California Zinfandel 2017

California Zinfandel - 2017

The Fifty Best California Zinfandel Tasting of 2017


The Tasting:
The Fifty Best held a “blind” tasting of 11 recent release California Zinfandels with 12 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.


Peachy Canyon
Mustard Creek 2014 Zinfandel

(Paso Robles, Adelaida District) $38

Zinfandel grapes for this wine were harvested in early September and fermented using wild yeast. Following fermentation, the wine was aged for a total of 16 months in American and Hungarian oak with the addition of 11% Petite Sirah prior to bottling.

Aroma: Briar fruit, cherry, currant, dried fruit, black cherry soda, cola, sweet vanilla, perfume, floral, dried herbs, mint, menthol, nutty, spices, minerality, oak, bright and beautiful.
Palate: Sweet cherry, dark cherry, cherry jam, raspberry, blackberry, dark plum, rhubarb pie, dried fruit, sweet vanilla, slightly vegetal, spices, hint of toast, perfect rounded tannins, balanced acidity, good mouthfeel, lip smacking.
Finish: Sweet cherry, raspberry, apple, pear, grassy, light spice, medium tannins, well-balanced, love the balance of fruit to acid, lingering.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal

Peachy Canyon Mustard Creek 2014 Zinfandel


Rock Wall
2014 Pearl Hart Reserve Zinfandel

(Contra Costa County) $50

This wine was made from Zinfandel grapes (80%) harvested from a vineyard originally planted in 1888, plus smaller amounts of Carignane and Alicante Bouschet varietals. Following a two-week fermentation, the wine was aged in new French (80%) and American oak (20%) before bottling.

Aroma: Blackberry, dark fruit, cassis, Dr. Pepper, dried herbs, mint, basil, pepper, cinnamon, pipe tobacco, coffee, smoky, woodsy, oak, savory.
Palate: Raspberry, red berry, blackberry, plum, dried fruit, chocolate, vanilla, spice, cinnamon, clove, anise, licorice, big smoke, medium tannins, soft.
Finish: Cherry, chocolate, rich spice, cinnamon, licorice, good structure, nice balance, flavors linger, nice length, long rich fruit.

Double Gold Medal
Double Gold medal

Rock Wall Pearl Hart Reserve Zinfandel


Peachy Canyon
Westside 2014 Zinfandel

(Paso Robles) $22

Grapes for this wine (77% Zinfandel, 11% Petite Sirah, 7% Alicante Bouschet, 3% Tannat, 2% Syrah) were harvested from the middle to end of September. After fermentation in stainless-steel tanks, the wine was aged in oak (30% new) for 16 months prior to bottling.

Aroma: Red berry, currant, dark fruit, raisins, apricot, caramel, herbs, mint leaf, vegetal, light pepper, earthy, oak, wood.
Palate: Black cherry, dark cherry, red berry, dried strawberry, pear, banana, mushroom, licorice, spicy, medium tannins, zesty.
Finish: Cherry, sour cherry, jammy, licorice, chocolate, coffee, nice tannins, elegant tannins, soft, berry taste lingering.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Peachy Canyon Westside Zinfandel

Carol Shelton
2014 Rocky Reserve Zinfandel, Florence Vineyard

(Sonoma) $36

Following harvest, grapes for this wine (86% Zinfandel, 14% Petite Sirah) were cold soaked for 5 days then fermented, after which the wine was aged for 20 months in oak barrels (60% French, 40% American) before bottling.

Aroma: Plum, dark cherry, raspberry, blueberry, berry, floral, violet, herbs, roast coffee, spice, light oak, wood.
Palate: Black cherry, blackberry, berry, blueberry, black currant, plum, jammy, apples, pear, caramel, coffee, herbal, earthy, rounded tannins, big tannins.
Finish: Light cherry, thyme, lightly spicy, umami (mushroom), hint of oak, woody, wonderfully structured tannins, soft tannins, good balance, decent length, smooth, softness.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Carol Shelton Rocky Reserve Zinfandel


2014 Mother Clone Zinfandel

(Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma) $18

To produce this wine, hand-pruned hand-picked Zinfandel grapes were fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks and aged in American oak barrels for 12 months, with 10% Petite Sirah added prior to bottling.

Aroma: Bramble fruit, blackberry, currant, strawberry milkshake, chocolate milk, vanilla, floral, meadow, dried herbs, mint, licorice, white pepper, burnt wood, smoky.
Palate: Cherry, blackberry, raspberry, strawberry, jammy, dried fruit, chocolate, vanilla, spice, licorice, smoky wood, smooth.
Finish: Light blackberry, pepper, tobacco, well balanced fruit and spice, bright, soft, smooth, good length.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Pedroncelli Mother Clone Zinfandel

Peachy Canyon
Bailey 2014 Zinfandel

(Paso Robles, Adelaida District) $38

This wine is a blend of 97% Zinfandel, 1% Petite Sirah, 1% Syrah and 1% Alicante Bouschet varietals. Following harvest and fermentation (using wild yeast), the wine was aged in French and Hungarian oak for 15 months before blending of individually selected barrels.

Aroma: Dark cherry, dried cherry, plum, raspberry, apples, figs, chocolate, herbal.
Palate: Blackberry, raspberry, briar fruit, cherry, currant, juicy, wild berry pie with burnt crust, minty, black pepper, mineral, earthy, light oak, woody, meaty, fleshy, tannic.
Finish: Briar fruit, plum, cherry, raisin, strong black pepper, toasted oak, medium tannins, tart, big flavor, complex, sits well in the mouth, soft, bright, good length, lingers.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Peachy Canyon Bailey Zinfandel

Grgich Hills Estate
2012 Estate Grown Zinfandel

(Napa Valley) $36

For this wine, Zinfandel (98%) and Petite Sirah (2%) grapes were co-fermented using indigenous yeast, after which the wine was aged in large oak casks for 15 months before bottling.

Aroma: Plum, red berry, red cherry, light cranberry, grape, banana, dried fruit, cola, vanilla, licorice, spice, tart, underbrush, soft.
Palate: Black plum, red berries, cherry, cranberry, dried mango, vanilla, spice, licorice, leather, big, brassy, light tannins, good balance, gentle, beautiful food wine.
Finish: Vanilla, cherry, light cranberry, tart, clean, perfect tannins, lingering, soft, nice easy finish.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Grgich Hills Estate Estate Grown Zinfandel

Carol Shelton
2014 Pizazz Zin Old Vine Zinfandel,
Piazza Ranch

(Lodi) $19

To make this wine, sustainably-grown grapes (96% Zinfandel, 4% Petite Sirah) were fermented over 11 days, then aged for 20 months in barrels (20% new American oak, 80% neutral oak) before bottling.

Aroma: Dark plum, cherry, blackberry, currant, raisin, dried apricot, vanilla, grains, herbal, basil, baking spice, minty, menthol, minerality, oak, aromatic Old World nose.
Palate: Dark cherry, sweet black cherry, cherry, dark berry, currant, peach, vanilla, light wood, oak, round tannins, lingering tannins, good acidity, well-balanced.
Finish: Dark berry, cherry, very light cherry, cranberry, currant, caramel, tobacco, oak, medium tannins, well-balanced, satisfying.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Carol Shelton Pizazz Zin Old Vine Zinfandel

Peachy Canyon
Incredible Red 2014 Zinfandel

(Paso Robles) $15

Grapes for this wine (98% Zinfandel, 2% Petite Sirah) were harvested in the early morning hours. After gentle pressing and fermentation, the wine was aged for 10 months in 100% French oak before bottling.

Aroma: Black cherry, sour cherry, cherry, red cherry jam, aromatic red berry, strawberry, grape, grassy, light herbs, spice, pepper.
Palate: Red cherry, plum, raspberry, dark berry, blackberry jam, tobacco, oak, tart, good acid, some structure, not too tannic, soft round tannins, sits well on the palate.
Finish: Tart cherry, cranberry, jammy, tangy, cool climate, high elevation, easy, nice, soft.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Peachy Canyon Incredible Red Zinfandel

Carol Shelton
2014 Wild Thing Old Vine Zinfandel

(Mendocino County) $19

This wine was produced from a blend of Zinfandel grapes (80%) harvested from 60 year-old vines plus 10% Carignane, 9% Petite Sirah and 1% Alicante Bouschet varietals. Following fermentation, the wine was aged for 10 months in a combination of American (87%) and French (13%) oak prior to bottling.

Aroma: Red berry, raspberry, cherry, currant, coconut, dried fruit, floral, baking spice, earthy, woodsy, oak.
Palate: Plum, boysenberry, cranberry, red currant, raspberry seeds, spice, licorice, mineral, woody, oak, dark chocolate, tree bark, low tannins, big, chewy, good acidity, slightly bold berry near end.
Finish: Dark cherry, cranberry, smoky, tannic, developed beautifully rounded tannins, soft, smooth, mellow, lingers.

Gold Medal
Gold medal

Carol Shelton Wild Thing Old Vine Zinfandel


Rock Wall
2014 Monte Rosso Vineyard Zinfandel

(Moon Mountain, Sonoma) $50

Grapes for this 100% Zinfandel were harvested in early October and following fermentation, using 4 different strains of yeast, the wine was aged in oak (40% new French and 60% neutral barrels) before bottling.

Aroma: Black cherry, raspberry, blackberry, briar fruit, plum, prune, light cranberry, bubblegum, dark chocolate, floral, sandalwood, underbrush, feminine, soft, unassuming.
Palate: Briar fruit, light cherry, jammy, floral, herbaceous, herbal, spicy, tart, chewy tannins, juicy, bright.
Finish: Tart raspberries, herbal, oregano, pepper, soft, lingering tannins.

Silver Medal
Silver medal

Rock Wall Monte Rosso Vineyard Zinfandel




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