I know I’m all about varietal-correctness, but ONE grape causes little lifts of morale when I jam my nose into it and say, “This doesn’t smell like Zinfandel.” Or when I taste it and proclaim, “This doesn’t taste like Zinfandel.” I realize this is a slippery slope, but what I’m getting at is: Zinfandels produced in this century which do not follow what has been crammed down everyone’s throats through the 80’s and 90’s. I cut my teeth on old-school zins, and there’s a beauty when they exemplify REAL RED WINE and not some *bigger is better* jammy alcohol-and-vodka concoction as is so popular with the 99. This is not to say I need my zins to taste like cab; or merlot; or syrah…. they STILL need to be Zinfandel, but seriousness and acid and tannin–and most-importantly: complexity–need to be at the core. The core problem is: I don’t think MOST tasters today KNOW what real zin tastes like. And when you find Zin that evokes the kind of serious honesty the grape is capable of–like this one–it’s refreshing.
To wit: Clear ruby, staining and unabridged by garnet, serious legs, and the kind of chalky nose mired in loamy barnyard and slight vegetal typically reserved for European versions of Merlot or Cab-Franc. The cheery jam of the grape is visible, but it coexists with briar and delicate floral. Buttery polish touches the deep berry, and it DOESN’T smell like cab or merlot–thank dog–but it also doesn’t smell like wrap-around shades, cargo-shorts or MissMe jeans: thank the lord again.
Tasting it is where the rubber hits the road. I LIKE zins like this. Call me foolhardy. Call me un-informed. Call me shallow and non-compliant. I don’t care. This tastes like a serious red wine, not a fool-hardy candy-fest the masses slather on about and pack club-rosters to obtain. It’s rich. It’s spicy and complex. It’s tannic and burning inside with a charismatic density seldom seen from this variety these days. It’s smoky and burnt and leathery and bursting with savory cherry. But it does it all in restrained, interesting fashion. It makes me love Zinfandel again.
2016 ANCIENT OAK CELLARS Zinfandel Pagano Vyd. Russian River Valley Sonoma 14.7