Wine Reviews: California Zinfandel

It’s been too long since I’ve focused exclusively on California Zinfandel. Well, it’s about time. Especially now that it’s summer and I try to grill food as much as possible – juicy Cali Zin and grilled veggies and meats, it really never gets old for me. And there were a few beauties in this tasting.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted single-blind.

Review: 2012 Grgich Hills Zinfandel - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $36
Rich ruby color. Smells of tart red cherries, deep currants, juicy plums, along with lots of sweet spice, smoke and earth. Well-structured with fleshy but firm tannins and some acidity for balance, this is a mouth-filling wine but it feels velvety. Black cherry and red currant, the fruit is slightly jammy but it stays fresh as well. The fruit is topped with dried leaves, clove, coffee, cedar shavings, a complex blend of herbal tea and spice. In addition to all that, I get this underlying floral, tar and mineral element. The complexity here is phenomenal. Delicious and ripe but it doles out the fruit with suavity. A whopping 15.5% alcohol, but, wow, is it woven in well. Aged 15 months in French oak. This is a perennial favorite of mine, and this vintage is rocking. (92 points IJB)

Review: 2014 Prisoner Wine Company The Prisoner - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $45
Vibrant purple color. Smells rich and juicy, with raspberry and blackberry jams, candied cherries, along with vanilla, spiced coffee and dark chocolate shavings. On the palate, this is a full-bodied and jammy wine with chewy tannins and low acidity. Bold, saucy fruit (blackberry and raspberry jams and sweet black cherries). Sure there’s plenty of toast, vanilla and coconut but time coaxes out nuances of loam and spiced coffee and dark chocolate. Stylistically, this is uber rich and forward, but it is undeniably delicious. Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Syrah and Charbono, aged in 30% new French and American oak. (87 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Frank Family Vineyards Zinfandel – California, Napa Valley
SRP: $37
Bright purple color. Rich aromatic display of dark berry fruit, a bit jammy but it smells pure and vibrant, not confectionary. I also get some pepper glaze, sweet coffee and mixed green herbs. Full-bodied, the tannins provide structure but they’re not harsh, moderate acidity cleans up the palate. Lots of different fruit action going on here (blueberry, black cherry, sweet plums), and a nice mix of earth, fallen leaves, cola, root beer, dark chocolate. This wine leans forward with its fruit and hedonistic flavors but it’s structured very well and contains some significant complexity. Drink now or hold for a few years. Aged 16 months in 1/3 new French oak. (90 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Edmeades Winery Zinfandel Shamrock Vineyard - California, North Coast, Mendocino County
SRP: $30
Deep ruby color. Bold aromas but the fruit is still bright, as cranberry sauce and raspberries mix with juicy black cherries, and I get a host of spiced coffee, clove and rose petals. Juicy acidity bounces off fleshy tannins, full bodied and chewy texture but not heavy (despite 15.5% alcohol). Tons of bright red fruit and black cherries, but I get a lot of non-fruit complexity in the form of anise, rose petals, tar and earth. Long finish. Delicious but serious Zinfandel, this comes from a vineyard perched at 2,800 feet in Northern Mendocino near Humboldt. Includes 3% Syrah, this wine is aged in about ¼ new French oak. (90 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Edmeades Winery Zinfandel Gianoli Vineyard – California, North Coast, Mendocino County
SRP: $31
Medium ruby color. A vibrant but jammy aromatic take, with raspberries, strawberries and some black cherry, along with some musk and spicy tobacco. A bold presence on the palate, that’s for sure, but this has a dusty tannic structure, I am really enjoying the bright acidity that makes this wine pop. The strawberry, cherry and red currant, the fruit is juicy and vibrant but plenty of texture. Notes of rhubarb pie, spicy tobacco, rose petals, some black tea, clove and library dust – loving the complexity of these intricate non-fruit flavors. Beautifully long finish. Wow. 15.5% alcohol. These grapes are sourced from the coastal mountains of the Mendocino Ridge AVA, in a site first planted in the 1880s. Aged in 30% new French oak. (91 points IJB)

Review: 2013 Edmeades Winery Zinfandel Perli Vineyard – California, North Coast, Mendocino Ridge
SRP: $31
Vibrant ruby color. Rich red currant, raspberry and plum fruit, slightly jammy and sweet but still vibrant, accentuated by pine needles, fallen leaves, pipe tobacco and rose petals. Large and in-charge on the palate, these tannins add some serious structure to the wine, which shows medium acidity, and that keeps this beast of a wine bright. Darker fruit on the palate, like raspberries mixed with dark plums and blackberries, the fruit is rich and saucy. Notes of loam, tar and roses mix with sweet vanilla and roasted chestnut. Rich and hedonistic but so structured and exciting at the same time. From a steep (almost 60 degree) slope vineyard at 1,500 feet, this radical vineyard was first planted in the late 1800s. Includes 3% Syrah, this wine was aged in 25% new French oak, along with some old French and American oak. (91 points IJB)

Review: 2014 Ghost Pines Zinfandel Winemaker’s Blend – California, North Coast
SRP: $20
Dark ruby color. Smells of bright raspberry and blueberry jam, some cola, violets and mocha as well. A juicy and fleshy approach on the palate with medium-soft tannins, medium-low acidity and juicy red and black berry fruit (quite jammy). Fun, tasty, uncomplicated stuff with notes of cola, rose petals and sweet coffee. Mostly Lodi grapes, but fruit is blended in from Sonoma and Lake Counties. (85 points IJB)

Review: 2014 Frei Brothers Zinfandel Reserve – California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
SRP: $20
Medium ruby color. Smells of jammy raspberries, strawberries, cola, sweet coffee and vanilla. Full-bodied but soft tannins, some moderating acidity. Jammy raspberries dominate, but I get some chewy black cherries, and the fruit is topped with cola, vanilla, cedar and sweet pipe tobacco and eucalyptus. A drink-me-now on the back patio (with the grill raring to go) kind of wine, but solid for the price. Includes 6% Petite Sirah, this wine was aged mostly in oak, a combo of new and old American and French. (85 points IJB)