3R's - Rafik Samuel
Well, I hope everyone had a wonderful new year. I saved discussing my favorite varietal until now, but I can’t wait any longer. Zinfandel (no not white zin,) is a grape grown mainly in California. Zins typically are medium to full-bodied wines that are fruit forward with a spicy finish. These wines have high acidity and should be served around 65 degrees, not room temperature. The fruit flavors usually are cherry, blackberry, raspberry, cassis, or blueberry, while the spice flavors can be black pepper, cooking spices or tobacco among others. These wines definitely go with the heartier meats such as steak, lamb or other game. They also go with ripe cheeses or dishes that have red sauces.
Zins range from cheaper wines such as the “vintner’s blends ” (typically around $10) to regional appellations($15-20) to the single vineyard ($25-50). You can definitely find fantastic wines in each price range. The difference is simple –blends use a large number of grapes to make a lot of wine so the flavors are more subdued. The single vineyards come from smaller numbers of grapes from a specific place, resulting in much more unique (i.e. expensive) wines.
My favorite producers of zinfandel are the 3 “R”s (hence my column name) - Ravenswood, Ridge and Rosenblum. The entry-level wine from Rosenblum-“vintner cuvee” is really a good bargain, under $10 and I would recommend it before trying the higher level wines. Ravenswood also has a vintner blend, but it is not as good as the Rosenblum.
The next level –the regional appellations or county wines- are fuller and more flavorful than the vintners and if you like zin, they are worth the extra $5-10. Rosenblum produces my favorite- the Paso Robles, but their North Coast or San Francisco bay are also very good. The Ravenswood Sonoma County and Napa Valley are very good as well.
The top-level zins are the single vineyards. I have done wine tastings within this group of wines and some of my favorites are as follows. The Ridge Pagani Ranch, Geyserville, Lytton Springs and Paso Robles are in the $30 range. The Ravenswood Teldeschi runs around $25. The Rosenblum Richard Sauret runs about $25 as well. All of these wines are amazing now and should be great in 5-10 years as well.
Other producers of zin that are really good include Seghesio, Renwood, Four Vines, and Brochelle just to name a few. These are not as consistent as the 3R's, but do produce great zins as well.
Hope that was helpful, but honestly, any zin questions, drop me a line.