Learn about Zinfandel — taste profile, popular regions and more ...
Unapologetically bold, spice-driven and jammy, Zinfandel is often thought of as California’s flagship grape. In fact it owns this title by having the ability to adapt to the states’ many microclimates and landscapes, producing unique expressions of the grape throughout. Zinfandel thrives in California’s Central Coast, as well throughout Sonoma County, parts of Napa Valley, the Sierra Foothills, Lodi and Paso Robles. Small quantities of Zinfandel grapes grow in countries as disparate as Mexico, Israel, South Africa, Canada, and Australia. Washington and Oregon produce Zinfandel grapes as well. In Croatia, production increased dramatically in 2001 once the news hit of the connection with Zinfandel grapes and Primitivo. From an early discovery of 22 vines, there are now more than 200,000. In Puglia about 10,000 acres exist. In California, Zinfandel is the second most-planted red grape, after Cabernet Sauvignon, with more than 50,000 acres, and it has been around since the 1850’s at least.
Zinfandel's story begins in Croatia in the 1400s when it went by the names, Tribidrag or Crljenak Kaštelanski. In the 1700s, it made its way to southern Italy where it became known as Primitivo. The astute imperial nursery of Vienna collected specimens of the vine and acted as the source of its journey to New England, carried by George Gibbs circa 1829. Eventually, making its way to California around the Gold Rush of 1849, Zinfandel found its new home, parading the true American spirit. The modern spelling of Zinfandel first appeared in 1852 and became standard about a decade later.
Tasting Notes for Zinfandel
Zinfandel is a dry red wine, though typically forward in fruit. Notes of dark plum, blackberry, sweet spice, dark chocolate and licorice are common. Very ripe examples may express a dried fruit quality like fig or prune. But Zinfandel grown in cooler, coastal zones often shows red fruit, black pepper and fresh herbal characteristics like juniper and menthol. California versions often show blueberry, raspberry, boysenberry, and peach yogurt flavors. Pepper, spice and a brambly character commonly make an appearance as well.
Perfect Food Pairings for Zinfandel
Zinfandel is a powerfully flavored wine, mingling happily with bold food like brisket, lamb shanks, pork ribs or anything barbecued. More delicate Zins work with pork, lamb curry and even Caesar Salad or Salad Nicoise.
Sommelier Secrets for Zinfandel
Thanks to its popularity both for home winemaking and as communion wine, many Zinfandel vines were able to survive prohibition, leading to the abundance of "old vine" Zinfandels. These low-yielding, ancient vines tend to produce wine that is deeply concentrated, delicately perfumed and decidedly complex. Old to very old Zinfandel grape vines are prized, even though they produce smaller amounts of fruit. The wines made from such gnarly old stumps are avidly sought after. Whatever you call it, Zinfandel is a wine worth exploring.
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Four Vines Biker Paso Robles Zinfandel 2019Zinfandel from Paso Robles, Central Coast, California
Mount Peak Rattlesnake Zinfandel 2018Zinfandel from Sonoma County, California
Scott Harvey Mountain Selection Zinfandel 2019Zinfandel from Amador, Sierra Foothills, California
Amapola Creek Monte Rosso Vineyard Zinfandel 2016Zinfandel from Moon Mountain District, Sonoma Valley, Sonoma County, California
Paul Dolan Vineyards Organically Grown Zinfandel 2019Zinfandel from Mendocino, California
Dry Creek Vineyard Heritage Zinfandel 2019Zinfandel from Sonoma County, California
Carnivor Zinfandel 2019Zinfandel from California
Robert Biale Vineyards Black Chicken Zinfandel 2020Zinfandel from Napa Valley, California
Parducci Small Lot Zinfandel 2020Zinfandel from Mendocino, California
The Federalist Bourbon Barrel Aged Zinfandel 2017Zinfandel from Mendocino, California
BACA Cat's Cradle Zinfandel 2018Zinfandel from Rockpile, Sonoma County, California
Predator Old Vine Zinfandel 2020Zinfandel from Lodi, California
Shannon Ridge Buck Shack Bourbon Barrel Zinfandel 2019Zinfandel from Lake County, North Coast, California
Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel 2020Zinfandel from Sonoma County, California
Murphy-Goode Liar's Dice Zinfandel 2016Zinfandel from Sonoma County, California
Zinfandelic Sierra Foothills Old Vine Zinfandel 2017Zinfandel from Sierra Foothills, California
Buehler Zinfandel 2019Zinfandel from Napa Valley, California
Boneshaker Old Vine Zinfandel 2019Zinfandel from Lodi, California
Martinelli Jackass Vineyard Zinfandel 2020Zinfandel from Russian River, Sonoma County, California
Klinker Brick Old Ghost Old Vine Zinfandel 2019Zinfandel from Lodi, California
Hendry Block 7 and 22 Zinfandel 2017Zinfandel from Napa Valley, California
Rombauer El Dorado Twin Rivers Zinfandel 2019Zinfandel from El Dorado, Sierra Foothills, California
Radio-Coteau Lemorel Zinfandel 2018Zinfandel from Sonoma Coast, Sonoma County, California
Bogle Old Vines Zinfandel 2019Zinfandel from California
Lapis Luna Zinfandel 2020Zinfandel from North Coast, California