What is International Zinfandel Day?
The third Wednesday of November is cause for celebration. The Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (ZAP) has marked this day as International Zinfandel Day so we all have an excuse to drink delicious Zin. Not that we really need a reason, but ZAP offers awareness on what Zinfandel is and why it’s considered America’s grape variety.
What is Zinfandel?
Zinfandel is a grape variety that makes rich, high alcohol wines with lots of juicy berry flavours, usually blackberry and raspberry. Zinfandel leans toward full bodied with silky, ripe tannins and can sometimes be jammy or spicy.
Is Primitivo the same grape variety as Zinfandel?
No, but they’re about as close as you can get without being the same grape. DNA mapping has determined that both grapes are clones of a Croatian variety called Crljenak Kastelanski. In the grape world, sometimes clones are so close that they retain the original grape variety name (for example: Pinot Noir Dijon Clone 777 is still Pinot Noir) and sometimes they’re unique enough to be called a different grape name (for example: Pinot Meunier is a clonal variation of Pinot Noir). So you may find very close similarities, but they’re not exactly the same grape.
Here are our picks for delicious California Zinfandel wines for you to celebrate International Zinfandel Day:
Z. Alexander Brown Uncaged Proprietary Red Blend
Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah. California
The Z in Z. Alexander Brown is for Zac. You may recognize the name Zac Brown from country music, but Zac’s passion for wine has brought him into another industry he loves. He’s not just a name behind a wine label, he is hands on in the winemaking process to showcase the beauty and versatility of California wines.
Dry Creek Heritage Vines Zinfandel
Dry Creek Valley, California
Balanced and bright are the best ways to describe this Dry Creek Zinfandel. There’s a bit of Petite Sirah in the mix as well as 1% Primitivo. Scoring 90 points from Wine Spectator for the 2016 vintage, it’s a winner with wine critics and enthusiasts. We especially love this family owned winery for their approach to sustainability and their work in restoring the no longer “dry” creek which is home to Coho salmon and Steelhead trout.
Ridge East Bench
Dry Creek Valley, California
This single vineyard, organically grown 100% Zinfandel is a full-bodied, complex delight! Approachable now, but also age worthy. So if you think you can resist temptation, cellar this Zin over the next 5-8 years and taste how beautifully it develops.
Gnarly Head Old Vines Zinfandel
The Gnarly Head winery is named after the head-trained, spur-pruned, gnarled vines that have been producing Zinfandel grapes for over a century. The resulting wines are big, bold, structured and a little out of the ordinary — gnarly, if you will.
Valdez Family Winery Botticelli Zinfandel
In honour of Ulises Valdez, who passed away suddenly in September 2018 at only 49 years old. Ulises started his wine journey as a 16-year-old immigrant from Mexico picking grapes for whoever would hire him. He eventually earned his American citizenship and the reputation of being the best vineyard manager in Sonoma. Several years ago, he decided to make wine under his own label including this Zinfandel using grapes from his vineyard in Rockpile, Sonoma. His life’s work came full circle in 2010 when his family wine was served to President Felipe Calderon of Mexico at a state dinner at the White House.
Enkidu “E” Old Vines Zinfandel
Sonoma Valley, California
A blend of Zinfandel, Alicante Bouchet, Black Muscat, Peloursin, Carignan and more! What is unique about the “E” is that all grape varieties are co-fermented. It’s more common for grapes to be fermented separately then blended together. Enkidu has chosen to crush and ferment together giving the resulting wine flavours that may not have existed if it was fermented separately (think of it like making stew in a crock pot — all the ingredients go in together).
Rabble Wine Co Zinfandel
Paso Robles, California
A youthful wine with jammy fruit flavours, a good backbone of acidity and some mineral notes throughout. The label is an eye-catching artistic rendition of the Nuremberg Chronicles depicting the potential wrath of nature. As any good winemaker knows, wine begins in the vineyards, sometimes in a battle with nature.
The Bedrock 2016 Heritage Sonoma Valley Red Blend
Sonoma Valley, California
The Bedrock is a delicious blend of Zinfandel, Carignan, Mataro, Syrah and Alicante Bouschet. This wine landed the #10 spot on the 2018 Wine Spectator Top 100 List. Only 600 cases were made of this rare treat, so if you can get your hands on a bottle of Bedrock 2016 Heritage wine, don’t ever let it go!
Delicious Zinfandel wines to drink that are not from California:
Covert Farms Organic Family Estate Zinfandel
Okanagan Valley, Canada
The Covert family has been farming this land for three generations. The estate is certified organic and they practice biodynamic farming. The southern part of the Okanagan Valley gets hot enough to ripen Zinfandel, so don’t believe the hype about the whole Valley being “cool climate.” This monster wine comes in at 14.9% abv (or more?) and spends a good 18 months mellowing out in a barrel before it’s bottled and available for you to enjoy.
Kettle Valley Great Northern Vineyard Zinfandel
Similkameen Valley, Canada
Handpicked grapes from a single vineyard in warm, sunny British Columbia. This Zin comes in at 15.5% abv but it’s so balanced you’d never know it was that boozy! Ripe black fruit with hints of dried fruit, spice and lots of minerality. It has an elegance you don’t always find in Zinfandel which makes it an easy sipper as well as delicious with charcuterie or grilled meats.