Because you know I’m all about that Zin,
‘Bout that Zin, from Lodi
I’m all ’bout that Zin, ’bout that Zin, from Lodi
I’m all ’bout that Zin, ’bout that Zin, from Lodi
I’m all ’bout that Zin, ’bout that Zin
What do you think I’ll be drinking for Zinfandel Day today? If you guessed Zinfandel from Lodi, you guessed correctly! Yes, Sue and I are going to Cantara Cellars to taste 15-20 wines from Lodi with winemaker Mike Brown who’s family grows grapes in Lodi.
According to ZAP, “All other significant wine varieties have their reference points in Europe, but Zinfandel established its own tradition in California and has become known as America’s Heritage wine. Zinfandel’s history is a classic All-American success story—transforming from a little-known grape into one that has achieved such tremendous popularity that it has grown on more than 50,000 acres in the United States.”
Zinfandel Day gives Zinfandel fans a chance to tell the world about the grape and the wines made from it. Wineries, wine bars, and restaurants host special #ZinDay events like the event at Cantara that Sue and I are going to.
Below you will find out more about #ZinfandelDay festivities plus reviews of seven Lodi zinfandel that I’d recommend for this year’s #ZinDay as well as #TurkeyDay!
Can’t get out of the house or no event near you? Simply open up social media and a bottle see what people are sharing using the hashtags #ZinDay and #ZinfandelDay. More tips on how to participate below.
I’ve been a big fan of Zinfandel from my days at the Ridge tasting room, and that love affair continues today. Last summer at the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi, I had the opportunity to experience A LOT of zinfandel, most from Lodi but also on the pre-conference trip to Amador (where I tasted wine from Bella Grace and others) and while some stood out, in all, we saw over and over again that if you pay a little bit more for a bottle of zinfandel (like $20-30) and you choose a wine from a smaller producer like the ones below, you are going to get A LOT more wine for your money.
At WBC16, I was fortunate to take a number of bottles of Lodi Old Vine or Ancient Vine Zinfandel home with me (they don’t call me Wine Predator for nothing!). Sue and I spent an evening tasting through six of them paired with gourmet mini pizzas we cooked on the grill, an antipasti salad, and a cheese plate; the pizzas went so well with our assortment of wines. We were so grateful to taste these wines made from grapes that ranged from 50 to over 100 years old, and to compare and contrast them.
Please note that we tasted them relatively “blind” in the sense that we didn’t refer to the websites or tech sheets and so we didn’t know the price or any other details about the wine or the producers when we tasted them. I added that research when I took our tasting notes and turned them into this blog post.
Truth be told, every wine that I tried became my new favorite.
All of these wines are very special in their own way. You would not be disappointed to purchase or share any of these wines. They are wines to enjoy and wines to impress. You’d probably surprise a few people too. I’m a huge fan of Zinfandel for holiday meals because it is rich enough to pair with so many meats and side dishes without being too powerful. In fact,
ZINFANDEL is my go to recommendation for holiday wines because it is excellent with turkey and ham and it can even pull off a prime rib.
Klinker Brick – Old Vine Zinfandel – 2013 – 15.8% RS .30 Marisa Vineyard SRP $30
Right away we noticed a sweetness, and old dusky musky magic right away which can be indicative of old vine zin and indeed the Marisa Old Vine Zinfandel comes from an 88-year old single block in the Lodi along the Mokelumne River; the sweetness comes from time in American oak as well as an RS of .30 and a high alcohol of 15.8%..
The color is a very dense ruby color, not coral which can be more typical. On the nose, we get rose petals, carnation spice, red hot cinnamon candies, and clove. On the palate, the wine has big beefy berry flavors, with a waxy note on the finish, along with graphite or petrol. The juicy berries are bright, not too heavy, and are balanced by tannins.
This contrasts really nicely with the antipasti’s salty quality, and it goes well with the bright acidity of the tomatoes. You would not always think of having a zin with a salad, but if that salad has heavy garlic, fresh mozzarella, pine nuts and a great fresh balsamic, it will work. It also works well with smokey, salted meats.
The name Klinker Brick refers to “highly prized bricks that grace many of the historical buildings in Lodi, including our home. Chosen by Craftsmen architects in the 1920’s for their distinctive qualities, including unique shapes and dark, rich color, they are denser and heavier in weight than regular bricks. “Klinker” refers to the unusual sound that they make when banged together, because of their density.” The distinctive labels feature bricks. Learn more about Klinker Brick here.
Fields Family Wines – 2013 – Old Vine Zinfandel “Family Vineyard” – 14.4% $28
This is a lighter more elegant expression of the 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel from Lodi Mokelumne River AVA. The 75 yr old vines grow on sandy loam soil typical for proximity to the river. Winemaker and partner Ryan Sherman used native/ambient yeast fermentation and ML with 25% new French Oak plus neutral French Oak.
The color is an almost translucent ethereal rosy red, but the nose is not delicate: it’s plummy, stewed strawberries, and strawberry rhubarb pie.
On the palette, the strawberry is most distinct. This is a very easy drinking wine that would be good with salmon or Ahi tuna salad, turkey dinner, roast chicken or duck, and it would even be good with ham making this a great choice to bring to a holiday dinner. In fact, this would be good wine to have a bottle or two on hand at all times to share with impromptu guests or to splurge on your honey for a special night. This was lovely with our simple garden salad. It would also go great with a beet salad.
This is a really beautiful, refined, complex example of zinfandel. Learn more about Fields Family Wines.
Lange Twins Centennial Ancient Vines – 2011 – 15.6% alcohol only 56 Barrels made $60 SRP
This wine stopped us in our tracks–it was so amazing! It is like heaven in a glass. Okay, the kind of heaven you can find in a $60 zinfandel.
Even Marshall stated “Wow!!! This is a really great wine.”
Seriously, you can really tell the difference. It’s subtle but it’s there in every aspect of this wine. This has such a beautiful nose, so integrated with various notes of various berries, florals, and mellow oak with some heat from the high alcohol, but it does not turn you off from the many aromas that are there. On the palate, it’s surprisingly not overly jammy, but offers ripe blackberries and raspberries plus currant preserves, bright rich fruit not overly stewed rich fruit. Not as good with super salty foods, this would be great with braised meats.
You cannot even tell that this wine is 15.6% alcohol, it does, however, taste like a wine that will lay down well for a few years. The oak could integrate a bit more or pair with fatty meats to mellow the oak.
This is the 105th vintage from the Lewis Family Vineyard; the vines for the 2011 Centennial Zinfandel were planted in 1903, and they’ve been growing wine grapes for five generations.
As is typical with old vine zins, they are “head-trained, spur-pruned” which means the vines have a central torso with several broad arms growing in different directions for better ripening. The wine spent 24 months in American Oak barrels. Learn more about Lange Twins here.
Moss Roxx Ancient Vines – 2013 – 14.5% alcohol $20
This is a classic zinfandel and what you might think of when you think of a zin: it is a big heavy hitter.
The color is deep and dark with a beautiful plum rim. The nose is stewed fruit, with some interesting minerality, and oak. The oak on the nose works well with the fruit of the wine on the palate to bring it all into balance. This wine stood up to the salty olives on the pizza and the olives actually brought out the sweetness in the wine. This wine can stand up to to any big beef meal: prime rib, bbq ribs, filet mignon, you name it, bring it!
Grapes in this wine come from vines that are more than a century old and which represent the vision of the early pioneers. To honor them, an image of the California Grizzly Bear is on the bottle. Learn more about Moss Roxx here.
Macchia – 2014 Lodi Old Vine Zanfandel – 15.2% alcohol SRP $50
This was probably my favorite winery from the opening reception of the Wine Bloggers Conference at Mohr-Fries Ranch. The wines are exuberant, but also structured.
The “Serious” is just that: serious. This Lodi Old Vine is from a Dry Farmed Vineyard that’s over 100 years old. The color is dense and decadent. It looks like the wine might be unfiltered and unfined. It has a beautiful ruby plum color, like the color of the inside skin on a plum.
The nose is nice and inviting, making you want to dive right in with lots of classic bramble berry fruit with a little more raspberry than blackberry with sweet vanilla from the oak and some anise. The alcohol is a bit hot on the nose.
On the palate, this does not taste like a high alcohol wine. This would be a very nice holiday wine. The blue cheese went nicely with it bringing out more of the cherry or plum notes in the wine. This is a very easy drinking wine. Very relaxing, very enjoyable– just what you want for a holiday gathering.
Macchia produces approximately 600 barrels in total each year, but every year there will be one lot that stands out above the rest and this wine is aged in their finest French and American oak cooperage with a higher percentage of new barrels. Representing Macchia’s finest offering, in 2014, it was only 7 barrels. This wine shows how SERIOUS they are about sharing a passion for a perfectly balanced Zinfandel– and they certainly achieved this goal.
Macchi a says this $25 wine is called “Oblivious” because is oblivious to the fact that the vineyards are surrounded by a town. It is not flabby, it is not thin, but it is succulent fresh fruit as opposed to stewed fruit. I really liked this one, very accessible and balanced. Also of note: the 2015 Zinfandel “Mischievous” also Old Vine Lodi Appellation is more readily available and be found for around $20, and makes a great choice for your Thanksgiving. This one from Macchia uses five vineyards plus a bit of Petite Sirah that was aged in small oak barrels to add some soft vanilla to produce a versatile, friendly, fruit-forward wine.
Harney Lane – Lizzy James – Old Vine Zinfandel Port – 19% alcohol SRP $35
This was one of the finest dessert wines that we have had in a long time. Made from 100% estate grown fruit that was planted in 1904 and was aged for 30 months in neutral oak, it has kind of a chalky quality.
…like the bottom of the river that the old vine zins have sent their roots down to through the alluvial soil. In many places of the Lodi area, the water table has gone from being three feet below the surface to 30 feet below the surface. Zin does very well in adversity. They are very adept at finding what they need to survive.
With the old vine and dessert wine, you get concentrated everything, fruit and mineral. This chalkiness has a cocoa powder quality that made is think about how magnesium in milk of magnesia is still a mineral. It’s also reminiscent of walnuts. While this is definitely a dessert wine, it is not cloying but clean and rich and quite easy to drink.
We paired this wine with a berry dessert pizza. Sue made a base of one pizza with San Andre cheese, the other base was a petite crostini. We topped it with raspberries and blueberries lightly sprinkled with brown sugar and pie spice then put it on the grill to bring out the juices of the fruit. The dessert was like a warm juicy wonderful dessert with out being too sweet. It went well with the fruit. The wine is not over the top sweet. Only 130 cases of this lovely wine were made. Find out more about Harney Lanes.
So how should YOU celebrate Zinfandel Day?
If you’re in the Bay Area, head up to my old stomping grounds, Ridge, in the Santa Cruz Mountains above Palo Alto. Or, head to Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley, home to some spectacular zin (which I’ve written about here); be sure to visit the Ridge tasting room there!
If you can’t get away mid-week and you’re in the Bay Area, consider Rockwall’s event which goes on until 8pm tonight where you can taste zinfandel from three California countries. For $20 you can taste:
- 2015 Zin Nymph, Contra Costa County
- 2015 Zinfandel, Mariah, Mendocino Ridge
- 2015 Zinfandel, Alegria, Russian River Valley
- 2015 Zinfandel, Monte Rosso Reserve, Sonoma Valley
- 2015 Zinfandel, Jesse’s, Contra Costa County
- 2014 Zinfandel, Pearl Hart, Contra Costa County
How to celebrate Zinfandel Day according to ZAP:
1. Share a Bottle with Your Friends
Visit your local wine shop and select a bottle from one of your favorite Zinfandel producers. Invite your friends over for a toast to your best-loved varietal.
Tip: Dazzle your friends by letting them know that Zinfandel wine is often described as fruit-forward with a flavor profile that includes raspberry, blackberry, boysenberry, cherry, as well as black pepper, cloves, anise and herbs.
2. Visit a Tasting Room or Wine Bar
Over 90% of Zinfandel is grown in California, however wine produced from the grape is easily found throughout the United States. So, bop on down to your local drinkery to discover Zinfandel’s extraordinary quality and versatility.
Factoid: Typically, when called White Zinfandel it is made in a sweet style, while if named Zinfandel Rose it is usually dry (not sweet).
3. Explore Zinfandel’s Food Pairing Abilities
When it comes to Zinfandel and food pairing-there are no rules! Zinfandel is made for pure pleasure, so drink what you like. Zinfandel, in all its diversity is just as comfortable at an elegant dinner party as at casual family meals.
Tip: Zinfandel is perfect for pairing with your Thanksgiving turkey because its lower tannin helps moisten even the driest turkey.
4. Visit a Zinfandel Winery
Perhaps there is no better way to deepen your appreciation of Zinfandel than see where it is grown and made. ZAP member wineries are celebrating the day in their own special way, so be sure to check in with them before you go.
Factoid: Zinfandel vineyards are some of the oldest in California with several well over 120 years old.
5. Get Social with #ZinDay
Today is the day to share your love of Zinfandel with the world. Use #ZinDay while posting to your favorite social media sites and become part of the global Zinfandel conversation.
Tip: You can search social media sites using #ZinDay to see how others are celebrating. Be sure to share on ZAP’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram too.