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.
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.