Who is making the best California Zinfandel wine? Can you find a great Zinfandel under $25? I set out to answer these questions.
Finding a good value in wine is always a goal. But with value, we also want quality and character. Fortunately, all three can be found in Zinfandel, California’s grape! Sure, Zinfandel may have lost its popularity awhile back. The wines had become known more for their over-ripeness, high alcohol levels and notes of prunes and stewed fruit.
But the pendulum has swung back and it is time to think about Zinfandel as a balanced wine. I am here to share some Zinfandel finds that hit all the points – quality, character, and value.
Winemaker Randle Johnson started Artezin wines in 2002 to honor the art of making California Zinfandel, a grape he has been working with for 30 years and says is “a lot of work for a great reward.” He considers making Zinfandel an art in many ways because it is a challenging grape. It is almost as difficult to grow as Pinot Noir, it has a tendency to over-crop and has a propensity for residual sugar. Zinfandel “should not taste like Smucker’s Jam or root beer,” expressed Johnson who focuses making the wine varietally correct. With red fruit aromas of pomegranate, cherry and boysenberry, as well as sweet brown spices. This Mendocino Zinfandel is soft and round on the palate with bright acidity and fine tannins.
Check out current prices for Artezin California Zinfandel on wine.com.
(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."