There’s a reason Kendall-Jackson has been a powerhouse in the American wine industry for years now. Having spent not a few nights at business receptions in my life, I can remember colleagues practically sending up a cheer when hosts served Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay. As we know, however, KJ is no one-trick pony. A few months back I tried the 2012 Syrah. Staying with their reds, I more recently popped the cork on one of their Zins.
Wine: Vintner’s Reserve Zinfandel
Appellation: Mendocino County, CA
Notes: The bouquet of this dark garnet-colored wine was surprisingly understated but certainly present with round scents of dark fruit and earth accented by a sharp turpentine note. Acidity was good on this medium-bodied Zin. Tannins struck me as being on the lighter side of medium, and alcohol was at 14.5%. On the palate, I found this Kendall-Jackson to be a mouthful of fun. This is the kind of Zin that got me hooked in the first place. It could easily cellar a few years. Still, if you don’t mind a somewhat boisterous glass of wine, you may enjoy it now.
Well, it happened again. I saw a label that made me think I was looking at a Virginia wine, but I was fooled. I mean, seriously, Shenandoah Vineyards? Last time it was my own mix-up. This time …. Well, suffice it to say that the Shenandoah Valley is NOT in California. Parentheticals and subtitles aside, it seems almost false advertising to use that name for a Vineyard so far away from the Shenandoah region. That’s my regional pride speaking. The wine lover in me, on the other hand, would suggest that it’s what’s inside the bottle that counts – not what they call it. I bought a bottle, so clearly my love of wine won the day.
Winemaker: Shenandoah Vineyards (Of California)
Wine: Special Reserve Zinfandel
Appellation: Amador County, California
Notes: Dark garnet in the glass, this Zin had a bouquet presenting forest floor, cedar, tangy berries and a touch of sawdust. The body was very light, acidity was good to high, and tannins were a robust medium. Alcohol was 13.9%. As for flavors, I thought this dry California red was quite peppery with a fruit core of cherry and currant, cedar, some camphor and even a touch of chili pepper. I would have preferred more heft on the palate, but it was pretty decent otherwise. Sure, it wasn’t awesomely complex, but it wasn’t a boring glass of vino by any means. I’d buy it again. If you like a little zing in your Zin, you may enjoy this one.
Years ago, when I was in the very early stages of my wine journey, Zinfandel was the first varietal that truly caught my interest. Ever since, it has remained a wine that I enjoy exploring. Back in those early days I liked Chardonnay, found Pinot Noir to be very nice, and considered Cabernet Sauvignon an interesting wine. Yet it was my early experiences with California Zinfandel that really tickled my taste buds. Can’t remember now what those first few Zins were, their vintner’s, etc. I will say that their mix of fruit and (for me as a novice) unexpected non-fruit flavors proved a tremendous playground for my developing palate. My palate is, of course, still developing as I continue to learn more about wine and it’s many splendors.
Wine: Old Vine Zinfandel
Appellation: Lodi, California
Price: $7.99 at Trader Joe’s
Notes: It’s color was a dark ruby. The bouquet was very floral with menthol, pine sap, forest berries, and damp forest floor (sous bois). On the tongue it’s heft was light-to-medium with high acidity. Alcohol was at 14.5%. As for the flavors I found, I thought this a rather “round” flavor profile with distinct zingy notes. To me it had a core of black raspberry fruit and a mid-palate bready/muffiny taste. There was also plenty of menthol, pepper, and some pine along with a lengthy finish of dried cranberry. I enjoyed this budget Zin quite a bit for it’s surprising complexity and lengthy finish. I think this would be another potential to accompany a holiday meal, especially if you find yourself a little short on cash after purchasing your holiday gifts. [Many of us do!] Give it a try, and see what you think.
As folks probably know, Lodi is known for it’s outstanding Zinfandel. So when I ran across this Sphere selection at Trader Joe’s for under $6.00, I wanted to try it. Seeing that I’d picked it up to read the label, a friendly staffer stopped to tell me he thought it was one of their best values for the money. Well, then I simply HAD to try it.
Appellation: Lodi, California
Price: $5.99 at Trader Joe’s
Notes: The color of this Lodi Zin was a medium garnet. On the nose I caught whiffs of topsoil, blackberries and copious pecan shell (that’s what it smelled like to me). Acidity was bright and active. Both the body and the tannins were light on this Sphere selection, and alcohol was at 13%. As far as flavors go, I thought it was an interesting glass of Zinfandel. At first it was unexpectedly bitter but then settled after a very brief time to breathe. Once settled, I caught flavors of blackberries, pepper, some darker prune notes and a touch of bitter wood. Like I said, it was an interesting glass of Zin and would probably make a nice complement to a casual beef dish – pot roast or the like – but not for that thick, juicy steak.
With so many wine choices out there, it’s clear that the vintners are working hard to catch the consumer’s eye. Of course, it’s most important that what goes in the bottle is of good quality. But trying to tip the balance in their favor has the winemakers getting pretty creative. This Zinfandel from Big House Wine, for instance, has a very catchy name as well as a great graphic on the label. In fact, the graphic reminds me of the artwork I’ve seen in popular cartoons. Yes, I confess. I’ve been known to channel surf over to Adult Swim from time to time. Please don’t judge me too harshly for it!
Winemaker: Big House Wine
Wine: Cardinal Zin, Beastly Old Vines
Notes: In the glass, this Zinfandel was garnet in color with what I’d describe as an unexpected bouquet of country ham, pepper, ash, and forest berry. The body was light. Acidity was good. Tannins were medium. Alcohol was at 13.5%. Flavors I detected were red currant, rose petal, pepper, a hint of sarsaparilla, and green herbs (together reminiscent of an herbal cough drop). Despite how interesting the aroma and flavor profiles were, I was disappointed in this Big House offering. It was quite a light-bodied wine – especially considering the varietal. Add to that the expectations that “Beastly Old Vines” raise, and this selection did’t make good on the promise for me. It was pleasant enough, and the price was easy on the wallet. In fact, I grabbed it on sale at $6.99. Bottom line: I would drink it again, but not to satisfy my “Yen for Zin.”