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Celebrate Zinfandel – 2017 Edition

November 16, 2017 Leave a comment Go to comments

– “Would you like a glass of Zinfandel”?

– “ahh, sorry, I don’t drink sweet wines”

Have you ever witnessed such dialog, at a bar, restaurant or a tasting? For all of us, oenophiles, the word “Zinfandel” has only one meaning – dense, smokey, brooding, concentrated red wine, with a good amount of fruit and spice. However, for many wine drinkers, the descriptor associated with the Zinfandel is “white” – and the white zinfandel, indeed, is a sweet wine, and it still confuses people.

Zinfandel is often called “an American grape”, despite the fact that it came to America from Croatia (or maybe Italy), where it had a few names on its own. From point of view of the science, Crljenak Kaštelanski, Tribidrag, Primitivo and Zinfandel are all different names for the same grape. From point of view of the producers – not so much, but this is not the subject of to0day’s post.

Zinfandel is really an American phenomenon. It shows the best results in California, and there it can be produced pretty much in any AVA. Napa Valley and Dry Creek Valley are considered two of the top AVAs for Zinfandel. However, last year I visited Lodi as part of the wine bloggers conference, and I absolutely fell in love with the Zinfandel wines Lodi produces.

Zinfandel Day_AutoCollage

Forty percent of all Zinfandel in California is growing in Lodi, which is rightfully crowned as “Zinfandel Capital”. Lodi is a home to some of the oldest Zinfandel vineyard, dating back to 1888. Lodi also has 750 growers tending to 110,000 acres of the vines. In 2013, winemakers in Lodi started the project called “Lodi Native” – 6 winemakers set the minimalist rules to how the wine can be made, and all 6 winemakers followed the same rules regarding fermentation, use of oak and ageing, so you can taste the difference in the vineyards which bore fruit, unadulterated. Last year I had an opportunity to taste all of the Lodi Native Zinfandel wines, which were pronouncedly different – hopefully, I will still write that post one day…

Good Zinfandel wines might be called the most playful red wines – my favorite descriptor for Zinfandel is “smokey raspberry”, and I’m always very happy to find that in the glass. Even when the label says “Zinfandel”, there are typically few other grapes added to the blend, often in minuscule quantities – Petite Sirah, Cinsault, Alicante Bouschet are all popular blending partners of Zinfandel. There are lots of Zinfandel producers, but I have my own list of personal favorites which I’m happy to share, in no particular order: Carlisle, Rober Biale, St. Francis, Turley, Harney Lane, Bruce Patch, Ridge.

How did you celebrate Zinfandel Day? Who is your favorite producer? Cheers!

  1. November 16, 2017 at 10:40 am

    Favorite producer is Rafanelli.

    • November 16, 2017 at 7:14 pm

      Thank you. I heard the name, but I don’t think I ever had Rafanelli wines.

      • November 16, 2017 at 9:23 pm

        I can arrange for you to taste one. I’ll send you a bottle.

        • November 18, 2017 at 2:56 pm

          Thank you very much, this is very generous of you. I have plenty of Turley and Carlisle which I will be happy to share. Easiest way is to connect over email talkavino-info at yahoo.com

  2. November 18, 2017 at 8:44 am

    @Wineismylife- just visited Rafanelli. We use to be on their mailing list forever. Great producer. Love the photo Anatoli! I really had my eyes opened at last year’s blogger’s conference. Lodi truly makes some quality fruit!

  3. December 1, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    Great article, really enjoyed it! Have you ever the Croatian Zinfandel? Tribidrag/Crljenak as you correctly note above. We fell in love with it last year and decided to start importing it to the U.S. Check it out here: http://www.topochines.com. Click on “countries” and then “croatia.”

    • December 1, 2017 at 8:37 pm

      Thanks John! No, never had the one from Croatia – only Tribidrag from CA (Dr. Meredith). Will look for Croatian one, interesting to compare

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