Ever since I read that book about Zinfandel a month or so ago, I’ve become increasingly interested in this versatile chameleon of varietals. I'll be exploring Zins at different price points in the months ahead. For now, here’s my take on four California Zinfandels under $10:
Ravenswood Winery Zinfandel Vintners Blend California 2008 ($8): The first wine I tasted in today's lineup was from renowned Zinfandel specialist Ravenswood. Vintners Blend is the winery’s value offering, made from carefully-selected sourced grapes. Aged in oak one year. Composition: 77% Zinfandel, 18% Petite Sirah, 5% Carignane.
I opened the bottle and went through the usual tasting ritual: swirling, color and aroma evaluation, etc. When I swished this wine around in my mouth I was disappointed: I didn't seem to be getting anything. I finished my glass, popped in a cork, and forgot about it.
It wasn't until the next day that I realized I should have opened the wine and let it aerate for an hour or so before tasting. I tried the same bottle again, allowing the wine to sit a while after removing the cork. To my amazement, the formerly innocuous wine had opened up in a massive way. It was transformed into a powerhouse of black cherry and raspberry with tantalizing spice/black pepper busy in the background. Delicious!
This was a lesson to me to always give a wine (especially a red wine) time to aerate, opening up the aromas and bringing out the flavor.
Rosenblum Cellars California Zinfandel Vintner’s Cuvée XXXI ($8): Another blend of carefully-selected sourced grapes, this wine is rich, medium in body, and extremely fruit-forward (lots and lots of blackberry).
I liked the Rosenblum Zin almost as much as the Ravenswood, which is really saying something. Both these wines offer tremendous value. Both pair excellently with hearty meals, from BBQ to pizza to braises. Excellent wines both, which I plan to enjoy often in the future.
I do wonder: if these $8 wines from Ravenswood and Rosenblum are so damn good, what are their higher-end offerings like? I can't wait to find out!
Redwood Creek Lodi Zinfandel ($6): I’ve tried Redwood Creek’s Cabernet Sauvignon, which has a rep for being one of the better entries in the lonely world of inexpensive Cabs. I thought it was just fine for the money (about $7-8).
So when I saw their Zin on the shelf, I decided to check it out. It was okay, and I suspect would pair well with just about any kind of food. I guess I’m drawn to big Zins, though, because after the Ravenswood and Rosenblum, this seemed way tame.
Trader Joe’s Coastal Zinfandel 2008 ($4): I love Trader Joe’s, but thoroughly disliked this innocuous, slightly sour wine, which possessed no noticeable Zinfandel characteristics.
The bottle labels held only two sentences about the wine, the first of which caused me to wonder whether Trader Joe's has begun out-sourcing writing tasks to Outer Mongolia: "Located in the beautiful valleys of the Central Coast, Trader Joe's presents this lush Zinfandel." So, then: Is Trader Joe's located on the Central Coast? In multiple locations?