I was first introduced to the Cline family of wines by a friend. He had grown up not too far from the winery and was a true hometown fan. If I remember correctly, he insisted on sharing the Cline Conundrum white blend with me. I wasn’t recording tasting notes back then – just experiencing everything I could. Even so, it was evidently a good experience, because I continue to purchase and enjoy Cline wines.
Appellation: Lodi, California
Price: $8.50 at Trader Joe’s
Notes: In the bouquet I found boisterous berry, violets, cedar, and hints of spice. It was a dark, murky red with good acidity. Medium-bodied with medium tannins, this Cline Zin was at 14% alcohol. For me the flavors were dark cherry, piquant pepper, rubber, dried green herbs, and woody tannins. I enjoyed the flavor of this wine, but the bouquet was just as rewarding as the taste.
Here is another set of tasting notes from my archive which has heretofore not been posted on oenophilogical.com. I haven’t checked the Trader Joe’s shelves to see what vintage my local store is carrying right now. Even if it’s another year, this might give folks a sense of what has gone before.
Winemaker: Old Moon
Wine: Old Vine Zinfandel
Price: $5.99 at Trader Joe’s
Notes: In the bouquet I caught whiffs of cherry, spice, moss and pine tar. At 13.5% alcohol, this California Zin was a lovely ruby color in the glass. I found it to be medium-bodied with high acidity and medium tannins that were quick on the attack. The flavor profile I tasted included cherry, green herbs, a soupçon of pine tar, along with earth and leather notes. The finish brought toasty oak and leather. It wasn’t a particularly well integrated wine, but I felt it sufficient in structure and flavor to make it a bargain (not just cheap) at the price.
Among the selections I bought to have handy for holiday celebrations, I grabbed a bottle of this very inexpensive red. It was on sale at my local grocery. I’ve had a number of other selections by Barefoot cellars. Originally started by two folks with no wine industry experience, this brand (now under the auspices of E&J Gallo) has reportedly become the largest wine brand in the world.
Notes: It had a dark red color and scents of sous bois, berries and dirt. Acidity was pretty good and alcohol was at 13.5%. Flavors I found in this medium-bodied Zin were blackberry, moss, blueberry, and a touch of pepper. Tannins were very light. Decent for the price. Could have done with more structure, especially given the tease of a Lodi appellation.
As you may have noted, I’ve been on a bit of a Zinfandel bender of late. So without further ado ….
Wine: California Classics Lodi Zinfandel
Appellation: Lodi, CA
Price: $8.49 at Trader Joe’s
Notes: A very dark red, this Cline Zin smelled of berries, moss and rubber. It had good acidity, heft on the palate was on the light side of medium, and alcohol was at 14%. Flavor-wise, I tasted blackberry, currant, oak, some eucalyptus and a touch of pepper. Not bad at all!
Last post from those birthday celebrations a few weeks back. As you may recall, we managed to pull off a second “surprise” party for the old geezer (just kidding). Besides Thai Food – Pad Thai, Seafood Fried Rice, Vegetable Spring Rolls and Steamed Dumplings – we also had a marvelous chocolate cake. Unfortunately, I’m not authorized to post pictures of the cake here because the decorations included the celebrant’s name and age. That information is evidently not for general public consumption. Luckily, the cake was available for consumption at the party, and it was tasty. This Zinfandel is what I chose to sip with it.
Wine: Vintner’s Blend, Old Vine Zinfandel
Notes: This Ravenswood was dark red with a piquant nose of turpentine, meat and berries. It was medium-bodied and had a very nice, smooth affect on the tongue. Acidity was good, tannins were medium, and alcohol was at 13.5%. Flavors I detected were blueberry, cherry, plenty of pepper, along with smoke and ash notes. I liked this Zin. It was fine with the cake but even better on it’s own.
As I’ve mentioned before, it was California Zinfandel that really got me started on wines and wine exploration. Thus, I have a soft spot in my heart for the varietal. Of course, not all Zins are created equal.
Winemaker: Trader Joe’s
Wine: T.J. Coastal Zinfandel
Appellation: Central Coast, CA
Price: $4.99 at Trader Joe’s
Notes: The color of this Zin from the Central Coast was a medium garnet with definite brownish tinges. On the nose I caught scents of berries, earth and pine resin. It was uncharacteristically (and for me unsatisfyingly) light-bodied with decent acidity. Alcohol was at 13.9%. On the palate, I tasted red fruit toward the front end followed by pepper and copious woodiness. The finish was mostly bitter but also held echoes of cherry drops. No doubt it would do fine with a plate of pasta or another casual meal. I personally prefer more body and structure in a Zin, but you can’t beat the price.
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.
Evidently, Dancing Bull started out with Zin. Released under the Rancho Zabaco label, Robert Parker tagged it as a best buy in Zinfandel that year – 2002. Given my experience with their 2013 California Zin, that doesn’t surprise me at all.
Notes: This California Zin was a deep ruby color with scents of musty earth, pine, and dark, ripe berries in the bouquet. Acidity was good, tannins were moderate, and alcohol was at 13.9% on this medium-bodied selection. I thought this was pretty darned tasty. It had intensity of flavor yet still seemed to be somewhat restrained. An oxymoron? Maybe I am. A paradox? Couldn’t say. What I can say is that as I sipped this Dancing Bull, I found vanilla, dark currant, oak, and spice notes on the palate. I don’t think this is a good candidate for long cellaring, so drink up!
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.