Retailer Wine Selections – Zinfandel

For this issue, we asked members of the National Retailer Wine Panel to recommend their favorite zinfandels. As always, these selections include brief tasting notes, a rating and the wine’€™s retail price (which varies from store to store and market to market). If you’€™re a retail beverage professional who would like to learn about participating in our panel, call Richard Brandes at 212-353-3832, or email him at rbrandes@m2media360.com

FIVE STARS

(95) Biale Black Chicken Zinfandel 2007 (California). Bold and brooding; concentrated blockbuster with ever-evolving aromas of rich dark plum and chocolate; a long, mouth-filling finish. ($45)

(95) Andretti Napa Valley Zinfandel/Primitivo 2005 (California). This unique cuvee has a port-like texture, though not sweet; perfect with bold, pungent cheeses. ($30)

(95) Christian Lazo Paso Robles Zinfandel 2007 (California). It has taken a few years for these guys to learn how to tame this beast; in the past it has been high ABV (though not hot), porty and lush; finally, everything is in balance; notes of cocao in the nose and palette, walnut and black cherry; fruity with white pepper on the finish; the tannins will tame with bottle age. ($26)

(94) JC Cellars The Imposter Zinfandel 2007 (California). This wine is a blend of zinfandel, petite sirah, syrah, mourvedre and viognier; deep purple and luscious with smokey and plum aromas; flavors of blackberries and dark chocolate flows to a layered finish of spice and minerals. ($39)

(94) Opolo Summit Creek Zinfandel 2006 (California). This is a great example of westside Paso Robles zin; bold fruit with a great mouthfeel are pure California, but the structure is Burgundian; tannins are soft and the acidity is well balanced with great notes of black cherry, berry and spice. ($18)

(93) Macauley Vineyard Napa Valley Zinfandel 2006 (California). A captivating purple hue; beautiful front notes of raspberry, cherry vanilla and clove; deeper in the nose blackberry, briar spice and edges of black pepper; the mouthfeel is lush yet full of structure; elegant; enjoy for 5 to 7 years. ($35)

(93) Cline Big Break Zinfandel 2007 (California). Light in body, yet robust and bold; sweet berry flavors, with notes of coffee and spice on the nose (with just a hint of eucalyptus from the grove next-door giving the wine a minty note); the tannins are a bit dusty and the oaking is perfect; perfect for spicy dishes. ($24)

(92) Calistoga Cellars Napa Valley Zinfandel 2006 (California). A structured, complex wine with hints of black raspberry, wild flower, cedar, tobacco, and spicy oak; firm tannins; cellar 2-3 years. ($25)

(92) Brown Napa Valley Zinfandel 2008 (California). Aromas of spice and blackberries; blackberry, spice and plum flavors; substantial tannins, and a long, luscious finish. ($39)

(92) Quivira Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2006 (California). Under new winemaker/grower Steve Canter, Quivira is moving to organic/biodynamic farming, and you can sense it immediately in the vibrancy and intensity of bright red-fruit flavors of this surprisingly lively and nimble Dry Creek zin. ($24)

(92) Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel 2008 (California). Another masterpiece from Seghesio; one of the most delicious wines on the market, especially for the price; amazing fruit controlled by a perfect amount of tannin and acidity. ($20)

(92) Verdant Circle San Luis Obispo Central Coast Zinfandel 2007 (California). Extremely hard to believe a wine with this much personality could be organic; there is plenty to like with the well-balanced blackberry, framed in toasty oak with a kiss of black pepper; the fruit flavors fade beautifully into the soft tannins and a long velvety finish. ($22)

(92) Wine Guerrilla Dry Creek Zinfandel 2007 (California). A great introduction to the Wine Guerrilla style; it is like eating ripe berries on a summer’€™s day; delicious spicy, peppery notes give a nice lift to all that rich fruit; perfectly proportioned like having an appetizer, dinner and dessert all rolled up into one. ($22)

(92) Rancho Zabaco Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2007 (California). Dark purple in the glass, all the way through, is the first hint of its intensity; this combined with a nose and palate rich with boysenberry, black cherry and black plum; the hints of spice on the nose and palate add to the mix, rounding out the fruit; the finish continues the pattern, being long, balanced and satisfying. ($20)

(92) Kinneybrook Sonoma Zinfandel 2007 (California). Rich luscious Sonoma Valley zinfandel in a beautifully balanced package that shows off textbook zinfandel character of wild berry and spice; sustainably farmed and estate grown, this wine shows a big splash of flavor that comes together nicely with hints of vanilla and coffee; pairs nicely with grilled flank steak. ($25)

FOUR STARS

(91) River Road Russian River Sonoma Zinfandel 2007 (California). Another home run from this small winery; expressive aromas of cocoa and black cherry and a touch of spice; the palate is a blend of typical Russian River flavors of ripe blackberry and cherry, with black and white pepper and hints of vanilla and cream; the finish has flavors that go on and on while coming together into a nicely framed crisp finish; great to pair with grilled pork dishes. ($20)

(91) Kunde Estate Sonoma Valley Estate Grown Zinfandel 2006 (California). In typical Kunde style, this wine shows balance and polish; the color is a dense, bright dark purple; the nose shows boysenberry, with cherry and sassafras; the weight of the wine is balanced by the bright, dark fruit; the dark berry, black cherry flavors are highlighted by the subtle spice notes; the medium-long finish is balanced all the way through. ($18)

(91) Ironstone Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel 2008 (California). For jammy, dark, and expressive zin at a fantastic price, you can’€™t beat this overloaded Lodi beauty; its vein of opulent flavors, sweet blackberry and black currant spiked with licorice and spice is a top red wine value. ($12)

(91) Van Ruiten Old Vines Zinfandel 2007 (California). Start with aromas of cofee and anise, followed by blackberry, cherry and blueberry flavors, with a big jammy finish; delicious. ($15)

(91) Four Vines ‘€œThe Sophisticate’€ Zinfandel 2007 (California). Appropriately named, this tasty red has excellent complexity, soft tannins and should age nicely over the next few years. ($24)

(91) Montoya Old Vine Lodi Zinfandel 2008 (California). Soft, velvety and brimming with ripe berry fruit; deftly balanced and a great value. ($15)

(90) Bianchi Zen Ranch Zinfandel 2006 (California). Full berry aromas with flavors of cherry and hints of cinnamon; full-bodied finish with vanilla and spices. ($18)

(90) Hook & Ladder Russian River Valley Zinfandel 2006 (California). A lovely, deep garnet color leads to ripe, zesty aromas and flavors of blackberry, pepper, allspice and toasty oak, with a hint of dark chocolate on the finish. ($24)

(90) Ravenswood Sonoma County Old Vine Zinfandel 2006 (California). Jammy with big up-front flavors of blackberries and raspberries; nicely balanced and ends with a hint of spice and cedar. ($19)

(90) Sobon Hillside Zinfandel 2008 (California). A nice Amador County zinfandel from an utterly reliable producer; a good match with a variety of foods; ripe flavors of blackberry and boysenberry with a hint of cherry and cranberry on the finish. ($14)

(90) Klinker Brick Old Vines Zinfandel 2007 (California). Rich flavors of red berries, with a hint of pepper on a lingering finish; great balance. ($18)

(90) Campus Oaks Cum Laude Zinfandel 2007 (California). An intense, jammy wine, aged in French Oak, with a wonderful spice-driven flavor. ($20)

(90) Napa Cellars Napa Valley Zinfandel 2006 (California). When first opened, it shows as a nice and easy-drinking wine; after a bit, it becomes luscious and savory; a great complement to any barbeque. ($18)

(90) Ravenswood Zen of Zin 2007 (California). Deeply colored with aromas of raspberry, vanilla, and smoke; jammy, juicy quality while still retaining softness; hints of plum, dark chocolate, blackberry andeasy spice; best of Lodi and Mendocino wrapped up in a fun package ($15)

(90) Pedroncelli Mother Clone Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2006 (California). From the original zin clone John Pedroncelli, Sr., planted in 1927; aromas and flavors of spicy berry and currant with a hint of clove on the finish. ($14)

(90) B. R. Cohn Sonoma Valley Zinfandel 2007 (California). Black fruit aroma; blackberry, cherry and spice flavors, with nice tannins; a long, tasty finish. ($30)

(90) Botromagno Puglia Primitivo 2007 (Italy). This steel-fermented and steel-aged wine is 100% primitive and showcases the fruit; very dark, there is a combination of intense fruit and mineral notes on the nose and palate; the finish is long, balanced and elegant; a wonderful value. ($13)

(90) Vicious Zin Zinfandel 2008 (California). Rich, ripe and lively, with intense spiced fruit aromas; plush and supple super-jammy dark berry flavors coat the palate and seem to intensify; layers of dark spiced cherry and compote fade into a velvety finish that turns silky, with well-integrated tannins on the finish. ($14)

(89) Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel 2007 (California). Always an affordable favorite with consistent quality; blackberry, black cherry and raspberry fruits with easy oak ($13)

(89) Alexander Valley Sin Zin 2007 (California). Ripe red berries on the nose and a mouthful of raspberries, strawberries and pepper; soft luscious finish. ($20)

(89) Rosenblum Cuvee Michelle Zinfandel N/V (California). The intense palate offers up concentrated flavors of blackberry, licorice and espresso with hints of other spices like cinnamon; followed by a spicy medium to long finish. ($12)

(88) Plungerhead Lodi Zinfandel 2008 (California). Dark fruit, featuring dark berries, spice, pepper and fairly big tannins; a pleasantly long finish. ($18)

(88) Alexander Valley Vineyards Temptation Zinfandel 2007 (California). Bright jammy fruit flavors on a medium-bodied frame with nice spice notes; a great value. ($12)

(88) Estancia Paso Robles Zinfandel 2006 (California). Garnet color; black cherry and plum aromas, with some vanilla, follow through on the palate to a satisfying finish. ($15)

(87) Barefoot Cellars Lodi Zinfandel NV (California). An excellent entry level wine; ripe, smooth and inviting; bring on the ribs and the chili. ($6)

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