Fall is here, and with it comes cooler days with hearty meals. Although Zinfandel is a perfect summertime wine because it pairs beautifully with barbeque; it is not to be forgotten in fall. California Zinfandel is the wine I want to serve with Friday pizza night, Saturday chili, Sunday night Bolognese, Meatless Monday, and Taco Tuesday.
It isn’t a homogenous grape. Confirmation by the Wine Institute of Zinfandel’s genetic equivalency to Italy’s Primitivo grape and the ancient Croatian grape Crljenak Kastelanski doesn’t diminish its heritage in the United States. When cultivated in California the grapes differ in vigor and cluster size; factor in unique winemaking techniques and terroir and California produces a wine like none other.
Zinfandel was brought to the United States from Vienna in the 1820’s, extending its roots to California a decade later, and becoming the most widespread varietal by the end of the 19th century. Its popularity remained until Prohibition, except in California where it stayed prominent due to its use in sacramental wines.
In the 1970’s it morphed into White Zinfandel, a blush colored sweeter wine, and spread like wild-fire. We all have our early wine drinking stories of white zin, for some it was a gateway wine, and while the success of the hybrid blush remains, the true red form of the wine has risen again. Yay! Zinfandel plantings account for over 23% of California vineyard plantings.
I find Zinfandel offers all the punch of a California Cab, often with a lower price tag. Known as a big, bold red wine with jammy red and black fruit, baking spice, violets, black pepper, smoke, and tobacco notes, it typically delivers a silky mouth-feel balanced with lean acidity. Due to its affinity for warm climates, it tends to have high alcohol percentages, but less evident when well made. The natural sweetness of the grape increases its friendliness with foods – loving the sweetness of barbeque sauce and pizza sauce as well as a wide variety of red meat.
National Zinfandel Day is Thursday. Here are 5 California Zins to quench your thirst –
2014 Alexander Valley Vineyards ASR Old Vine Zinfandel Alexander Valley USA ($45): packs a powerful punch of blue fruits, slate, spice, dried lavender & herbs, & milk chocolate covered espresso beans. Wraps mouth in earthiness that lifts off palate. Buy direct from Alexander Valley Vineyards.
2017 Oak Farm Vineyard Mohr-Fry Ranches Block 417 Zinfandel Lodi USA ($35): Vibrant fresh berries, spice, crushed violets, dark chocolate, graham cracker crumbs, & trailing barnyard funk Reminiscent of spicy blackberry crumble on palate; juicy, fresh, linear & yummy. Buy direct from Oak Farm Vineyard.
2015 Three Wine Company Live Oak Vineyard Zinfandel Contra Costa County USA ($36): Crafted of 130 year old vines, dry-farmed and own-rooted; a field blend of 81% Zinfandel, 11% Petite Sirah, 6% Carignan, 1% Alicante Bouschet, and 1% Mataro; feminine & floral, layers of fruit, violets, spice, dried herbs, white pepper,& sweet tobacco leaves. Silky texture that’s round and juicy. Buy direct from Three Wine Company.
2016 Pedroncelli Courage Faloni Vineyard Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley USA ($32): Rich & chewy w/ripe bramble, fall baking spice, loads of black pepper & scorched earth, focused; a big mama jama that delivers on every level. Buy direct from Pedroncelli
2016 Ironstone Vineyards Reserve Old Vine Zinfandel Lodi USA ($14): Crafted of 90% Zinfandel, 5% Petite Sirah, 5% Shiraz; stewed black fruit, fall baking spices, black pepper; dusty earth; chewy and fierce, ripe and spicy. Buy direct from Ironstone Vineyards.