma County cabernet sauvignon has broad dark berry notes with hints of mocha and vanilla. It is an inexpensive wine to cellar for a few years.
Rodney Strong Vineyards Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($40). Ripe and fruit forward flavors of blackberries and currants with oak-influenced hints of caramel, vanilla and spice.
Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Pinot Noir 2014 ($26). Using grapes from Monterey and Santa Barbara counties, the winemaker has created a well-rounded pinot noir with black cherry and strawberry flavors with a hint of sweet vanillin oak.
M. Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Rouge Cotes du Roussillon Villages 2016 ($15). This red version of Bila-Haut continues to impress us with each vintage. It's a great bargain for what you get: effusive black berry and plum notes with a dash of mineral and a lingering finish. The blend consists of syrah, grenache, and carignan grapes. Awesome.