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Zinfandel


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I'm convinced that Turley is a myth.  Every time I've ever had it (always at someone else's expense) I've been disappointed.  In the immortal words of Clara Peller, 'Where's the beef?"

I still have not been able to "get" zins. After having most of the Turley and Martineli line, I still have not found one that calls to me. Plus, I have never found a dish that makes me say, "you know a Zinfandel would really go well with this."
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I still have not been able to "get" zins.  Plus, I have never found a dish that makes me say, "you know a Zinfandel would really go well with this."

Try Hartford Russian River, Seghesio Old Vines or Home Ranch, Storybook Howell Mountain, any Elyse zin or Rosenblum Carla's Vineyard (and other Rosenblum single vineyard bottlings) before you write off zinfandel. These are all complex, elegant and interesting wines that show what the grape can do, beyond knocking you over the head. They are a fabulous match with spice-rubbed grilled beef, lamb in most forms, anything with some char or smoke flavor going on. We had Hartford Russian River with our Weber-kettle smoked heritage Bourbon Red turkey at Thanksgiving and it was a brilliant match.

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Try Hartford Russian River, Seghesio Old Vines or Home Ranch, Storybook Howell Mountain, any Elyse zin or Rosenblum Carla's Vineyard (and other Rosenblum single vineyard bottlings) before you write off zinfandel.

I have had the Elyse Aka, Rosenblum St. Peters, and many more (Ridge, Behrns & Hitchcock, just to name a few), I have not found any of them interesting, I find them rather flat and one dimensional.
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Not even braised short ribs?  Or a grilled steak on your bbq during summer?

When I make braised ribs, I use wine, I then match the wine I am drinking to the wine that was used for the ribs. A heavy, alcohol laden wine in the middle of the summer heat has no appeal to me. I follow the lead of the experts in matching big hunks of grilled beef with wine the Tuscans, and drink Chianti.
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I have had the Elyse Aka, Rosenblum St. Peters, and many more (Ridge, Behrns & Hitchcock, just to name a few), I have not found any of them interesting, I find them rather flat and one dimensional.

Even Ridge Geyserville? It might show how little I know about wine that I really like this stuff-- I'd find it hard to call that particular wine flat and one dimensional. I do have to agree that most Zinfandels I've had aren't great food wines, as they can be rather heavy and low acid.

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For me, there is Ridge and then there is everybody else.

Try a Ridge "Pagani Ranch" Zin and you will get what the fuss is about.

I like many others: Howell Mountain, most of the Rosenblum bottlings (the Samsel Vineyard "Maggie's Reserve" is always among the best), Four Vines....

Zinfandel pairs really well with lamb dishes.

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Even Ridge Geyserville?  It might show how little I know about wine that I really like this stuff-- I'd find it hard to call that particular wine flat and one dimensional.    I do have to agree that most Zinfandels I've had aren't great food wines, as they can be rather heavy and low acid.

For many years Geyserville was a blend that was mostly Zin, and I have to admit that it I thought that it was good, but as Jake mentioned there was a change after '95 and it became a less interesting wine. The real change is that Ridge started to use more Zin in the blend. In '95 it had 62% Zin in the blend, from '96 until now it has contained more than 75% ('02 has 85%). Maybe it was the heavier than usual use of Carignan that made the older examples more pleasing.
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I like Bannister, Downing Family, and Brown family. I find that while most 'newer' models of zin tend let the grapes accumulate as much sugar possible, equating into alcohol buster wines, some producers have been able to capture that true Zin-essence. Ripe black fruit, balance of white pepper and oak in the finish.But just one's opinion.

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The more I think of it, the more I'm seeing the parallels with Rioja. A combination of zin and carignan has similar structure/acid profiles to tempranillo from top sites, and the most balanced, penetrating, ageworthy examples of the latter were always traditionally-made (i.e. old American oak-casked) Rioja. When Ridge used more carignan and old wood, the wines were more balanced.

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CHACON A SON GOUT, BABY!

To me, a lot of wines and varietals the "terroiristas" are all gaga over are thin, sour and astringent. They call a lot of the wines I like "pancake syrup"...

If I've got a plate of grilled beef in front of me, or lamb, or anything with hearty flavors, I want to drink red wine that is mouth-filling, full-bodied, and tastes primarily like fruit, not damp earth, acidic underbrush and fungi. So go ahead and consider my palate "unsophisticatd" if you like. Fortunately for all of us, there are a vast multitude of different wines in the world. We get to drink what we like! You don't like zinfandel? It's okay by me. I'm not all that fond of Chianti or Dolcetto, or most of the French Burgundies I've tasted--admittedly, not that many.

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CHACON A SON GOUT, BABY!

To me, a lot of wines and varietals the "terroiristas" are all gaga over are thin, sour and astringent. They call a lot of the wines I like "pancake syrup"...

If I've got a plate of grilled beef in front of me, or lamb, or anything with hearty flavors, I want to drink red wine that is mouth-filling, full-bodied, and tastes primarily like fruit, not damp earth, acidic underbrush and fungi. So go ahead and consider my palate "unsophisticatd" if you like. Fortunately for all of us, there are a vast multitude of different wines in the world. We get to drink what we like! You don't like zinfandel? It's okay by me. I'm not all that fond of Chianti or Dolcetto, or most of the French Burgundies I've tasted--admittedly, not that many.

Is it me or does it seem that people have a strong New/Old World bias with wines? Is it such a problem to enjoy both for what they are?

My palate must really be messed up as I enjoy some big Zins and really enjoy French Burgundies. Really depends on the food, my mood, who is buying :) , etc.

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Is it me or does it seem that people have a strong New/Old World bias with wines?  Is it such a problem to enjoy both for what they are?

My palate must really be messed up as I enjoy some big Zins and really enjoy French Burgundies.  Really depends on the food, my mood, who is buying  :) , etc.

I have no such bias. My collection grew by four cases this weekend, two old world two new. I just can't get into Zins.
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To me, a lot of wines and varietals the "terroiristas" are all gaga over are thin, sour and astringent.

I've found the same thing, but I think it's often a function of price. I've had some incredible red Burgundies thanks to friends. However, I can't nearly afford them, and the ones available for under $30 I find to be thin, sour and astringent, just like Zora said. Same with alot of other much vaunted Old World wine regions-- I can't afford the good stuff :)

Edited by cjsadler
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I am with MDT on this. I honestly won't order a Zin most of the time as I do find the majority too sweet for my palate. I find a good compromise on a Zin is a Petite Syrah. Delectus has an awesome petite and I had another incredible one at Ray's the Steak this past summer I think. (Don't remember the name.) But I have come to enjoy both Old world and New world wines and just judge each of them seperately. (Oh this is where I agree with MDT).

My quote, "Para los gustos se hicieron los colores".

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I am with MDT on this. I honestly won't order a Zin most of the time as I do find the majority too sweet for my palate. I find a good compromise on a Zin is a Petite Syrah.

Well, for those Zin lovers who may have been following the Turley thread elsewhere on the board, Turley's petite syrah is pretty fantastic, albeit a cult wine and really hard to find even at its $85 tag!

Chacun a son gout!

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Well, for those Zin lovers who may have been following the Turley thread elsewhere on the board, Turley's petite syrah is pretty fantastic, albeit a cult wine and really hard to find even at its $85 tag! 

Chacun a son gout!

Ditto Robert Foley Petite Syrah, if you can find it!
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A few years ago, the wine column in the WaPo dealt with what to serve for Thanksgiving Dinner. The bottom line was: Zinfandel (the Red, not the white). Since we were doing a joint dinner in our building, we brought Zin to drink, and IT WORKED!!! I believe that one can "over think" this stuff, sometimes. :)

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Another reason to hate Zinfandel, it is the primary grape in "Hearty Burgandy".  :huh:   :lol:

Are you old enough to remember the fuss that ensued from the famous 60 Minutes broadcast of "The French Paradox"?

There was actually a run on Gallo's "Hearty Burgundy" for some months after the original broadcast.

HB was never a terrible wine, per se. On the infamous 100-point scale it probably merited an 80-82 at best. It was cheap and fairly dependable, if grossly misnamed.

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Despite my aforementioned old-world bias, I feel a certain compulsion to come to the defense of Zinfandel.

First and foremost, let's face it: despite viticultural evidence that it is related to the Plavac Mali grape of Croatia, and possibly even to Italy's Primativo, Zinfandel is almost uniquely American.

Think of every other red wine grape of note grown for volume and profit in the United States and it has its origins in Europe. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah/Shiraz, Petite Sirah, Mourvedre, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Sangiovese, Barbera, Tempranillo... all of European origin.

Sure, we have our hybrids which enjoy modest sales numbers in some areas, and all sorts of other minor varietals such as Norton, but the only one that we can claim as our major unique contribution to the wine world is Zinfandel.

I've pushed Zin for years for the traditional Thanksgiving dinner because it is uniquely American and happens to go really well with that meal. It is usually a real crowd-pleaser, too, although good Pinot Noir is also a great wine match for T-Day imbibing.

One of the nicest aspects of Zin is, the way that it is being made today rewards immediate drinking. I've tasted verticals of some really good labels going back over 5 years, and I find that, while some of them may KEEP well enough, they aren't IMPROVING with extended bottle age. They all seem to lose their charming fruit characteristics with time. All tasted their best within their first year of release.

It didn't used to be this way. I've always heard of the great Zins from Amador County from the '70s that were tannic monsters which practically demanded extended cellar time, but I think changing tastes and the demands of the marketplace for more immediately accessible wine caused most of these growers to polish up their offerings and make them more consumer-friendly and give them broader appeal. In and of itself, this wasn't necessarily a bad development, and I'm sure that there are examples of the more rustic "hairy-chested" Zins to be found, I just haven't tasted any in years.

When you take a really hard look at the great majority of Zin offerings, it's amazing that you can still buy some of the very best bottlings for under $30, and the great majority of the top bottlings are still under $40. Sure, there will always be high-demand/limited production bottlings such as the Turley wines and various others which command big prices, but compare that with the most high-demand Cabernet Sauvignons or Pinot Noirs, which are routinely exceeding the $100 mark. Ridge Montebello Cabernet, Shafer "Hillside Select", Stag's Leap Wine Cellars "Cask 23", et al, are anywhere from $125-180 on average.

If you think that you don't like Zinfandel, or just want to refresh your palate memory, go out and buy a decent, inexpensive yet truly representative bottle this weekend. I'd suggest Cline's "California" bottling, Rosenblum's "Vintner's Cuvée", and Four Vine's "Old Vine Cuvée" just to name a few. (Full disclosure: my store carries all of these). There are also several excellent blends which carry a fair bit of Zinfandel in them too, such as Laurel Glen "Reds" and Marietta "Old Vine Red" and, in some years (since the blend can change radically) Ca' Del Solo "Big House Red" (from Bonny Doon Vineyards). All of those are very reasonably priced, fun to drink and uncomplicated - what more could you ask for? :lol:

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On Saturday in response to my doubts that Zinfandel is ever age worthy, someone tried to convince me that when a good Zinfandel ages it becomes very similar to a fine Bordeaux. I do not have much experience with Zinfandels since I find them to generally too extracted, too hot, and not very food friendly, but I am smitten with aged Bordeaux’s so I figured that I would give it a try. But I took this person at his word and last night I tried a 1971 Monte Bello Ridge Zinfandel. Who knew that Ridge ever made a Zinfandel under the Monte Bello name. The color of was very light with an unappealing orange hue. The nose was interesting, not too complex, but rather Burgundian, certainly not something reminiscent of a well aged Bordeaux. The first taste went along way to confirming my doubts about the age worthiness of Zinfandel, it was weak, almost flavorless, and was close to vinegar.

After dumping this out and cleaning my decanter, we cleansed our palettes with 2001 Dos Victorias Crianza Elias Mora, a very drinkable wine from a fabulous producer.

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I'd be stunned if any grower's 1971 Zinfandel was still drinkable.

(Aside to Zora:

thin, sour and astringent
Sounds like many of my dates :) )

I'm a big enough man to modify my previous statments when presented with new evidence, and I have to say that what I previously posted about the Turley Zinfandels is no longer my firm opinion. Thanks to the generosity of some friends of mine, I got to try some 2004 Old Vine and even some 2004 Dusi Vineyard Zin recently, and I was suprised at how tasty and drinkable they really were. Not thin or unbalanced at all. Really just enjoyable. Not profound, perhaps, but Zin doesn't really reside in the atmosphere of profundity. It is for drinking young, and giving lots of pleasure.

Now, what the really pricey Turley bottlings taste like, I cannot say, but hopefully my friends will give me an opportunity sometime this fall :lol:

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I'd be stunned if any grower's 1971 Zinfandel was still drinkable.

(Aside to Zora: Sounds like many of my dates :) )

I'm a big enough man to modify my previous statments when presented with new evidence, and I have to say that what I previously posted about the Turley Zinfandels is no longer my firm opinion. Thanks to the generosity of some friends of mine, I got to try some 2004 Old Vine and even some 2004 Dusi Vineyard Zin recently, and I was suprised at how tasty and drinkable they really were. Not thin or unbalanced at all. Really just enjoyable. Not profound, perhaps, but Zin doesn't really reside in the atmosphere of profundity. It is for drinking young, and giving lots of pleasure.

Now, what the really pricey Turley bottlings taste like, I cannot say, but hopefully my friends will give me an opportunity sometime this fall :lol:

I love a good zin, and more importantly, my wife will drink a good one too. I've found that there are excellent zins for a reasonable price, as noted earlier in other's posts, (I love Rosenblum Cellars Zinfandels and I think the Seghesio Family Vineyards Zinfandels are always a good buy and to be honest, they both are as good or better than almost any Zin out there) but some of the "higher end" zins I've had, are also sublime. And to be sure, they cost less than some Pinot Noirs and Cabs I've bought. If you get a chance you should try the Radio-Coteau Zinfandel Von Weidlich (I've had both the 2003 and 2004, and don't think the ones I have left will last long enough to see if they age well) or the Neal's. Of course, the Martinelli Jackass Vineyard will blow your socks off if you are seriously into Zins, but it is expensive, and in my opinion, not as good as the Rosenblum Rockpile or even the Carla's.

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That some like Zinfandel and that some don't is without doubt. And that Zinfandel is ageworthy is alss beyone doubt... to those who like old zinfandel. I am in that camp. While my bottle of the 71 Jimsomare also was badly over the hill, my recent bottles of 74 Litton Springs and Geyserville as well as 76 Yourk creek were wonderful.

I love zin, not of th Turley school but of the Ridge / Seghesio / Elyse school. These are wines made from fully ripe grapes but without the overripeness and emphasis on alcohol of Turley and that style. However having said that, I would not try to convince anyone that there is an intrinsic wonderfulness to zinfandel any more than there is to Bordeaux, Brugundy or Brunello. What there are are different wines for different tastes.

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Joe--

Too bad about your dates. I don't think anyone would describe me as being thin -- I haven't fit that description for the past twenty years. Zaftig is more like it these days. Sour and astringent--nah. Spicy, with a tinge of bitterness--maybe. I prefer to be described as robust, flavorful and with lots of character-- the way I like my red wine to be.

I'm ditto-ing Dean about the Zins he likes-- and adding Hartford and Storybook.

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Joe--

Too bad about your dates. I don't think anyone would describe me as being thin -- I haven't fit that description for the past twenty years. Zaftig is more like it these days. Sour and astringent--nah. Spicy, with a tinge of bitterness--maybe. I prefer to be described as robust, flavorful and with lots of character-- the way I like my red wine to be.

I'm ditto-ing Dean about the Zins he likes-- and adding Hartford and Storybook.

My mother didn't raise dummies, I'm leaving your first comments completely alone :)

Funny you should mention Storybook Mountain. We have some, including two vintages of the Estate Reserve that I'm anxious to move. Great wines, but in our store they just don't seem to sell.

Oddly enough, so many people over the years who inquire about it insist upon putting an "r" in the name which doesn't exist - "Storybrook" I've never understood that.

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