If you’re looking for those pink California wines known as White Zinfandel, you won’t find them here.
Once virtually a California speciality red wine, fine and fruity red Zinfandels are showing up from quite a variety of places, today. Although California wines still tend to dominate the available selections.
In France there is a long tradition of négociants – wineries who have few if any of their own vineyards but acquire grapes or even partially finished wines from independent growers, as well as commercial wineries. Sebastiani & Sons have evolved into one of California’s most dependable négociants.
Pepperwood Grove Old Vine Zinfandel (406132) $11.70 comes from Don Sebastiani & Sons. Made from 100 per cent old vine zinfandel grapes it shows off a medley of berry fruit flavours and aromas – raspberry, blackberry, ripe plum, prune and dried figs are most obvious. Under the fruit, there are tantalizing notes of vanilla and caramel – and at an unbelievably affordable price.
Happiest in hot climates, Zinfandel has only recently been recognized as a viable and vivacious addition to Okanagan wine grape growers’ vineyards. Some of the fruit is even ‘imported’ to Vancouver Island by inquisitive winemakers.
Smack in the middle of the Saanich Peninsula on southern Vancouver Island de Vine Vineyards sits on a south-facing ridge-top, with good exposure and a steady ocean breeze. The soil is shallow clay-loam with plenty of rocks for drainage.
Each year, de Vine Vineyards makes approximately 2000 cases, specializing in organically processed wine. Grapes grown in Oliver B.C. and aged in both French and American Oak give de Vine Zinfandel (75770) $21.49 richness and balance. Black cherry, chocolate and vanilla flavours predominate with a hint of cinnamon and cloves.
Owned by Colleen Ferguson and Janet Watts, Great Northern Vineyards is located on the bench above the Similkameen River in Cawston, in British Columbia’s Similkameen Valley. The soils are predominantly river rock, adding to the mineral complexity shown in this wine.
Kettle Valley Great Northern Vineyards Zinfandel (742791) $21.90 opens up with spicy aromas of black plums and new leather, slides into intense flavours of plum, black cherry and blackberry. The seductive sweetness of that first sip gives way to an earthy spiciness.
Primitivo is one of Southern Italy’s leading red grapes. Its origins date back to the 18th century and to the Dalmatian Coast. At some point it was brought to Puglia in the heel of the boot of Italy. Wine historians speculate that the vines were brought to California around the same time.
According to its winemakers The Layer Cake Primitivo (153221) $23.15 comes right at you with huge inky black fruit, spice and white pepper. Layered and rich in the mouth with jammy black cherries, truffles, espresso and a dense, creamy texture over hints of earth and chalky minerality.
After a lengthy and typical French administrative struggle, Louis-Marie Teisserenc of Domaine de l’Arjolle in the hills Côtes de Thongue, west of Montpellier finally was permitted to plant 4000 root stocks in the sandy limestone soils of De L’Arjolle’s vineyards in 1996.
De L’Arjolle Zinfandel (822825) $25.85 comes from the only hectare of Zinfandel in France. Dark purple red, it is redolent of blueberry and blackberry fruit with subtle notes of liquorice and cloves and interesting undernotes of geranium. And so perfectly dry for a Zin!
Arguably the best balanced California Zinfandels come from carefully selected Napa Valley vineyards chosen specifically for their distinctive terroir imprints, with an emphasis on showcasing the intensity and depth of dry-farmed old vines.
T-Vine Napa Valley Zinfandel (68999) $27.69 oozes elegant cranberry and blackberry dark fruit aromas and flavors, with spicy accents and berry fruit highlights, laced with hints of caramel and dark chocolate.
Located inland of Sacramento along the San Joaquin and Sacramento River Delta, the Lodi valley stretches west from the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Known for its jammy, juicy wines, Lodi is arguably California`s finest Zinfandel country, responsible for nearly one-third of California’s production.
The Old Ghost (815209) $54.99 represents the best Lodi Zinfandel that Klinker Brick produces each year. Brambleberry fruit aromas intermingled with anise, clove and exotic spice, echo previous vintages. Smaller berries harvested from this vineyard block, tend to offer more “skin to flesh,” providing a greater level of smooth yet firm tannin and structure to this wine.
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