Dancing Bull Zinfandel 2013

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.

Vineyard: Dancing Bull
Varietal: Zinfandel
Vintage: 2013
Appellation: California
Price: $10.99

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!

Shenandoah Vineyards Zinfandel 2012

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
Varietal:  Zinfandel
Vintage:  2012
Appellation:  Amador County, California
Price: $9.99

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.

Vintjs Old Vine Zinfandel 2012

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.

Vineyard: Vintjs
Wine:  Old Vine Zinfandel
Varietal: Zinfandel
Vintage: 2012
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.

Inexpensive Lodi Zin – Sphere 2012

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.

Winemaker:  Sphere
Varietal:  Zinfandel
Vintage:  2012
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.

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.

Cardinal Zin 2012

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
Vintage: 2012
Varietal:  Zinfandel
Appellation:  California
Price: $9.98

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.”

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.