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02.05.2008

The Best Zinfandel in California: Tasting at ZAP 2008

I never cease to be amazed at the power of Zinfandel. At the last major Pinot Tasting in San Francisco, I thought to myself that maybe, just maybe, Pinot Noir had unseated Zinfandel as the most exciting grape for the Bay Area wine drinking public. But who was I kidding. I simply just didn't remember the extent of the reveling hordes that descend on San Francisco's Fort Mason Center for the event known as ZAP.

When I emerged for a breath of fresh air from the trade and media portion of the tasting, the line to get in to the tasting stretched all the way back into the depths of the parking lot, perhaps 200 yards and 500 people deep. And that was 30 minutes before the doors opened. Three hours later, you could hardly walk in the Festival Pavilion for all the Zinfandel lovers crowding in to get a taste.zap_image.jpg

That is, as they say, all part of the experience. Zinfandel Advocates and Producers, the marketing and advocacy organization for the grape that California has designated its own (and only narrowly avoided declaring the actual bona fide State Wine grape) puts on quite a production every January, with an entire weekend of Zinfandel events, from a large food and wine pairing event, to winemaker dinners, seminars, and, of course, the grand public tasting.

I'm usually too busy to make it to most of the events, but I always try to make it to the public tasting in order to check in on most of California's top producers of Zinfandel and see how the past couple vintages are sorting out. 2006 seems like a fairly solid vintage, and those who got good fruit in 2005 and knew what they were doing made good wine, but on the whole, '05 seems weaker to me than 06. Neither, in my opinion was spectacular, but that doesn't mean there aren't some excellent wines out there. Perhaps it was just my palate that day, but it seems like most people are dialing back the wines from the utterly explosive, super-ripe fruit that characterized 2002 and 2003 vintages in my memory. That's not to say there weren't some wines clocking in at sometimes more than 16% alcohol, but there were a lot more balanced wines than I seem to remember tasting in the last few years.

As many of you know, when I attend these large events, my goal is to taste a lot of wines in order to comparatively score them, rather than making tasting notes about each wine. I educate my palate in the process, and provide (I hope) some guidance for those who are looking to find roses among the thorns, or at least a great wine or two.

Those who know my tasting regimen at these events will notice that I took it a little easy this year and only tasted about 150 wines.

Enjoy.

Note: Many of the 2006 wines below are either barrel samples or just bottled and are not yet available for sale. Most will be available starting in the March/April timeframe. For those top wines that are available for purchase now, I have provided links to find places to buy them online.


WINES SCORING BETWEEN 9.5 and 10
2006 Outpost Estate Wines Zinfandel, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain $45


WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5
2006 Cline Cellars Big Break Vineyard Zinfandel, Contra Costa County $25
2006 Cline Cellars Live Oak Vineyard Zinfandel, Contra Costa County $25
2006 Downing Family Vineyards Fly By Night Zinfandel, Oakville $35
2005 Scott Harvey Wines Scott Harvey Vineyard 1869, Amador County $38
2006 Rosenblum Cellars Monterosso Vineyards, Zinfandel, Sonoma $45
2000 Saxon Brown Wines Casa Santinamaria Vineyard Zinfandel 110 yr old, Sonoma Valley $100
2005 Storrs Winery & Vineyards Lion Oaks Vineyard Zinfandel, Santa Clara $32
2006 Turley Wine Cellars Hayne Vineyard Zinfandel, Napa Valley $75
2006 Woodenhead Guido Venturi Vineyard Zinfandel, Mendocino County $30
2006 Woodenhead Valenti Vineyard, Mendocino County $??


WINES SCORING BETWEEN 9 and 9.5
2006 Acorn Winery/Alegria Vineyards Heritage Vines Zinfandel Barrel Sample, Alegria Vineyards, Russian River Valley $34
2006 Brown Estate Vineyards Zinfandel Napa Valley, Chiles Valley $36
2006 Charter Oak Winery Monte Rosso Zinfandel, Sonoma Valley $45
2006 Charter Oak Winery Zinfandel, Napa Valley $42
2006 Cline Cellars Bridgehead Vineyard Zinfandel, Contra Costa County $25
2004 Cosentino Winery The Zin Zinfandel, Sonoma County $30
2005 D-cubed Cellars Zinfandel, Napa Valley $25
2005 Downing Family Vineyards Fly By Night Zinfandel, Oakville $35
2005 Klinker Brick Winery Old Ghost, Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi, Mokelumne River $37
2005 Macaulay Zinfandel, Napa Valley $35
2005 Moss Creek Winery Zinfandel, Wappo Camp Moskowite Ranch, Napa Valley $38
2005 Novy Family Wines "Barbieri Ranch" Zinfandel, Russian River Valley $24
2006 Ridge Lytton Springs East Bench Zinfandel, Sonoma $40
2006 Rosenblum Cellars Harris Kratka Vineyard Zinfandel $35
2006 Rosenblum Cellars Maggie's Reserve Zinfandel, Barrel Sample $45
2005 Saddleback Cellars Old Vine Zinfandel, Frediani Vineyard, Napa Valley, Russian River Valley $36
2001 Saxon Brown Wines Casa Santinamaria Vineyard Zinfandel 110 yr old, Sonoma Valley $100
2002 Saxon Brown Wines Casa Santinamaria Vineyard Zinfandel 110 yr old, Sonoma Valley $100
2004 Saxon Brown Wines Casa Santinamaria Vineyard Zinfandel, 110 yr old, Sonoma Valley $40
2006 Saxon Brown Wines One Oak Zinfandel, Sonoma Valley $50
2006 Saxon Brown Wines Parmelee Hill Zinfandel, Sonoma Valley $50
2005 Spelletich Cellars Alviso Vineyard Zinfandel, Amador County $25
2005 Storrs Winery & Vineyards Rusty Ridge Vineyard Zinfandel, Santa Clara $30
1996 F. Teldeschi Winery Estate Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley $36
2005 Tin Barn Vineyards Gilsson Vineyards Zinfandel, Russian River Valley $27
2005 Venge Vineyards Scouts Honor Zinfandel, Napa Valley $38
2006 Woodenhead Martinelli Road Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel, Russian River Valley $40
2005 Woodenhead Braccialini Vineyard Zinfandel, Alexander Valley $35
2006 Woodenhead Braccialini Vineyard Zinfandel, Alexander Valley $35
2005 J.R. Wine Brochetti Vineyards Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, $30


WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9
2005 Acorn Winery/Alegria Vineyards Heritage Vines Zinfandel, Alegria Vineyards, Russian River Valley $34
2003 Ballentine Vineyards Old Vine Reserve Zinfandel, Pocai Vineyard, Napa Valley $28
2005 Benessere BK Collins-Old Vines Zinfandel, Napa Valley, St. Helena $38
2005 Benessere Black Glass Estate Vineyard Zinfandel, Napa Valley, St. Helena $40
2005 Chiarello Family Vineyards Giana Zinfandel, Chiarello Family Vineyards, St. Helena $35
2005 Cosentino Winery CIGARZIN Zinfandel, Crystal Valley Cellars, Lodi $30
2005 Dashe Cellars Old Vines Zinfandel, Todd Brothers Ranch, Alexander Valley $32
2005 D-cubed Cellars Zinfandel, Napa Valley, Late Harvest $25
2005 Four Vines Winery Anarchy Red Blend, Paso Robles $33
2005 Four Vines Winery Maverick Zinfandel, Amador County $24
2005 Fritz Winery Estate Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley $25
2006 Hartford Family Winery Highwire Vineyard Zinfandel, Russian River Valley $50
2005 Scott Harvey Wines Jana Old Vine Zinfandel, Korte Ranch, Napa Valley $35
2005 Howell Mountain Vineyards Beatty Ranch Zinfandel, Napa County, Howell Mountain $38
2005 Marr Cellars Old Vine Zinfandel, Mattern Ranch, Mendocino $22
2004 Milliaire Winery Clockspring Zinfandel, Sierra Foothills $20
2001 Moss Creek Winery Estate Zinfandel, Wappo Camp Moskowite Ranch, Napa Valley $38
2003 Moss Creek Winery Estate Zinfandel, Wappo Camp Moskowite Ranch, Napa Valley $38
2005 Novy Family Wines Papera Ranch Zinfandel, Papera Ranch Vineyard, Russian River Valley $33
2005 OTTIMINO Estate Zinfandel, Green Valley of Russian River Valley $35
2006 Ravenswood Zinfandel Barrel Sample, Teldeschi Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley $32
2006 Ridge Lytton Springs Lytton Springs Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley $35
2006 Ridge Lytton Springs Ponzo Vineyard Zinfandel, Russian River Valley $30
2006 Ridge Vineyards Old School Zinfandel, Sonoma County $30
2006 Ridge Lytton Springs Lytton Estate Zinfandel, Sonoma $35
2006 Rosenblum Cellars Kontrabecki Vineyard Zinfandel $25
1999 Saxon Brown Wines Casa Santinamaria Vineyard Zinfandel 110 yr old, Sonoma Valley $100
2003 Saxon Brown Wines Casa Santinamaria Vineyard Zinfandel 110 yr old, Sonoma Valley $100
2006 Sextant Wines Holystone Zinfandel, Paso Robles $27
2006 Sextant Wines Night Watch Zinfandel, Paso Robles $49
2004 Spelletich Cellars Alviso Vineyard Zinfandel, Amador County $25
2005 Storrs Winery & Vineyards Zinfandel, Central Coast $20
1995 F. Teldeschi Winery Estate Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley $36
2004 Tin Barn Vineyards Gilsson Vineyard Zinfandel, Russian River Valley $27
2005 Tin Barn Vineyards Dalraddy Vineyard Zinfandel, Napa Valley, Chiles Valley $27
2005 Toucan Wines & Vineyard Estate Zinfandel, Arroyo Grande Valley $34
2005 Cloud 9 Siety zinfandel, Napa $35
2005 Mauritson Rockpile Zinfandel Westphall Ranch, Sonoma $36


WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8.5 and 9
2005 Amphora Vineyard Zinfandel. Dry Creek Valley $24
2005 Amphora Vineyard Zinfandel. Dry Creek Valley $24
2003 Ballentine Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel, Pocai Vineyard, Napa Valley $20
2006 Benovia Zinfandel, Russian River Valley $38
2005 Cedarville Vineyard Estate Zinfandel, El Dorado $22
2006 Sinfarosa Zinfandel, Primitivo di Manduria, Italy $20
2004 Chateau Montelena Winery Estate Zinfandel, Napa Valley, Calistoga $30
2006 Cline Cellars Ancient Vines Zinfandel $15.99
2006 Cline Cellars Sonoma Zinfandel, Sonoma County $25.99
2005 Dashe Cellars Old Vines Zinfandel, Louvau Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley $32
2006 Dashe Cellars Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley $24
2005 D-cubed Cellars Zinfandel, Howell Mountain $37
2005 Four Vines Winery The Sophisticate Zinfandel, Paso Robles $24
2005 Four Vines Winery Biker Zinfandel, Paso Robles $24
2005 Four Vines Winery Dusi Vineyard Zinfandel, Paso Robles $33
2005 Fritz Winery Barrel Select Zinfandel, Estate, Dry Creek Valley $35
2006 Hartford Family Winery Fanucchi-Wood Road Vineyard Zinfandel, Russian River Valley $50
2005 Hendry Block 7, Hendry Vineyards, Napa Valley $30
2006 Hendry Block 7 & 22 Barrel Sample, Hendry Vineyards, Napa Valley $30
2005 Kuleto Estate Zinfandel, Napa Valley $39
2006 Matrix Winery, Dry Creek Valley Barrel Sample $45
2004 Milliaire Winery Old Vine Zinfandel, Calaveras County $20
2004 Milliaire Winery Ghirardelli Zinfandel, Calaveras County, Heritage Old Vine $24
2004 Moss Creek Winery Estate Reserve Zinfandel, Wappo Camp Moskowite Ranch, Napa Valley $60
2005 OTTIMINO Bel Monte Zinfandel, Green Valley of Russian River Valley $65
2005 Papapietro Perry Pauline's Vineyard Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley $36
2005 Papapietro Perry Elsbree Vineyard Zinfandel, Russian River Valley $36
2006 Ravenswood Zinfandel Barrel Sample, Todd Vineyard, Alexander Valley $32
2006 Ravenswood Zinfandel Barrel Sample, Belloni Vineyard, Russian River Valley $32
2006 Ridge Vineyards Paganini Ranch Zinfandel, Sonoma $35
2005 Rombauer Vineyards Zinfandel, El Dorado County $26.50
2006 Rosenblum Cellars Richard Sauret Vineyard Zinfandel, Paso Robles $25
1998 Saxon Brown Wines Casa Santinamaria Vineyard Zinfandel 110 yr old, Sonoma Valley $100
2006 Sextant Wines Wheelhouse Zinfandel, Paso Robles $20
2006 Toucan Wines & Vineyard Cuvee Zinfandel, Arroyo Grande Valley $34
2006 Toucan Wines & Vineyard Estate Zinfandel, 3 1/2 Acre Toucan Wines, Arroyo Grande Valley $34
2004 Woodenhead Martinelli Road Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel, Russian River Valley $40
2005 Carol Shelton Wild Thing Zinfandel, Mendocino $??
2006 Sobon Estate Zinfandel, Amador County $17
2005 August Briggs Zinfandel, Napa $32
2005 Mara Winery Dolinesk Ranch Zinfandel, Russian River Valley $45
2004 Maley Zinfandel, Lodi $17
2005 Maley Zinfandel, Lodi $17


WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5
2006 Ballentine Vineyards Block 11 Zinfandel, Pocai Vineyard, Napa Valley $29
2006 Benessere BK Collins-Old Vines Zinfandel, Napa Valley, St. Helena $38
2005 Benovia Zinfandel, Russian River Valley
2005 Chateau Montelena Winery Estate Zinfandel, Napa Valley, Calistoga $30
2006 Cline Cellars Zinfandel $10.99
2006 J. Dusi Zinfandel Dusi Vineyards, Paso Robles $36
2005 Francis Ford Coppola Presents Rosso & Bianco Directors Cut Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley $23
2005 Frank Family Vineyards Zinfandel, Napa $35
2005 Hartford Family Winery Zinfandel, Russian River Valley $30
2005 Howell Mountain Vineyards Bear & Lion Old Vine Zinfandel, Napa County $24
2005 John Robert Eppler Wines Zinfandel, Napa Valley $28
2005 Klinker Brick Winery Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi, Mokelumne River $17
2005 Lang Zinfandel, Amador County $17
2005 OTTIMINO Rancho Bello Zinfandel, Green Valley of Russian River Valley $32
2005 Papapietro Perry 3 Rivers Vineyard Zinfandel, Russian River Valley $33
2006 Ravenswood Zinfandel Barrel Sample, Dickerson Vineyard, Napa $32
2006 Ravenswood Zinfandel Barrel Sample, Big River Vineyard, Alexander Valley $32
2006 Ridge Vineyards Geyserville Zinfandel, Sonoma County $35
2005 Rued Vineyards Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley $25
1997 Saxon Brown Wines Casa Santinamaria Vineyard Zinfandel 110 yr old, Sonoma Valley $100
2005 Unti Vineyard Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley $25
2005 Bella Big River Ranch Zinfandel, Alexander Valley $36
2005 Saucelito Zinfandel, Arroyo Grande Valley $23
2005 Storybook Mountain Vineyards Anteus Estate Zinfandel $40
2005 Mauritson Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley $29
2006 Mara Winery Dolinesk Ranch Zinfandel, Russian River Valley $45


WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8 and 8.5
2006 Ravenswood Zinfandel Barrel Sample, Barricia Vineyard, Sonoma Valley $32
2005 Tierra Winery Zinfandel, Sonoma County $14
2004 Clockspring Zinfandel, Amador County $9

Comments (16)

Iandh wrote:
02.06.08 at 12:05 AM

Thanks for the scores Alder! How long did it take you to taste 150 wines?

Arthur wrote:
02.06.08 at 7:43 AM

Hi Alder,

I don't think it's just your palate. Not only were 2005-2007 cooler, longer (and somewhat wetter) vintages but I think there is a real, conscious effort on the part of the winemakers, to pull back the reins on big wines.

doug wrote:
02.06.08 at 9:20 AM

Thanks stopping at our table and saying hello while trying our wines. I always enjoy your ZAP follow-up, keep up the great work!

Alder wrote:
02.06.08 at 9:23 AM

Iandh,

I spent about four hours.

Fatemeh wrote:
02.06.08 at 11:39 AM

I'll be interested to try the Ravenswood Dickerson once it's bottled and has a few years on it.

We have a vertical of the stuff, but since the Dickerson's passed away in the tsunami a few years ago, I've heard that the vineyard has been managed differently.

Alphy wrote:
02.06.08 at 2:00 PM

Thanks for the insight to the event that East Coasters like myself are unlikely to attend.
-Alphy

02.06.08 at 3:01 PM

150? You must be a very talented spitter! Thanks for the ratings. I recognized quite a few, and will add the others to the "to try" list.

Alder wrote:
02.06.08 at 4:22 PM

Lia,

I'm not bad. Good enough to avoid getting it all over myself. :-) But yes, I spit everything and move quickly. As some who know me can attest, I'm all business at these events, and don't spend much time chitchatting.

02.06.08 at 6:59 PM

Man, if I ever run into you at one of these I'll have to study your technique. It's embarrassing to admit, but even after all this time I'm still a bit of a dribbler ;-).

02.06.08 at 8:19 PM

Adler; Thanks for tasting our Zins. We are delighted you liked them.
Alegria,
B&B

Hank wrote:
02.06.08 at 9:29 PM

Nice job - I missed the event this year (had to work my day job). I am a little surprised at how few Sierra Foothills zinfandels were in the top rank. I count only six over 9. I actually prefer the Sierra (El Dorado, Placer, Amador and Calaveras) zinfandels to the Napa-Sonoma ones. Guess it's just my palate.

02.07.08 at 1:30 PM

If it's any consolation, I thought that the Boeger Walker and the Easton Fiddletown were terrific. Plus the Easton Amador was its usual high QPR stuff. Maybe Alder just didn't get to your favorites. I know I can't cover more than a fraction of all the Zins being poured...

02.08.08 at 2:41 PM

I am fairly new to Zinfandel and am far from a connoisseur. However, I work closely with the guys at Brutocao Cellars in Mendocino and, though I may be biased, I must say that their 2005 Zinfandel is exceptional in my opinion. I am curious to know if you have tasted it and, if so, what you thought?

Mindy Powers wrote:
02.11.08 at 3:31 PM

Thank you for taking the time to stop by and taste our wines again this year at ZAP. Hopefully we'll see you at Hospice du Rhone in May and you can sample our dedication to the Rhone from our 10knots Cellars label. The Sextant Crew!

Tim & Stav Wine Club wrote:
06.03.08 at 5:07 PM

Ever had any Bucklin
Old Hill Ranch?
Granted it's a zin blend
It's awesome!

Doug wrote:
10.31.08 at 10:35 AM

Have you ever tried a Zinfandel made in 1988 from old vine Sonoma second and third pick grapes called Zoom?

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