Limerick Lane Cellars Archives - Please The Palate
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This story originally appeared in the Napa Valley Register.
Zinfandel is California’s grape, but it was a grape I disregarded for the last decade. Of course, with iconic producers such as Ravenswood, Ridge, Rafanelli, Biale and more, I knew there were good quality Zinfandels in the market. But as a whole, every time I thought about Zinfandel, I thought about big, jammy, high alcohol wines, some with residual sugar, and ran in the other direction — until now.
After spending four days immersing myself in Zinfandel at the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers’ ZinEX, I found the pendulum has swung back to the middle. There were so many balanced wines, it’s was time to revisit Zinfandel as a wine to drink.
From well-known labels to lesser-known brands, Zinfandel has one thing in common — the winemakers share a love for this temperamental grape that some compared to Pinot Noir. Like Pinot Noir, Zinfandel is a difficult variety to grow. The berries are big and thin-skinned. It is a grape that tends to over-crop, ripen unevenly and easily oxidizes. It buds early, is subject to frost concerns and ripens during the busiest time of harvest, all of which make it a challenging wine to make.
Another challenge is that Zinfandel has a propensity for residual sugar. But Zinfandel is a grape that shows a sense of place. According to Artezin Wines winemaker Randle Johnson, “it is a lot of work with a great reward. In many ways, Zinfandel is an art.”
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.