For the second successive year I attended the ZAP 2015 media tasting held at the Rock Wall Wine Company at Alameda on January 28. I missed the friendly jostle of huge throngs of Zin fans from the Grand Tasting, but it is so much quicker to navigate from producer to producer with just media and trade present, especially in a converted, acre-sized airplane hangar, although some of the general public Grand Tastings have been held in immense facilities also.
For those less familiar with ZAP (Association of Zinfandel Advocates & Producers), this 501(c)(3) non-profit organization is dedicated to enhancing the knowledge, recognition, and appreciation of American Zinfandel, and to foster its preservation. This organization was founded in 1991, and provides many useful and appreciated functions such as funding research and education of the Zinfandel grape varietal. ZAP produced the Zinfandel Chronicles, a source of information and inspiration for Zinfandel, America’s heritage wine, as they call it. To say that the ZAP events and Grand Tasting are well attended, and that the fans are appreciative does not even come close to the reality of the Zinfandel-rabid multitudes, including myself, who flock to the celebrations.
The diversity of Zinfandel never fails to amaze me by its numerous and varying styles and locals. Zinfandel is especially important in representing the California winemaking heritage. It is found in many of the old vine plantings in the state, and at times in field blend format. From the once called “underdog grape” to rock star, Zinfandel has made the transition and is here to stay in a very big way.
My Tasting Notes
95, Zinfandel, Beekeeper Cellars, Black Sears Vineyard, “Old Vines Reserve”, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley, 2012, $75
Beekeeper has blended 1% Petite Syrah with Zinfandel from the dry farmed Black Sears Vineyard for their fabulous 2012 effort. Deep ruby-purple in color, this wine is a perfect mélange of loads of opulent, sweet, dark fruit with a mineral backdrop reminiscent of sheer stone cliffs. Rich aromas of blueberries with notes of black cherries are echoed on the luscious, full-fruited mid-palate. The acid level is adequate to accentuate the plentiful fruit, while the overall balance is excellent. Ample ripe tannins on the lengthy finish foretell a significant future for this lovely Zinfandel. A tremendous success!
90, Zinfandel, Elyse, Morisoli Vineyard, Rutherford, Napa Valley, 2009, $37
Purple with ruby highlights. A savory note floats on the blueberries in the aroma, with red berries and spice evident on the palate. This mid-weight wine has brightness, balance, and a lingering finish.
90, Zinfandel, Howell Mountain Vineyards, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley, 2011, $45
This deep ruby colored Zinfandel from Howell Mountain Vineyards displays floral and cola notes in the aroma, followed on the palate by black cherries and spice. Good purity of fruit is notable with the elevated acid providing freshness in this native yeast fermented wine.
91, Zinfandel, Mauritson, Pritchett Peaks Vineyard, Rockpile, 2012, $47
This dark ruby-purple Mauritson comes from grape vines located on a steep slope at 1,250 feet in elevation on the Rockpile Appellation ridgeline. The aromas of this 2011 show sweet dark fruit and spicebox, followed on mid-palate with wild dark berries. This wine shows a hefty tannic structure which is well integrated with the luscious fruits. Good balance of components overall, with sufficient acid complimenting the fruits. This 61 case addition to Mauritson’s offerings is a definite plus.
91, Zinfandel , Ravenswood. Belloni, Russian River Valley, 2012, $36
Ruby with purple accents in color. This delicious 2012 from Ravenswood incorporates 25% of other mixed black, field blend grape varietals including Petite Sirah, Carignane, and Alicante Bouschet, which were co-fermented along with the 75% Zinfandel. Boysenberry and sugarplum dominate both the aromas and the complex, harmonious, field blend style taste profile. This excellent offering shows good intensity, sweet ripe fruit, overall balance, and a finish punctuated by smooth, ripe tannins.
92, Zinfandel, Ravenswood. Belloni, Russian River Valley, 1993
This 22-year-old is still showing admirably youthful, including its ruby-red color. Great intensity remains in the aroma and taste, which are predominated by dark fruit and boysenberries. Definitely no off character in this wine. Sports excellent balance of components and characteristics, as well as harmony. A real piece of work that has withstood the test of time!
90, Zinfandel, Turley, Meade Ranch, 2013
The head-trained vines responsible for this Meade Ranch, mountain Zinfandel by Turley are located well up on Atlas Peak in south east Napa Valley at an elevation of 1,600 feet. The vines were originally planted in the 1880s, but the block responsible for this wine is in the 40-year age range, lying in red volcanic soil. Ruby in color, this is a full bodied wine, intense in character, with complex layers of fruit. Spicy and rich waves of dark fruit cross the palate with a savory character. The wine is balanced, and shows the brightness of elevated acid levels.
92, Zinfandel, Turley Wine Cellars, Pesenti Vineyard, 2012
The grapes for this Turley 2012 Zinfandel were sourced from estate fruit in the Pesenti Vineyard on the west side of Paso Robles. The certified organic vines, planted in the 1920’s, are dry-farmed and head-trained. The aroma is filled with pure red berry fruits. In the glass bright red berries are punctuated by cranberries. This notable wine is delineated, balanced, and refreshingly elegant.
92, Zinfandel, Bedrock Wine Company, Old Vine, 2013, $25
This 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel is another of Bedrock’s delicious and very intriguing blends, although there is sufficient Zinfandel in it to be so labeled. In the mix there is nearly 23% of Carignane, Mourvedre, Grenache, Petite Sirah, Abouriou, Aubun, with a few white varietals added. Remarkably the source vines average greater than 80 years of age, with the nucleus vineyards being Bedrock, Monte Rosso, and Casa Santinamaria, all in the Sonoma Valley appellation. Conspicuous among additional vineyards in the blend is Stampede Vineyard in Lodi’s Clements Hills AVA, being own-rooted and planted in 1919. The wine that results from this extraordinary amalgam of grapes, geography, and history is smooth in texture with a physique well tied together. It is opulent while retaining just the right intensity. On the palate the wine has a savory character along with notes of red and black berry fruits, dried figs, and fruitcake showing some of the diversity and complexity of its numerous components. Morgan Twain Peterson has produced another success!
93, Evangelho Heritage blend, Bedrock Wine Company, Contra Costa County, 2013, $35
The grapes in this exciting Bedrock Heritage series wine come from Frank Evangelho’s dry-farmed vineyard situated on deep, sandy soil. The vines were planted in the 1890s at a windy site in Contra Costa County on terroir that Bedrock describes as being particularly unique. Zinfandel comprises the bulk of this blend with Carignane and Mourvedre being two other main players in the mix. Boysenberries complimented by floral notes burst out in complex layers in the aroma of this generously perfumed, dark ruby colored wine. Sweet red and black fruits with Herbes de Provence follow and expand on the rich mid-palate. This full-bodied blend has great harmony and is a fine effort of intensity that also displays a smooth texture with an opulent character.
93, Red Blend, Bedrock Wine Company, Heritage Vineyard, Sonoma Valley, 2013, $45
Yet another beauty from Bedrock! This Zinfandel-dominated field blend is sourced from the Peterson family’s old vines planted between 1888 and 1895. Dark ruby-purple in color, this delicious blend is 55% Zinfandel, 30% Carignane, with more than 20 additional grape varietals interplanted in the vineyard making up the balance. The intense spice-infused black plums, cherries, and figs emerging from this medium to full bodied wine shows great purity and extract while remaining very approachable. The result is a harmonious, supple, complex wine with a lasting finish and sufficient acid for food matching.