I know conventional wisdom is to pair Zinfandel with the grilled foods of summer. But Zinfandel also works perfectly for these short, cold days here in the mid-Atlantic. Sure these wines are rich and fruity, but the good ones provide a lot of other elements to contemplate. And when I pour a quality Zinfandel for my casual wine drinking friends, the results are near unanimous excitement.
These wines were received as trade samples and tasted single-blind.
2013 Force of Nature Zinfandel Mossfire Ranch - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $23Medium ruby colored. Smells like cranberry sauce and raspberry jam, add in some pepper, toasted oak and candied apples. Full and fruity on the palate, with some good tannic structure, a showing a bit more acid than the other selections. I like the super red fruity approach, like cranberry sauce and raspberry jam and strawberry shortcake topping. I also get some dusty, vanilla bean and coffee elements, white pepper and soy glaze. Juicy and ripe and fun but quite complex. 14.7% alcohol, aged in 20% new oak. (88 points)
2011 Grgich Hills Zinfandel - California, Napa Valley
On the nose, I get a whole lot: black cherries, plums, roasted red peppers, bright red flowers and damp soil. On the palate, this wine is tart, bright and earthy. Currants and black cherries mixed in with rose hips, charcoal, black pepper, along with black licorice candy and cocoa powder. This wine evolves in the glass to a near absurd level, shifting an opening as air coaxes out all sorts of herbal, spice and crushed rock notes. It’s got something of everything I look for in a Zinfandel. (91 points)
2011 Artezin Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley - California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
Bright ruby color. Juicy and fruity on the nose, cherries, sweet strawberries, some cedar and pepper undertones. Smooth on the palate, with light tannins and medium acid. The red and black cherry fruit is ripe and plush, dusted with cedar, mocha and white pepper. Juicy but fresh, with a note of sweet chestnut on the finish. A fun, easy-drinking personality. (87 points)
2012 Artezin Zinfandel Mendocino County - California, North Coast, Mendocino County
Aromas of sweet berries, mocha and cocoa powder. On the palate, smooth tannin, fresh acid, lots of ripe berry and black cherry fruit. Notes of mocha and pecans. Smooth, juicy with rose petals on the finish. Fun stuff. (86 points)
2012 Paul Dolan Vineyards Zinfandel - California, North Coast, Mendocino County
A light purple color. Red currants and summer plums on the nose, I also get whiffs of red hot candies, some vanilla and black pepper. A rich wine but it presents itself well, with medium to strong tannins, some acid for freshness. The black cherry and plum fruit is tart and juicy, backed up by notes of spiced coffee, black pepper, roses, bell pepper and wood shavings. Finish shows solid length and complexity. Lots going on here for the price. (89 points)
2011 Amapola Creek Zinfandel Monte Rosso - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
Deep purple color. On the nose, I get some juicy black cherries and blueberries, some cola and mocha, a bit of heat. Velvety and rich with smooth tannins on the palate. The black cherries and blueberries are deep and concentrated, followed up with some red licorice, toasty oak, cedar and roasted chestnut. I get some earthy, smoky, charcoal notes on the finish. Tasty and rich, but unrestrained and very concentrated. 15.5% alcohol. (88 points)