Castle Rock Zinfandel 2011

A couple of months ago, I had lunch with some friends at a popular Chinese restaurant in town.  We hadn’t seen these friends in awhile because they’d recently had a baby and weren’t going out while the family all got acclimated to each other.  Since they had baby in tow, we decided to meet closer to their house.  The food was great, baby Vivienne was incredibly cute, and our visit was lots of fun.  It was lunch, so none of us chose to imbibe, but ….

On the way home, I noticed the sign for a store called World Market.  It was a Saturday, we didn’t have any pressing engagements, so we stopped in to have a look around.  Why not?  Lo and behold, this store not only carries a variety of products similar to what you might expect in a Pier 1, for instance, they also carry an assortment of wines.  Well now!  A new source of wine selections?  I’m game!

After perusing the bottles on hand (yes, I looked through the whole lot – lol), I grabbed up this Zinfandel to try.  After all, it’s from Lodi, California, the self-proclaimed “Zinfandel Capital of the World.”

Winemaker:  Castle Rock
Vintage: 2011
Varietal:  Zinfandel
Appellation:  Lodi, California
Price: $10.99 at World Market

Notes:  Color was a pretty, medium ruby.  The bouquet was a vibrant mix of black raspberry, earth and spice.  The body was fairly light, acidity was good, and tannins were medium.  Alcohol was 13.5%.  As for flavors, this Lodi Zin was quite woody with a fruit core of black raspberry, plenty of pepper, as well as touches of spearmint and tea leaf.  I thought it was quite enjoyable.  Although it may have been a tad on the light side, I wouldn’t turn down a glass.  Always with a mind toward a good value, I snagged this selection at World Market for $7.68 on sale.

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Estancia Zinfandel Paso Robles 2011

I have to say that I really enjoy a good Zinfandel.  At it’s best, the Zinfandel grape can be made into a nice, full-bodied red that retains plenty of fruit flavor while also presenting a fair amount of complexity on the palate.  Although this grape varietal didn’t make it to the U.S. until the 1800’s, it’s forebears were being cultivated and made into wine for centuries – in Italy (where the grape is known as Primitivo) and in Croatia (known there as Crljenak Kaštelanski and also Tribidrag as early as the 15th century).  Now, I didn’t know about the Croatia connection until I did a little research online.  You can read more on that at Wikipedia here and at FT Magazine in an article by Jancis Robinson here.  Whatever it’s origins, I’m just glad that it wasn’t completely abandoned, forgotten or wiped out along the way.  Like I said, I really enjoy a good Zin.

Oenophilogical_EstanciaZinfandelPR2011Winemaker:  Estancia
Wine: Zinfandel Paso Robles
Vintage: 2011
Varietal:  Zinfandel
Appellation:  Paso Robles, California
Price: $19.99

Notes: The color of this Paso Robles red was a deep garnet in my glass.  On the nose I caught scents of earth, moss, oak, tobacco leaf, and menthol with hints of dark fruit.  The body of this Californian was medium with medium+ tannins.  I thought acidity was fairly high, and alcohol was at 13.5%.  On first pour, the flavors I found were copious amounts of oak in addition to tobacco and cherry with a prune note on the finish which followed the characteristic dry tannic bite.  After it breathed a bit, the tannins settled a tad while still remaining satisfyingly present as the cherry broadened and came to the fore.  No, this wasn’t the most complex Zin out there- not even close.  It also wasn’t the most expensive.  Maybe I was just hankering after a dry red because so many of my recent experiences had been on the sweeter side.  Whatever the case, I found this to be one AOK Zinfandel.  Yup, I liked it.  A final note: I didn’t pay retail for this one.  I got this on sale for $9.99 which is below but closer to the $11-12 average price I saw listed online.

Twisted Wines Old Vine Zinfandel 2011

Sometimes a simple, approachable, flavorful wine is just what the doctor ordered.

Vineyard: Twisted Wines
Wine:  Old Vine Zinfandel
Varietal: Zinfandel
Vintage: 2011
Appellation: California
Price: $15.99 per Magnum

Notes:  This wine was soft, mellow and fruity.  For me the nose carried scents of red fruits – plum and cherry – along with hints of vanilla.  On the palate the red plum and cherry repeated with hints of strawberry as it breathed.  I also tasted some vanilla and an underlying note of anise.  Very light tannins brought a slight fuzziness on the tongue and a bit of menthol to the finish.  The acidity was low, and the label put the alcohol at 13.5%.

It wasn’t a wine epiphany.  It isn’t even, generally speaking, the kind of Zinfandel I prefer.  But I know from personal experience that this Old Vine Zin from Twisted Wines can make a pretty good budget-friendly selection to share at an informal party.   In fact, I took a bottle to a get-together this weekend where it was a big hit.   Of course, this is not for the wine enthusiast group, or the wine tasting event, or the “I insist on Dom Perignon in my Mimosa” crowd: this is for an easy, breezy chat-with-neighbors-in-the-condo-courtyard-and-eat-grilled-burgers kind of gathering.

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

Grifone Primitovo 2011

To quote the manager of the wine department at my local Trader Joe’s, “this is the best red wine I have under $5.”  So clearly I had to give it a try!  Although that may not be much of a comparison in most stores, at Trader Joe’s it’s a claim worth considering.  Here’s what I found.

Winemaker: Roccadoro (Castellani)
Wine: Grifone Primitivo
Vintage: 2011
Appellation: Puglia, Italy IGT
Price: $4.45 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  I smelled cherry & spice in the bouquet of this medium-bodied red wine from Puglia, Italy in the heel of the boot.  On first pour, the chief flavor I tasted was black tea.  There was also an underlying dark cherry which started coming to the fore and then brightened into pleasing ripe strawberry and red currant as the wine breathed.  It definitely has tannins which give the wine a lingering finish, but I would say they are on the moderate side (esp. by comparison with Zins made here in the U.S.).  Speaking of the finish, I tasted a very interesting and haunting spiced orange.  Although the label is bright orange in color, I don’t think it was just subliminal suggestion!  The wine is 13% alcohol and 100% Primitivo (aka Zinfandel) from old vines.  I wanted to find out more about this winery and saw that the folks at Jascots Wine Merchants, a UK wine seller, attribute Grifone Primitivo to Castellani.

Important:  I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.