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Dazzling Zin from Graziano

Dazzling Zin from Graziano

Northside Staff
Tasters: Dave Pohl, ed., Dana Malley, Jason Wentworth, Mark Britten, Robert Bradley, Jay Reed, and Joe Downs

Prior to the advent of “White Zinfandel” in the 1970s, California’s Zinfandel grape was typically made into a sturdy, fruit-dominated red wine both on its own or blended with grapes such as Carignan, Grenache, and Mourvedre. It was largely associated with California’s Italian-American producers such as Martini, Parducci, Pedroncelli, and Sebastiani, who made Zinfandel wines that graced their own tables as well as those of many a pizzeria.

In the 1960s, new producers such as Ridge Vineyards attempted, with frequent success, to take a more serious approach to “the people’s grape,” looking high and low for old Zinfandel vineyards capable of producing wines of concentration and complexity. Ridge’s pioneering efforts ultimately laid the groundwork for the plethora of serious Zinfandel producers now making highly regarded wines costing $30 and up.

In a continuing effort to find good value wines, the staff at Northside Wine & Spirits recently blind tasted 21 California red Zinfandels priced under $30 per bottle. The tasting highlighted a recent trend in Zinfandel production, a tendency to produce jammy, ultra-ripe wines that are high in alcohol and low in subtlety.

The lineup contained a few of these “alcohol bombs,” but there were also plenty of well-balanced, full-flavored wines that showed off Zin’s appealingly “brambly” fruit. The great American chef Thomas Keller has recently stated that Zinfandel is his favorite wine variety, and the best wines of this tasting demonstrated the allure.

The staff’s top pick of the tasting was the Graziano 2011 Mendocino County Zinfandel ($16 per bottle). Ripe, bright, and bursting with exuberant red fruit character, the Graziano is flat out delicious. Its soft tannins give it a rich mouth feel that is balanced by enjoyably mouthwatering acidity.

Other standouts included the Alexander Valley Vineyards 2012 Dry Creek Valley “Redemption” Zinfandel ($20 per bottle) and the Dry Creek Vineyard 2012 Heritage Vines Zinfandel ($17 per bottle). Both are smooth as silk and packed with berry-like fruit. Along with the first place Graziano, they will partner well with robustly flavored meat or pasta dishes. Better yet, sample all three when your family gathers for this year’s Thanksgiving feast!

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