California Zinfandel

California Zinfandel

The Fifty Best California Zinfandel Tasting of 2021


The Tasting:
The Fifty Best held a “blind” tasting of 11 California Zinfandels with 10 members of our wine judging panel. The order of service was established beforehand by lottery. Strict tasting rules were applied. 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. Medals are provided based entirely on merit and only to products judged worthy of such award.

The tasting notes that follow are summaries of the judges’ opinions, with all replicated commentary eliminated. The appellations are identified for each brand. Prices indicated do not include tax. Clicking on the brands' names will link to their websites.


Peirano Estate 2018 Old Vine Zinfandel
The Heritage Collection

(Lodi)  $16

Aroma: Raspberry, blackberry, strawberry, cherry, dried cherry, cherry cola, berry pie, dessert at dusk, anise, fennel greens, tobacco, leather, musty, smoky, oak.
Palate: Cherry, black cherry, blackberry, boysenberry, strawberry, plum, black fruit medley, peach, red orange, dried fruit, rose, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, tobacco, vanilla, well balanced, bright, fresh, juicy, rich.
Finish: Dark cherry, plum, strawberry, fruit salad, spice, anisette, lingering tobacco, smoky, layered, clean, big, bold, rich, smooth, pleasant.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal

Peirano Estate Old Vine Zinfandel The Heritage Collection



Saracina 2018 Pick and Shovel Zinfandel
(Mendocino County)  $32

Aroma: Blackberry, black cherry, blueberry, plum, prune, peach, apricot, daisies, dark chocolate.
Palate: Pleasant cherry, ripe cherry, strawberry, blackberry, blueberry, black plum, cassis, cranberry, lemon, coconut, vanilla, black pepper, solid tannins, good structure, balanced, fresh, smooth.
Finish: Blackberry, strawberry, black cherry, black plum, Red Delicious apple, fresh peaches, clove, plowed earth, tannin, wood, clean, fresh, smooth, a fun wine, elegant.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Saracina Pick and Shovel Zinfandel

McManis Family Vineyards 2019 Zinfandel
(Lodi)   $12  BEST VALUE

This wine was made predominantly from Zinfandel grapes that were fermented in stainless steel tanks and aged for 4-6 months in a combination of new and used French and American oak, with the addition of some wine from Teroldego and Petite Sirah grapes added before bottling.

Aroma: Blackberry, black currant, pomegranate, blueberry, kiwi, hint of banana, prune, raisin, Raisin Bran cereal, herbal, tobacco, light tannins, touch of smoke, oak.
Palate: Blackberry, boysenberry, blueberry, black cherry, currant, plum, deep prune, raisin, cola, mocha, balsam liquor, spice, pepper, red pepper, tannin, oak, soft, rich.
Finish: Lingering blackberry, black cherry, plum, prune, blueberry pie, lemony, nutty, tannic, well balanced, everyday Zin, rich, velvety.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

McManis Family Vineyards Zinfandel

J Dusi Wines
Paper Street Vineyards 2019 Zinfandel

(Paso Robles)  $68

Following fermentation, this 100% zinfandel wine was aged in French oak (30% new) for 18 months before bottling.

Aroma: Fresh raspberry jam, concentrated blackberry, cherry, black currant, dark chocolate, winter wheat, leather, musty, wet aged wood, woody, port-like.
Palate: Black cherry, Bing cherries, fresh picked raspberry, boysenberry, blackberry, plum, plum jam, jammy, very juicy, lemon, citrus, cola, mocha, good structure, fresh, hearty, bold.
Finish: Boysenberry, strawberry, raspberry jam, cloves, warm autumn baking spices, nice tannins, bright, very lively.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

J Dusi Wines Paper Street Vineyards Zinfandel


Mike & Molly Hendry 2018 Zinfandel
R.W. Moore Vineyard

(Coombsville, Napa Valley)   $42

Aroma: Cherry, raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, cinnamon apple crisp with oats, eucalyptus, tobacco, leather, earth, flint.
Palate: Black plum, red plum, strawberry, blackberry, currants, cherry, black cherry skin, jammy, licorice, black pepper, leather, wood, nice balance, layered, rich, complex.
Finish: Cherry, plum, blueberry, red apple, cola, tangy, lemon, pepper, tobacco, granite, birch, oak, pine, layered, good for fall dining, soft, traditional style.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Mike & Molly Hendry Zinfandel R.W. Moore Vineyard

Seven Oxen Estate Wines 2017 Zinfandel
(Paso Robles)  $40

Aroma: Cherry, black cherry, Bing cherry, strawberry, red raspberry, blueberry, cranberries, currants, peach, floral notes, mint, cinnamon, smoke.
Palate: Blackberry, blueberry, luscious red berry, currants, cassis, fig, apricot, lemon, citrus, juicy, spicy, light tannins, mineral, gravel, wet stone, lean, bright.
Finish: Cherry, red berry, fruit forward, peppery, light tannin, soft, easy drinking, everyday Zin, super with food.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Seven Oxen Estate Wines Zinfandel

Lorenzi Estate 2017 The Catalyst Reserve
(Temecula Valley)  $125

This wine was made from a blend of Zinfandel (65%), Cabernet Sauvignon (15%), Syrah (10%), Petite Sirah (7%) and Merlot (3%) grapes, that following harvest were fermented in French oak barrels (60% new) for 36 months before bottling.

Aroma: Concentrated blackberry, ripe plum, spearmint, cinnamon, Aleppo pepper, cocoa, dusty, smoky, tannins.
Palate: Bright blackberry, black cherry, blueberry, cassis, raisin, vanilla, cocoa, tobacco, tannins, nicely structured.
Finish: Lingering black cherry, strawberry, mulled wine, clove, pepper, earth, graphite, gravel, balanced, soft, easy, elegant, drink by the fireplace.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Lorenzi Estate The Catalyst Reserve Zinfandel


The Terraces 2018 Zinfandel
(Napa Valley)  $42

Aroma: Luscious fruit, black cherry skin, dark chocolate, creamy, vanilla, violet, fresh perfume, clove, cinnamon, black pepper, tobacco, leather, faint smoke, oak.
Palate: Raspberry, blueberry, high elevation fruit, cassis, raisin, black cherry skin, rose, herbal, spice, earth, tobacco, leather, smoky, rich.
Finish: Sweet tobacco, perfume, clove, baking spice, nice tannins, fresh, clean, luscious texture, enjoy outdoors.

Silver Medal
Silver medal

The Terraces Zinfandel

Wonderment 2017 Old Vine Zinfandel
Burton Ranch Vineyard

(Kelsey Bench, Lake County)  $40

Aroma: Purple plum, red raspberry, blueberry, cherry juice, raisin, cola, apricot, apricot jam, grass, violet flowers, herbal, herbaceous, grassy.
Palate: Boysenberry, cherry, deep red grape, grape Jolly Rancher, flowers, perfume, licorice, green tobacco, nutmeg, black pepper, tannins, cedar, soft.
Finish: Red berries, cherry, plum, raisin, very peppery, tannin, light oak, a sipper, easy to drink.

Silver Medal
Silver medal

Wonderment Old Vine Zinfandel Burton Ranch Vineyard

Capo Creek 2018 Estate Zinfandel
Eva’s Vineyard

(Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County)  $85

Aroma: Purple plum, plum juice, black plum skins, cherry, raisins, tobacco, coffee grinds, spring grass, earth, smoky, oak.
Palate: Strawberry, blackberry, red berries, cherry, bright fruit, juniper, vanilla, mocha, herbaceous, anise, cinnamon stick, cardamom, light black pepper, gravel, soft tannins, everyday Zin.
Finish: Plum skin, lemony, citrus notes, lingering fruit, spicy, well balanced, interesting, nice, soft.

Silver Medal
Silver medal

Capo Creek Estate Zinfandel Eva’s Vineyard


Wonderment 2017 Old Vine Zinfandel
Bacigalupi Vineyard

(Russian River Valley, Sonoma County)  $40

Aroma: Black cherry, cranberry, currants, burnt orange peel, cumin, tobacco, leather, smoke, balsam wood, pine, oak.
Palate: Black cherry, boysenberry, blackberry, strawberry, blueberry, cranberry, plum, peach fruit roll-up, candied fruit, anise, mint leaf, spice, minerals, tannins.
Finish: Cherry, prune juice, jalapeño with lemon, herbal, flowers, an easy sipper.

Silver Medal
Silver medal

Wonderment Old Vine Zinfandel Bacigalupi Vineyard




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