California Zinfandel
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California Zinfandel

The Fifty Best California Zinfandel Tasting of 2018

 

The Tasting:
The Fifty Best held a “blind” tasting of 19 recent release California Zinfandels with 14 members of our wine judging panel. Strict tasting rules were applied. The order of service was established beforehand by lottery. Each of the wines were poured into fresh wine glasses from new sealed bottles and served at room temperature. Only ice water and white peasant bread were available to cleanse the palate.

The judges wrote down their impressions of each wine on score sheets. The scoring was done on a 5-point system, with 5 as the best. Double-Gold, Gold and Silver medals are awarded based on a set range of final point scores received from the judges. There were no Bronze medals awarded for this tasting.

The tasting notes that follow are summaries of the judges’ opinions, with all replicated commentary eliminated. The appelations are identified for each brand. Prices indicated do not include tax.



DOUBLE-GOLD MEDAL WINNERS

Miro
2015 Ponzo Vineyard Old Vines Zinfandel

(Russian River Valley, Sonoma County) $32

Zinfandel grapes for this wine were fermented in open top stainless steel containers, following which the wine was aged for 16 months in primarily French oak barrels.

Aroma: Blackberry, raspberry, blueberry, plum, figs, eucalyptus, mint, anise, clove, coriander, spice, five-spice mixture, subtle smoke, cedar, woodsy, intense.
Palate: Blackberry, raspberries, blueberries, bramble fruit, cherry, plum, currant, cranberry, juicy, blackberry jam, dried blueberries, cilantro, pepper, old oak, well-balanced, old world, complex.
Finish: Fresh blackberries, plum, currant, red jam, prune, clove, light pepper, musty oak, chalky terroir, great acidity, elegant tannins, pleasing.


Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal

Miro Ponzo Vineyard Old Vines Zinfandel

 



Pedroncelli
2016 Mother Clone Zinfandel

(Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County) $17

Following harvest and temperature-controlled fermentation, aging was conducted in American oak (30% new) for 12 months, after which 12% Petite Sirah wine was added prior to bottling.

Aroma: Strawberry, blackberry, boysenberry, blueberry, bramble fruit, currant, jammy, floral, violets, eucalyptus, mint, black pepper, clove, musty, Old World Bordeaux.
Palate: Black cherry, dried black cherries, cherry jam, black plum, blueberry, melon, figs, mocha, cinnamon, spicy, tobacco, rich oak, smoke, menthol, light minerality, rich Bordeaux style, smooth, delicious.
Finish: Plum, juicy, rum cake, cinnamon, bark, hint of oak, soft tannins, pleasant brick, smoky smooth.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



Pedroncelli Mother Clone Zinfandel



Distinction 2016 Zinfandel
(Distinction Vineyards, Lodi) $20

This wine was made from a blend of 90% Zinfandel, 6% Petite Sirah, 2% Merlot and 2% Syrah harvested from vineyards in the Mokelumne River region of Lodi.

Aroma: Cherry, black cherry, crushed cherry, cherry juice, boysenberry, plum, black currant, cola, black olive, pepper, anise, licorice, menthol, hint of tobacco smoke.
Palate: Deep black cherry, cherry juice, cherry jam, raspberry, black currant, sweet plum, dried plum, smoky jammy blackberry, black tea, Thai basil, anise, licorice, burnt toast, balanced.
Finish: Rich black cherry, green apple, jammy, tobacco, smoky, a bit tannic, smooth, well-balanced.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal



Distinction Zinfandel



GOLD MEDAL WINNERS

Lorenzi Estate
2014 Catalyst Private Reserve Zinfandel

(Temecula Valley) $95

This was made from a blend of (primarily) Zinfandel grapes with the addition Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes. Fermentation was in French oak barrels with aging in 75% new French oak for 22 months, followed by 20 months of bottle aging prior to market release.

Aroma: Ripe cherries, dark cherries, blackberry, berry blend, plum, raisins, dried dark fruit, black tea, violets, cinnamon, clove, warm spices, black pepper, bright smoke.
Palate: Black plum, dark plum, plum, black cherry, black currant, boysenberry, stewed cherries, jammy, violets, clove, star anise, cigar box, wood barrel, very tart, aggressive, well-balanced.
Finish: Cherry, sour cherry, jammy, licorice, chocolate, coffee, nice tannins, elegant tannins, soft, berry taste lingering.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Lorenzi Estate Catalyst Private Reserve Zinfandel



Lorenzi Estate
2014 Lopez Ranch Old Vine Zinfandel
De Ambrogio Block, Private Reserve

(Temecula Valley) $60

This wine was made from 100% Zinfandel grapes that were totally fermented in French oak barrels and aged in 50% new French oak barrels, with 18 months of bottle aging prior to market release.

Aroma: Dark chocolate, dark cherry, fresh young cherry, strawberry, blackberry, appealing bright fruit, rose, violet, mint, menthol, clove, nutmeg, white pepper, light sawdust, wood barrel, cherry smoke.
Palate: Cherry, bramble fruit, black plum, jammy, night-blooming jasmine, eucalyptus, menthol, spice, pepper, tobacco, oak, cedar, lots of tannins, punchy, easy drinking, will age well.
Finish: Deep plum, sweet cherry, cranberry, light berry, juicy, mint, menthol, cloves, licorice, oak, elegant wood notes, full mouthfeel, tannic, rich, complex.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Lorenzi Estate Lopez Ranch Old Vine Zinfandel



OZV 2016 Old Vine Zinfandel
(Oak Ridge Winery, Lodi) $13

This wine was made from Zinfandel grapes grown on 50-100 year-old vines that following cool fermentation were aged in either oak or stainless steel, then blended prior to bottling.

Aroma: Sweet cherry, blackberry, plum, boysenberry jam, prune, chocolate, cola, violet, rose, eucalyptus, tarragon, mint, spice, pepper, sawdust.
Palate: Blackberry, strawberry, plum, cranberry, currant, jammy fruit, apricot, fig, caramelized sugar, green bell pepper, red bell pepper, Thai basil, vegetable, eucalyptus, licorice, cinnamon, rich.
Finish: Raspberry, apricot, brown sugar, fig, green bell pepper, well-balanced, crisp, elegant tannins, mouth-watering, elegant, pleasing.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



OZV Old Vine Zinfandel

 



Barefoot Zinfandel
(California) $6

Grapes for this wine hailed from Lodi in California’s Central Valley area.

Aroma: Cherry, dark cherry, black currant, currant, blackberry, cranberry, prune, apple blossom, violets, jasmine, eucalyptus, anise, spice, black pepper, minerality, smoke, complex.
Palate: Strawberry, cranberry, light cherry, dried cherries, herbaceous, tea, mint, anise, pepper, spicy, mineral, chinon-style.
Finish: Blackberry, cherries, cranberry, plum, milled herbs, violets, floral, cinnamon, oak.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Barefoot Zinfandel



Cline 2016 Ancient Vines Zinfandel
(Contra Costa County) $20

Following harvest, the grapes (100% Zinfandel) were destemmed and gently pressed, then fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and aged in American oak for 7 months before bottling.

Aroma: Sweet cherry, blackberry, plum, boysenberry jam, prune, chocolate, cola, violet, rose, eucalyptus, tarragon, mint, spice, pepper, sawdust.
Palate: Blackberry, strawberry, plum, cranberry, currant, jammy fruit, apricot, fig, caramelized sugar, green bell pepper, red bell pepper, Thai basil, vegetable, eucalyptus, licorice, cinnamon, rich.
Finish: Raspberry, apricot, brown sugar, fig, green bell pepper, well-balanced, crisp, elegant tannins, mouth-watering, elegant, pleasing.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel





Leonard
2015 Branham Vineyard Zinfandel

(Rockpile, Sonoma County) $50

Grapes for this wine (81% Zinfandel, 10% Carignane, 6% Petite Sirah and 3% Alicante Bouschet) hailed from a vineyard in the Rockpile AVA. Following fermentation, the wine was aged for 16 months in oak (partially new).

Aroma: Black cherries, cherries, blackberries, strawberry, currants, cranberry, soft orange peel, fig, sweet menthol, oak spice.
Palate: Sour cherries, tart cherry, blackberries, raspberries, black currant, plum, bright fruit, hints of Russian sage, tobacco leaf, mint, pepper, bit Sangiovese, light oak, smoke, good acidity, tannic, well-balanced, smooth.
Finish: Cherry, light sour cherry, berry, deep purple, mint, smoke, medium tannins, bright acidity, smooth.


Gold Medal
Gold medal



Leonard Branham Vineyard Zinfandel




Roberts + Rogers 2014 Zinfandel
(Napa Valley) $50

Made from a blend of Zinfandel (75%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (25%). Following fermentation, the wine was aged in new French oak barrels for 18 months.

Aroma: Blackberry, strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, mixed berries, cherry, purple plum, smoked raisins, prune, cassis, chocolate, mint, cinnamon, spice, wet woods.
Palate: Tart raspberry, boysenberries, briar fruit, cherry, black currant, raisins, grassy, minty, white pepper, tobacco, leather, earthy, smokiness, rich cedar.
Finish: Red raspberry, blackberries, chocolate, licorice, coffee, chalky, wood, cedar, smokiness, lingering tannins.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Roberts + Rogers Zinfandel



Bella Grace Vineyards
2015 Old Vine Zinfandel

(Amador County) $28

Grapes for this wine were sourced from the Crain-Sleeper Ranch in the Shenandoah Valley. Following fermentation, the wine was aged in French oak (25% new) for 18 months before bottling.

Aroma: Cherry, sour cherry, blueberry, dark plum, dark chocolate, licorice, mint, oak spice, black pepper.
Palate: Black cherry, sweet cherry, raspberries, blueberries, cranberry, black currant, juicy, faint dried cherries, tart peach, green apple, jammy, plum jam, bell pepper, herbs, minty, menthol, high acid, tart, lean.
Finish: Cherry, blueberry, tart, light chocolate, smoky, lingering tannins.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Bella Grace Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel



Cline Family Cellars
2016 Old Vine Zinfandel

(Lodi) $11

This wine was made from 100% Zinfandel grapes grown almost entirely in the Mokelumne River area. Following moderately warm fermentation in closed stainless steel tanks, the wine was aged 8 months in 35% new French oak before bottling.

Aroma: Chocolate, cherry, black cherry, cherry cola, blackberry, cranberry, black currant, plum, jam, basil, cinnamon, pepper, anise, licorice, wood, barbecue.
Palate: Raspberry, strawberry, boysenberry jam, cranberry, stewed black currants, cola, mocha, licorice, anise, cinnamon, clove, cardamom, spices, light baking spice, oak, woody, smoke, lean.
Finish: Chocolate, cherry, raisin, floral, perfume, green peppery spice, woody, oak, rum, velvety, soft tannins, bright acidity.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Cline Family Cellars Old Vine Zinfandel



Louis M. Martini
2015 Gnarly Vine Zinfandel – Monte Rosso Vineyard

(Sonoma County) $50

This wine was made from 100% Zinfandel grapes grown on 125 year-old-vines planted in volcanic soil. Following fermentation, the wine was aged in a combination of American and French oak for 22 months before bottling.

Aroma: Plum, figs, vanilla, rose, violet, white flowers, grassy, mint, spice, clove, cedar, soil, funk, smoke, perfect tannins.
Palate: Ripe cherries, boysenberry, rich red fruit, plum, blackberry, cranberry, raisin, vanilla, coconut, tomato plant leaves, licorice, minerality, cedar.
Finish: Ripe cherry, red fruit, tobacco, nutmeg, chalky, elegant soft tannins, smooth.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Louis M. Martini Gnarly Vine Zinfandel



Edmeades 2014 Zinfandel
(Mendocino County) $20

This wine was made from a blend of Zinfandel (77%), Petite Sirah (15%) and Syrah (8%) grapes. Following fermentation, the wine was aged in a combination of new and old American and French oak.

Aroma: Bing cherry, blackberries, boysenberries, plum, prune, vanilla, floral, herbaceous, anise, clove, cardamom, spice, pepper, white pepper, woody, oaky, aromatic.
Palate: Dark cherry, raspberry, blackberry, blueberries, plum, coconut, vanilla, violets, herbaceous, licorice, cinnamon, tobacco, earthy, strong tannins, bright.
Finish: Cherry, unripe cherries, charcoal, smoky, good oak, highly tannic, soft, pleasant.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Edmeades Zinfandel



Ancient Craft
2016 Old Vine Zinfandel

(Mark Nicholas Vineyards, Lodi) $25

This wine was made from a blend of 92% Zinfandel, 4% Petite Syrah, 3% Alicante Bouschet and 1% Tannat grapes.

Aroma: Sour cherries, crushed cherries, red berry, blueberries, stewed blackberries, strawberry jam, orange, peach, floral, licorice, sawdust, cedar.
Palate: Plum, blueberry, cranberry, sweet apricot and peach, jammy, dried cherries, dark raisins, smoke, licorice, oak, acidic, smooth, easy to drink.
Finish: Blueberry, blueberry compote, plum, cloves, anise, licorice, clean, crisp, fruit-forward.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Ancient Craft Old Vine Zinfandel



Miro
2016 Mounts Vineyard Zinfandel Reserve

(Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County) $30

Made from 100% Zinfandel grapes from a vineyard at the northern end of the Dry Creek Valley, this wine was fermented in small open-top fermenters and then aged for 11 months in 25% new European oak barrels.

Aroma: Blackberry, strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, mixed berries, cherry, purple plum, smoked raisins, prune, cassis, chocolate, mint, cinnamon, spice, wet woods.
Palate: Black cherry, sweet cherry, blackberry, cranberry, currants, plum, cherry jam, raspberry jam, blackberry jam, chocolate, sour vanilla, herbs, cinnamon, clove, pine needles, tar, earth, tannic.
Finish: Rich red fruit, cherry, cherry jam, perfume, smoky, fruit-forward.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Miro Mounts Vineyard Zinfandel



Maggio Family Vineyards
2016 Old Vine Zinfandel

(Oak Ridge Winery, Lodi) $13

This wine was made primarily from Zinfandel grapes grown on the family-owned vineyard with a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon added.

Aroma: Cherry, blackberry, raspberry, currant, red plum, raisin, mocha, violet, rose, bell pepper, eucalyptus, tarragon, cinnamon, clove, smoke, oak.
Palate: Fresh cherries, deep rich blackberry, plum, cranberry, currant, apricot, burnt sugar, violets, tarragon, crusty bread, smoky.
Finish: Cherry, plum, blueberries, raisins, jasmine, mint, rich tannins.

Gold Medal
Gold medal



Maggio Family Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel



SILVER MEDAL WINNERS

Grgich Hills Estate
2013 Napa Valley Zinfandel

(Napa Valley) $35

Grapes for this wine (100% Zinfandel) were sourced completely from a 34-acre estate-owned vineyard in Calistoga that were co-fermented with a small amount of Petite Sirah. The wine was then aged in large French oak casks.

Aroma: Strawberry, blackberry, berries, cherries, currant, red currant, black cherry skin, raisins, figs, eucalyptus, herbaceous, black pepper, minerality, ash, woody, smoke.
Palate: Black cherry, black currant, licorice, green pepper, spice, black pepper, tobacco, cedar, oak, smoke, lingering tannins, Rhône style.
Finish: Bing cherry, blackberry, tart plum, currant, violets, cardamom, pepper, licorice, bright acidity.

Silver Medal
Silver medal



Grgich Hills Estate Napa Valley Zinfandel



Frey Vineyards 2016 Zinfandel
(Mendocino) Organic - $15

This wine was made from 100% organically grown grapes from Redwood Valley, without the addition of synthetic sulfites.

Aroma: Raspberry, blueberry, dried cranberry, prunes, raisins, sautéed greens, moss, parsley, spicy, Asian spice, anise, floral, cologne.
Palate: Black cherry, cherry, strawberry, blackberry, peach, white peach, lemon, tart melon, fig, raisin, burnt sugar, red licorice, violets, anise, smoky, smooth.
Finish: Dried cherries, fruity, lemon, fig, eucalyptus, violets, tobacco, light tannins, soft, crisp.

Silver Medal
Silver medal




Frey Vineyards Zinfandel

 

 

 

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Fifty Best > Wine > California Zinfandel
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