Dry Creek Zinfandel — Old World or New?

(First posted on November 6, 2012 on www.tastingpanelmag.com)

In September, six top Dry Creek producers — Paul Draper (Ridge), Erik Miller (Kokomo), Clay Mauritson (Mauritson and Rockpile), Doug Nalle (Nalle), Hugh Chappelle (Quivira) and Julie Pedroncelli (Pedoncelli) — participated in a panel discussion at Ridge Winery, “Debunking Zinfandel Myths,” led by journalist Patrick Comiskey.

Left to right: Hugh Chappelle, Erik Miller, Paul Draper, Clay Mauritson, Patrick Comiskey, Doug Nalle and Judy Pedroncelli.


With vines dating to pre-Prohibition, Zinfandel is the grape most uniquely associated with California viticulture and was the first variety to create a wine craze in California; it is still known as “as the wine of the people.” Today there is a renewed interest in this varietal as Zinfandel is being rediscovered and re-appreciated.

But do we want Old World or New World style Zin?

“It’s a troublesome question to address,” Comiskey explained. “Dry Creek really is a place of effortless naturalness for American Zinfandel.  It is in a climate range that guarantees ripeness, and Dry Creek seems ideally suited for getting Zinfandel ripe in a balanced way.”

Dry Creek Valley is noted for Zinfandel.


Old World Zins comprise claret-style wines with restrained body and enough acid to be food-friendly and age well. New World Zins display a riper, fruit-driven style; made for immediate appreciation, these include late-harvest versions.

“Everyone has their preference and super-ripe styles are not going out of style.  But in the tasting, the older wines prove that Zinfandel can age-and age beautifully,” expressed Comiskey.



Nalle 2010 and 2003 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel
With over 40 harvests under his belt, Doug Nalle loves the aging capabilities of Zinfandel.

Pedroncelli 2010 and 2004 Mother Clone Zinfandel
The Pedroncelli family sold grapes during Prohibition. The Mother Vineyard was replanted in the 1970s and today the vines are second-generation.

Ridge 2009 and 1999 Lytton Springs Zinfandel
Paul Draper proves that Zinfandel ages as the 1999 is a wine close to perfection.

Quivira 2010 and 2009 “Quest” Zinfandel
Hugh Chappelle’s prior work with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay contributes to his understanding of balance in wines.

Kokomo 2009 and 2006 “Pauline’s Vineyard” Zinfandel
Erik Miller is a fan of both styles: balanced, age-worthy wines, as well as fruit-forward wines.

Rockpile Winery 2010 and 2007 “Rockpile Ridge Vineyard” Zinfandel
With vineyards in the distinctive Rockpile AVA, Clay Maurtison’s wines have great power and elegance.