Zinfandel is Back

Impenetrable purple is noticeable from the first splash.  Black red purple blood-thick liquid.  Heady and dense in the nose as well, early funk, a near-blackout of concentrated fruit, heavy on trademark Zinfandel jam, warm earth and dry soil.  Grippy spice clings to this one, throwing the bouquet carefully away from obesity and the very popular trend of pandering to the too-ripe crowd.  Baby baby fruit shines all its dark berry goodness around a steely core.

This one’s 14-5, and like I have said many times I NEVER look at alcohol on a label before drinking EXCEPT for Zinfandel.  With Zinfandel I check the label before purchase because I just refuse to buy anything over 16.  And see, here I have learned to sin gradually–an adaptive process.  If you would have asked me this question 30 years ago, I would have drawn the line at 13-5.  20 years ago at 14-5.  I was the world’s biggest Zinfandel wonk through the 80’s and 90’s.  I ate drank and slept Zinfandel.  I visited many areas and wineries with the focus only ON Zinfandel.  My cellar was full of it and I would preach its glories to anyone careless enough to listen.

It helped–of course–the prices of Zinfandel were about one-third what they are now, and I was much younger and poorer.  They fit my budget great!  Beautiful Zinfandels from Sonoma, Amador, and Contra Costa County were everywhere for 8, 9, 10, 12, 20 bucks.  Around 1995 prices–and alcohol levels–started climbing.  We started seeing Zinfandel at 30 dollars!!!  FORTY EVEN!  Occasionally more!  It was unheard of and it coincided with some major Zinfandel stalwarts being purchased by large corporations AND meteoric rises in ABV nearly across-the-board.  I basically stopped drinking Zinfandel through the first decade of this century.  I only own a few bottles in my considerable cellar, hardly ever taste it, and glance at it on wine-lists only for market research and, usually, a chuckle.

Of course, there’s a under-story here the vast majority of you do not realize, concerning about 20 years ago I moved from Northern California to the Central Coast.  This, also, played a big part in my brutal divorce with Zinfandel.  If you’ve ever been to Paso Robles for a wine-excursion, you know they love their Zinfandel, and their attitude toward this variety is, shall we say: Heavy Handed.  That’s putting it as nicely as I possibly can.  There are a few Zins with manageable alcohol and obesity, but it is a needle in a haystack.  Paso Robles MASSACRES Zinfandel.  Now you know why it is so welcome to see brilliant, structured low(er) alcohol Sonoma–and especially Dry Creek Valley–Zinfandels, and I grab them whenever I can.  And have started drinking more of them, as I feel alcohols have come full-circle and are being reeled back in a bit.  The idea of calling a 14-5 wine “low alcohol” is shocking still–to me, but if you’ve been around a lot of Zinfandel, you know.

In the mouth, massive cherry pie filling, zingy and sweet,  black-tar and bitter tree-bark providing perfect counter-position to the rich fruit.  A coating mouth-feel impossible to shake, it envelopes and bruises every surface with its ridiculous concentration of pure beautiful fruit and near-perfect balance.  Instead of taking sweetness into a syrupy direction–as is common with this variety–it goes rich mineral, chalk and raw meat, a near-umami coalescence of spicy wonderfulness.  Yes, I just said wonderfulness.  This is a BEAUTIFUL wine.

2014 DRY CREEK VINEYARD Zinfandel DCV2 Four Clones Dry Creek Valley Sonoma Co. 14.5


3 thoughts on “Zinfandel is Back

  1. I was in the Bay Area drinking Ridge, Ravenswood and Santa Cruz Mtn zins in the early 90’s and loved them. Moved to the Central Coast and around 2004 (probably at Turley) said “who stole my Zinfandel?” I’ve avoided the varietal like the sugar-coated plague but this wine looks great and will keep looking for more traditional treatments on your site.

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