Please The Palate Pick of the Week: Zinfandel

When I first entered the wine industry in 2001, ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) was one of the first big annual wine events I attended. I went a few times but for more than a decade, Zinfandel has not been a grape on my radar. I drink so many wines from around the world and Zinfandel, the native grape to California, had been intentionally forgotten. I had made the assumption that they were all big, jammy, over-spiced, high-alcohol wines. Now, 15 years later, I went back this week to ZinEX and spent four days drinking Zinfandel. And I will say that it is time to rethink Zinfandel! Therefore, Zinfandel is the Please The Palate pick of the week!

ZinEX is a three-day wine and culinary extravaganza attracting wine lovers from around the world. It is organized by Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (ZAP), a membership based organization that advances knowledge and appreciation for American Zinfandel and its unique place in our culture and history. I spent four days exploring the diversity of Zinfandel styles while tasting with many of the legends and many of the young wine stars of Zinfandel.

Zinfandel is California’s Grape. It is a grape that tastes of terroir. The aromas and flavors are influenced by where the grapes are grown, the elevation and exposure of the vineyard, the soil and the climate. It is a wine that should not taste like Syrah. It should not taste like jam or rootbeer. Typical descriptors are red fruit (cherry, raspberry, pomegranate) to blue fruit (blueberry, boysenberry), white, green or black pepper and brown spices (cinnamon, clove). And when Zinfandel is made well, it is a beautiful wine, balanced between fruit, acidity and tannins.

So, go out and try some Zinfandel! From Sonoma to Napa to Mendocino to Yolo County to Paso Robles to Lodi, there are a few hundred producers. Some producers to look out for are Peachy Canyon, Berryessa Gap, Angry Bunch, Renwood, Artezin, Rodney Strong, Bella Grace Vineyards, Chronic, Biale, Easton, Ravenswood, Green & Red, Limerick Lane Cellars, Tres Sabores, Bedrock Wine Company, Rafanelli, Ridge and Quivira, to name a few.

It is time to get to re-know Zinfandel, the Please The Palate pick of the week!