As we approach summer, I’m starting to think more about grilling. When it comes to grilling, I think about Zin’s and barbecue sauce. Whether its ribs or steak tips, Zin goes great with both. We purposely cover Zins in the winter so we have them all reviewed and posted before grilling season.
Our top Zin comes from one of the famous “R’s” in Zinfandel. The 2011 Ravenswood “Barricia” Zinfandel from the Sonoma Valley is $35 a bottle. I awarded it 92 points. It is made from 75% Zinfandel along with 25% Petite Sirah. On the palate, I found this wine to be balanced, fruit forward and juicy. I really enjoyed its ripe boysenberry flavors with notes of blackberry. I also detected hints of vanilla, oak, wintergreen, and black cherry which really added to its complexity. It finishes dry and its fruit flavors and mild tannins linger for quite some time. Slowly cook up some beef brisket and enjoy!
Our next Zin was a new discovery for me at this year’s Boston Wine Expo. It is just becoming available nationwide and is a steal for just under $20.We gave the 2012 Upstream Zinfandel from Lodi, 91 points. This Zin is not your classic fruit bomb. Instead it is more like a rich blue fruited Syrah styled wine. We loved its very smooth and silky texture on the palate. It displays tasty blueberry flavors with hints of black cherry and a touch of oak and licorice. It finishes dry and its moderate tannins stick around and linger for quite some time. You can pair this Zin with a well-marbled ribeye steak off the grill.
The next three 91 pointers are more expensive, but worthy of your investment. We start with the 2011 Hunnicutt Zinfandel from the Napa Valley. It is 100% Zinfandel and it delivers a full bodied style that is fruit forward, lush and smooth. I really liked its tasty ripe blueberry flavors with notes of boysenberry jam and a touch of plum, pepper and mild oak towards the end. This is a really good drinking Zin. Enjoy it with a filet mignon.
Next up is the 2010 Bella “Rocky Ridge Vineyard” Zinfandel for $45. This pitch black colored gem opens with fragrant blackberry jam bouquet with hints of red currant, pomegranate, and oak. On the palate, it is medium bodied, slightly acidic and fruit forward. It displays a ripe blackberry flavors with hints of black currant, anise, and dried cranberry. This Zin would pair well with grilled salmon.
Our final 91 pointer is another entry from Ravenswood. Their 2011 “Old Hill” Zin from the Sonoma Valley is very good and will appeal to traditional Zin fans. It displays a classic style in that it is medium bodied, very juicy and fruit forward. The flavor profile is an oak infused blackberry with notes of black raspberry. I also detected some minerality, cola and plum. It finishes dry and its fruit flavors last for quite some time. I would pair beauty with barbecue bourbon steak tips off the grill.
Now we have six 90 pointers that I want to tell you about. We will start off with a wine that the tasting panel purchased in bulk after our first Big Blind tasting. The 2010 Murphy Goode “Liar’s Dice” Zinfandel for $21 was deemed the best value Zin by our panel. It opens with an inviting blackberry jam and black licorice like bouquet with hints of cherry-cola. The panel described it as medium bodied, slightly acidic and fruit forward with tasty red currant flavors. They also detected notes of oak, red plum, cinnamon and cherry-cola. This is a full blown fruit bomb styled Zin. The panel suggested pairing it with a king cut prime rib.
The next two offerings are both from Ravenswood. (They had a stellar year in 2011) The first is the 2011 “Big River” Zinfandel from the Alexander Valley. This wine is medium bodied, balanced and juicy with ripe red plum flavors with hints of black raspberry, peppermint, coffee, and milk chocolate. A very interesting combination indeed. The next Ravenswood Zin is their 2011 “Dickerson” from Napa Valley. This Zin is acidic and juicy with a flavor profile that is a blend of pomegranate and blackberry. I also detected hints of oak, minerality, and dried cranberry as well. The finish is dry and its fruit flavors linger for quite a while. I would pair both of these Zin’s with braised short ribs. They both cost $35 a bottle.
Peachy Canyon makes the list with their 2011 “Mustard Springs” Zinfandel for $38. This very good wine opens with a fragrant and attractive black cherry and boysenberry like bouquet. On the palate, it is medium bodied, balanced, and savory. The panel really liked its tasty blueberry and cherry vanilla flavors with hints of cinnamon, clove and plum. It finishes dry and its moderate tannins fade away nicely. The panel felt that this Zin would pair nicely with Colorado lamb chops.
Bella’s second entry was well received by the tasting panel. The 2010 Zinfandel “Lily Hill Estate” for $40 is full bodied, fruit forward, and juicy. They enjoyed its very tasty red plum flavors while also picking up notes of rhubarb and black cherry and a hint of cinnamon as well. A second glass is definitely in order declared one taster. They suggested pairing this tasty Zin with a wild boar Bolognese over penne or pan roasted duck breast.
Our final 90 pointer was from a new winery for me. The Dutcher’s Crossing 2012 Zin from the famous “Maple Vineyard” in the Dry Creek Valley was impressive. The panel was mostly impressed by its tasty blueberry flavors with hints of red berries and a dash of black pepper. They suggested pairing this food friendly Zin with filet mignon.
We will close this report with some quick hits on our Very Good 89 and 88 pointers.
Alexander Valley Vineyards 2011 Zinfandel “Sin Zin” (Alexander Valley, CA) $20 (89)
This Zin is balanced and very easy to drink. The flavor profile is blackberry with notes of black pepper, spice, oak, and blueberry. It finishes dry and its dusty tannins stick around for a little while. While this Zin is not overly complex, it is food friendly. We suggest pairing it with a mushroom burger with cheddar cheese.
Ravenswood 2011 Zinfandel “Teldeschi” (Dry Creek Valley, CA) $35 (89)
This Zin is full bodied, acidic and energetic. The flavor profile is an unusual blend of blackberry and cola with hints of oak, pomegranate, and black pepper. The panel suggested pairing this Zin with short ribs.
Dashe 2010 Zinfandel “Todd Brothers Ranch” (Alexander Valley, CA) $35 (89)
This Zin is medium bodied, balanced, and easy going. Its flavor profile is a tasty mild blackberry with hints of black cherry, blueberry and oak. The panel suggested pairing this wine with a roast leg of lamb.
Ridge 2011 Zinfandel “Lytton Springs” (Dry Creek Valley, CA) $38 (89)
This Zin is medium bodied, slightly acidic, and mouthwatering. It displays mild red raspberry flavors with hints of spicy plum and pomegranate. I also detected a touch of oak in the background. This Zin blend is very food friendly. The panel suggested pairing it with slow cooked beef brisket or lamb stew.
Rancho Zabaco 2012 Zinfandel “Sonoma Heritage Vines” (Sonoma County, CA) $15 (88)
This Zin is likely one of the best deals in this report and likely the easiest wine to find. It is medium bodied, slightly acidic, juicy and very fruity. The flavor profile is a blend of ripe red plum with hints of cranberry, red currant and a touch of oak. It would be perfect for braised short ribs.
Edmeades 2011 Zinfandel “Mendocino” (CA) $20 (88)
This Zinfandel based blend from Mendocino is another good value option. It is medium bodied, acidic and approachable. The panel liked its gentle plum flavors with hints of cherry-cola and touch of oak. The panel unanimously thought this would be a perfect Zin to have with your favorite wood-grilled pizza.
Duckhorn 2012 Zinfandel “Decoy” (Sonoma Coast, CA) $20 (88)
This Zin from Duckhorn is medium bodied, balanced, approachable and fruit forward. Its flavor profile is a ripe red raspberry with hints of red plum and gentle oak. I would pair this fruity Zin with some slow cooked beef brisket.
Dashe 2011 Zinfandel “Dry Creek Valley” (CA) $24 (88)
This Zin is medium bodied, slightly acidic and juicy. The flavor profile is a gentle raspberry and tart cherry blend with hints of minerality and faint old oak. This Zinfandel would pair well with a barbecue bacon burger.
I hope you enjoy this group of Zinfandels as much as we did. I am sure these wines will enhance your grilling season and make your guests smile a lot at your summer outings. Please feel free to share your favorite Zins with the group.
Cheers – Ken
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