Monday, June 3, 2013

Welcoming Summer with California Zinfandel & Blends

The weather has been beautiful on the East Coast these last few weeks. Almost every evening, as I’m strolling through my Northwest, DC, neighborhood, I pick up the rich, sweet smells of grilled meat. Instantly, I crave zinfandel. Here are six zinfandels and zinfandel-based blends from California that would brighten up any BBQ or patio party. 

All wines were received as trade samples and tasted blind.

2009 McCay Cellars “Paisley” - California, Central Valley, Lodi ($28)
Juicy on the nose, with cherry and raspberries, but there’s also this complex dusty aroma that makes me think of an old library shelf. Notes of sweet incense and roses came out with time. Jammy and juicy on the palate, with medium tannins and acid. Generous cherry and wild berry fruit mixes with potting soil. Notes of fruit gum and caramel linger on the finish. Crowd-pleasing for sure, but more than just fruity. 55% Zinfandel, 45% Petite Sirah. (88 points) 
2010 Mettler Family Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel “Epicenter” - California, Central Valley, Lodi­ ($20)
Dark and saucy on the nose, with lots of plums and blackberries, along with mocha, chocolate shavings and some earthy-peppery notes. Bright berry fruit leads the way on the palate (raspberry and blackberries), the acid is medium-to-low, and the tannins show some grip. The chocolate, toasty aspects are bold but integrated. Notes of cinnamon and baker’s chocolate linger on the rich, plummy finish. (86 points) 
2010 Artezin Zinfandel Mendocino County - California, North Coast, Mendocino County ($18)
Smells of prunes, candied plums, milk chocolate and toasty oak. Juicy and full of ripe plum and raspberry fruit. Smooth tannins and medium acid help this go down easy. Notes of pepper, clove, green olive and smoke round out the fruit. Long finish. A fun, fruit-forward wine, but nice secondary characteristics. (87 points) 
Really nice mix of aromas: loam and pepper along with tart blackberries and currants. Solid depth on the palate, with velvety tannins. The fruit is tangy and tart, but not light, like fresh blackberries and currants; this is all highlighted by notes of graphite, pepper and cedar. Almost Bordeaux-like in its approach, but steeped in the tart black fruit that screams Mendocino. The producer doesn’t list what grapes are in this blend, but it’s at least partly made from Zinfandel. For a wine with an exclamation point, this is serious juice. (88 points)

2008 Chatom Vineyards Zinfandel - California, Sierra Foothills, Calaveras County ($20)
Clear medium ruby colored in the glass. Aromas of cranberry, red plum, smoke and vanilla. Medium-to-low acid, medium-grain tannins, this zinfandel focuses on sour cherry and red plum fruit, and there's a flavor that reminds me a lot of Thanksgiving cranberry sauce. Notes of pepper, tobacco and toast highlight the ripe fruit. (87 points) 

2010 Artezin Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley - California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley ($25)
The nose is dark and smoky, with charcoal, baked blackberry, sweet plums and brown sugar. This zinfandel is jammy and super-fruity, with gobs of blackberry and plum. The tannins, however, are quite mild. It finishes a little weak, but otherwise a pleasant, ripe, fruit-driven wine. (85 points) 

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

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