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Brazin’s bold flavors win Zin taste-off

Northside Staff
Tasters: Dave Pohl, ed., Dana Malley, Jason Wentworth, Jay Reed, Jon Wentworth

Though its origins have now been traced to various European grape varieties, Zinfandel is still viewed as a singularly Californian grape. Red Zinfandel wine, with its bright, bold, berry-like fruit seems to many a sort of vinous expression of the pioneering spirit that created the California wine industry. When London wine merchant Harry Waugh formed, in 1976, a group devoted to the tasting and promotion of California wines in England, he called it the Zinfandel Club.

Zinfandel took hold in California in the 1850s. Much of it disappeared into various “field blends,” wines made from whatever multiple varieties grew in a particular vineyard. In the twentieth century this trend continued. Almost all of Gallo’s Lodi-grown Zinfandel, for example, went into its famed Hearty Burgundy. Zinfandel’s ascent as a single varietal wine began in the 1960’s when wineries such as Ridge began producing critically acclaimed Zinfandels prominently featuring the variety’s name on their labels.

The Cabernet Sauvignon boom of the 1970’s coupled with the success of the pink, sweet “White” Zinfandel in the 1980’s took some of the shine off red Zinfandel’s rising stardom. Through various turns of fashion, however, Red Zin has retained a core group of wine lovers who revere it for its delicious “brambly” fruit. There is even a group founded in 1991 called ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers), dedicated solely to the promotion and love of Zinfandel.

In the 2000 edition of Food & Wine Magazine’s Official Wine Guide, Steve Miller wrote that Zinfandels “in the $15 to $25 range…are California’s best red wine buys.” That still seems a reasonable price-point, so the staff at Northside Wine & Spirits recently blind tasted 20 Zinfandels priced between $15 and $25.

The staff’s top pick exemplifies the appeal of good Zinfandel. The Brazin 2009 (B)Old Vine Zinfandel ($15 per bottle) has an expansively inviting aroma of spicy, dark raspberry fruit. Its lush fruit is well balanced on the palate by a cinnamon-laced hint of oak. Intensely flavorful, but not at all heavy, it really shows what Zin lovers love about Zin! Try it with roast leg of lamb, ham with a fruit glaze, stuffed peppers, or just about anything cooked on a grill!

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