The Top 5 California Zinfandels You Need to Try
Let’s talk about Zinfandel… What separates Zinfandel from the pack? Why is it a grape like no other? First, it has an adaptive personality. Whether we talk about growing locations, soils or climates, Zinfandel adapts making it one of the most versatile grapes there is. Put it in warm climates, cooler climates, dry farmed or irrigated it can and will find a way to thrive. Second, its longevity and historical presence in California breaks it away from the fan favorites of Pinot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Although, who grows the best Zinfandel, is subject to debate; we found a few producers here in California offering top notch representations of what the varietal can do. To top it all off, most of these producers are farming vineyards over 100+ years old. Let’s explore some of our favorites:
Bedrock Wine Co., 2020 California Old Vine Zinfandel
Nestled in Sonoma Valley, Bedrock Wine Company can show you what soil and old vines are all about. The love for old-vine vineyard stems generations making their winemaking style a labor of love not just a job. You’ll find this crew excelling when creating wines true to how the old vine vineyards were planted, intermixing of different varieties creating wines with stories to tell.
Winemaker Notes: The largest single component comes from the old vines at Bedrock, followed by the perfumed goodness of Esola, the softer but fresh Schmiedt, and the peppery, dark-fruited Nervo Ranch. As usual, almost all of the wine consists of declassified barrels from vineyard-designated wines, so it offers serious bang for the buck. 85% Zinfandel with the balance a blend of Carignan, Mataro, Grenache, and Alicante Bouschet, along with esoteric creatures like Aubun, Abouriou, and many more. -Bedrock Wine Co.
Carlisle Winery, 2019 Papera Ranch, Russian River Valley
The heart of Russian River Valley goes to Carlisle Winery. Mike Officer’s passion for Zinfandel is unmistakable in each bottle he creates. Each so unique to the vineyard, each speaking with so much depth of their winemaking style… Simplistic, elegant, bold, true to the core. Mike Officer wouldn’t have it any other way.
Notes from the experts: Shows presence and richness, with a touch of old-school briar that deeply structured yet never weighty. Delivers black cherry and tart blueberry flavors accented by dusty sage, licorice and floral notes, which build toward refined tannins – T.F. Wine Spectator
Turley Wine Cellars, 2019 Dusi Vineyard, Paso Robles
When you think rich, jammy (but not overripe), fruit driven with balance and sure to impress any table when you put the bottle down, it’s Turley Wine Cellars. The bottle alone is a showstopper with a bold base and elegant bottle neck. You can pick this bottle out from any wine cellar and many cellars have even customized their own section to house those Turley bottles. Turley Winery spans from central California up to Sonoma/Napa county and with 2 tasting room locations it makes the list of places to visit and wines to drink.
Notes from the Winemaker: Plenty of lush, opulent brambly fruits abound on the nose and palate. Juicy, mouthwatering acidity, pleasantly soft at the start and finishing with a strong mineral backbone. -Turley Wine Cellars
Ridge Winery, 2019 Lytton Spring, Dry Creek Valley
It shouldn’t come as a surprise when Ridge Winery’s name is listed in just about every “best of” list and it comes for good reason. Known for single-vineyard wines, Ridge Winery, in Dry Creek Valley is iconic for old vines and single vineyard designates. Their approach to winemaking is simple… find exceptional vineyards in exceptional sites and let the wine speak for itself.
Notes from the experts: The 2019 Lytton Springs checks in as 73% Zinfandel, 16% Petite Sirah, and the rest Carignan and Mataro. Revealing a translucent ruby/plum hue as well as beautiful cassis and red plum fruits supported by lots of savory herbs, orange blossom, cigar, and spice-driven aromas and flavors, this beauty hits the palate with medium to full-bodied richness, a seamless texture, moderate yet present tannins, and a great finish. – Jeb Dunnuck
Limerick Lane Winery, 2019 Rocky Knoll, Russian River Valley
Now take everything we’ve talked about above, bring all the locations together and put it in one bottle… insert Limerick Lane! Located in Russian River Valley (technically), the winery is in the very northwest corner allowing the vineyards to pull the perks of Chalk Hill and Dry Creek Valley. They incorporate the benefits of those warm temperatures during the day but the cool evenings Russian River Valley has to offer at night. It’s almost as if Limerick Lane is in its own category of locations creating bright acidity and big, bold, balanced Zinfandels. It’s a one-stop shop for stunning Zinfandels.
Notes from the experts: Bright acids, red/purplish fruit and a touch of blood orange play off its creamy, layered personality. Dollops of Syrah and Petite Sirah add layers of dimension. – Antonio Galloni/Vinous