Are You a Zinner? 5 CA Zinfandel With Eggplant Parmesan #ZinfandelDay

Are you a zinner?

We sure are! And not just on Zinfandel Day which is the third Wednesday of every November — just in time for Thanksgiving pairing ideas.

Sue is such a zinfandel fan that she may have a hundred or so bottles in her cellar from some of her favorites including Turley, Rangeland, and of course, Cantara where she is a tasting room manager. She’s a new fan of zinfandel from El Dorado county — she’s found that the altitude gives it something different.

Zinfandel is such an easy drinking wine, with fun spice, and  lots of juicy character, and it’s generally affordable and unpretentious. Plus it pairs so well with Thanksgiving fare like turkey, ham, and roast beef!

While zinfandel is a go to wine for meat eaters pairing especially well with anything coming off the grill, what about vegetarian dishes?

We put this to the test recently when Sue prepared a homemade eggplant parmesan — and wow was it good! This would make a wonderful main course for vegetarians for Thanksgiving — paired with zinfandel of course!




  • Cheese plate:
    gorgonzola picante, Lattebusche Piave Vecchio, black pepper crusted toscano, pecorino, salt cured olives, Napoli applewood smoked salami
  • Green olives
  • Bruschetta with homegrown basil pesto
  • Caesar Salad
  • Eggplant Parmesan
  • Homegrown sauteed zucchini



We chose from a range of price points and availability as well as locations from various places in California.

2017 – Artezin – Old Vine Zinfandel – Mendocino County – 14.8% alcohol
2015 – Castoro Cellars – Zinfusion – Paso Robles – 15.8% alcohol
2013 – Turley – Zinfandel – Sonoma Valley – Fredericks Vineyard – 16.1% alcohol
2014 – Narrow Gate Vineyards – El Dorado Suma Kat Vineyard – Zinfandel – 14.6% alcohol
NV – Lucas – Lodi – Late Harvest Zinfandel 16% alcohol


2017 – Artezin – Old Vine Zinfandel – Mendocino County – 14.8% alcohol
sample for my review 

Color: Maroon, ruby red, looks bright and young

Nose: Plum, menthol, blackberry liquor, licorice, sandalwood,

Palate: Fruit forward, big, ripe plum, tart cherry, plum preserves, smooth mild, not a lot of spice, cherry cordial on the finish. More plum up front and cherry on the finish. Nice structure, well crafted wine.

Pairing: Great Thanksgiving wine, it can easily pair with the traditional meal. I imagined that it would be great with a meat loaf, or a turkey burger with blue cheese, I even felt that it would go great with a turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce. Would be great with margarita pizza. Great with the pesto, it brings out the garlic in the pesto and tames the sweetness of the wine. Loved the salami, and I really enjoyed it with the toscano cheese. The salt cured olives brought out a beautiful sweetness in the wine. Very decadent. We all decided that it went well with all the cheeses except for the gorgonzola. The wine liked the Cesar salad because of the cheese and the garlic. It certainly tamed the anchovy. This wine likes brine.  John liked it with the sautéed zucchini, and wanted to cook the zucchini in the wine. It made the wine light and fruity. So good with the eggplant Parmesan. This wine loves this meal.

2015 – Castoro Cellars – Zinfusion – Paso Robles – 15.8% alcohol srp $24
sample for my review consideration 

Former City of Ventura resident Niels with his wife Bim­mer Udsen estab­lished Cas­toro Cel­lars in 1983.  Cas­toro Cel­lars cur­rent­ly has over 1,400 acres of Estate vine­yards, which are cer­ti­fied organ­ic by CCOF and all the vine­yards are SIP Cer­ti­fied.

Color: Deep maroon with a bit of a tawny rim.

Nose: Bramble fruit and menthol, sage, chaparral, cherry cola, slight barnyard funk, soil, roses, very rich on the nose

Palate: Very berry, bright berry, for as high as the alcohol is it is really nicely balanced, violets, baking spices, a bit of vanilla nice long finish of fruit and minerals, soils, and a bit of cherry cola.

Pairing: The acidity in this wine would make it another great choice for the Thanksgiving meal. Loves the pesto and the sun dried tomatoes. Great with the salami, Sue felt that it went well with all of the cheeses on the cheese plate, but John and I did not care for it with the pecorino. I liked it best with the toscano cheese. Great with the salt cured olives, it tamed the salt in the olives and brought out great fruit in the wine. I didn’t miss meat with the Artezin, but I wanted meat with this wine. Sue doesn’t ever really miss meat and she thought the eggplant Parmesan went very well with this wine. Sue felt that the wine had a nice fruitiness with the Cesar salad.

2013 – Turley – Zinfandel – Sonoma Valley – Fredericks Vineyard – 16.1% alcohol
Sue bought this as a wine club member.

Color: Deep and dark, dense, plum with a rose rim

Nose: Musky menthol, basil, licorice, herbs are very present, the fruit is underlying to the bouquet of herbs, dry wood, like drift wood, beach tar,  a bit of petrol. Really fascinating nose. For as high in alcohol this wine is, there isn’t a burn on the nose.

Palate: Insanely smooth, clean, well balanced for as high in alcohol as it is. There is so much bright fruit, raspberry liquor, concentrated fruit, the fruit is bright because of the acidity, and minerality,

Pairing: It liked the bruschetta with pesto, but we felt it would even be better with sun-dried tomatoes. When I mentioned that Sue got into her fridge and pulled out some sun dried tomatoes that she made herself from her garden cherry tomatoes. After that I imagined that this would be a great wine with a pasta salad that had sun-dried tomatoes in it. Great with the salami, and fantastic with the creamy gorgonzola, also really nice with the paive veccho. No surprise, but the wine went perfectly with the eggplant Parmesan, I did not miss meat at all with this wine. With all of the flavors of the meal, there is a sandalwood, cedar wood, aromatic woods that come out in the wine.

Are they unfined and unfiltered? I think that is part of the density here.

2014 – Narrow Gate Vineyards – El Dorado Suma Kat Vineyard – Zinfandel – 14.6% alcohol
Sue bought this on a visit to El Dorado county with an industry discount.

Sue and John went to the tasting room, and this was the Zin that the tasting room staff said that they had to try. So they bought it. The tasting room staff was not wrong. This is a beautiful wine.

Every time we drink biodynamic wine we talk about how clean the wines are. This is a very clean wine. Pure and light.

Color:  Dense, maroon, theatre curtains with a platinum pink rim.

Nose I could smell the iron in the soil right away. Super iron rich. It definitely has some sulphuric funk on the nose, earthy funk, baking spice, cocoa spice, a zin spice, rose petals, the perfume is powdery, plum fruit, and cherry cola, vanilla. There is a bit of vanilla oak and clove. Almost like vanilla pudding with fresh macerated fruit on top. John ” Like a fruit that is a plum, a bright fruit, could be berries”

Palate: Rose florals, baking spice, iron rich minerals, licorice, black pepper, cardamon, slight dry mouth, chai spices, cinnamon stick, violets  A bit of a dry mouth feel, dusty cocoa powder. Leathery texture, part of the dry mouth appeal. The palate continues to salavate on the finish. The texture is really fascinating.  We kept talking about the wonderful texture over and over again. It brings out the lemon components in the salad, and even though there is not a candied lemon rind in there, it brings out that component in the wine.

Pairing: Cesar salad was wonderful with this wine. It was excellent with the eggplant Parmesan. I told Sue that it was fluffy and she wanted to know what that meant. When I described it to her “Italian food can sometimes feel heavy. This wine can lighten us the feeling of the food” It is light and airy. This wine pairs beautifully with Italian food and brings a lightness to the meal. It is light in body so it will lighten up anything that is heavy.

This wine is a completely  different ball game from the other wines we sampled tonight. It is thinner, lighter, efferial. what a beautiful clean.

NV – Lucas – Lodi – Late Harvest “Straw” Zinfandel 16% alcohol
I bought this at the winery on a press trip with an industry discount. 

Established in 1978, Lodi’s Lucas Winery is one of the older ones in the region. When I was asking around for recommendations, Lucas was at the top of everyone’s list, and I could see why when I visited: the wines are fabulous and I bought several including their “Star” which is made from organic grapes.

This Late Harvest Zinfandel is really something special as they use the “straw” method of semi-drying the grapes which is more common in Italy for a passito wine. This process further concentrates the flavors and sugars naturally. Each berry is then selected to achieve this complex, rich, aromatic dessert wine.

Color: Deep maroon, deep brick red

Nose: A bit of oxidation, Sue, ” a bit of that fig thing going on”  There is a bit of herbal notes to the wine


Pairing:  It loved the dried apricots in the stilton cheese. The saltiness of the stilton with a touch of tart sweet from the apricot was a nice pair, however, with the dark chocolate sea salt caramels it was over the top. We are not big dessert fans, but this was very nice. It was surprising with the sweet caramel. They suggest pairing it with pear and since we had a fresh pear on our cheese plate, we gave it a try– and it went very nicely with the wine.

Fantastic with pistachio gelato. What a fun pairing! the finish of each work together so well. It makes the gelato so much better, it is a true compliment. It was our WOW moment of the evening.

While we didn’t pair it with the meal, as we tasted it on a subsequent night, I think it would have worked.

Happy Zinfandel Day! Happy Thanksgiving!






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