At 143 years of age, the Original Grandpere Vineyard in the Sierra Foothills is the oldest documented Zinfandel vineyard in California, and it still produces wines of high quality.
Combining the pleasantly mineral and grippy character of Carignane with rounder notes from five other grape varieties, this inexpensive offering from Bonny Doon is rather easy-going, despite the contrarian attitude implied in the name (which also refers to Contra Costa County, where most of the grapes come from). That contradictory character may be found in the fact that it is, in fact, so lovely and elegant and pleasant to drink, despite having fairly moderate alcohol (13.5%) and none of the overbearing fruit that so many Californian wines (certainly in that price range) would have you believe is balanced. At $14, there’s a lot of great stuff in there. A great deal—and just a really pleasant wine to drink. Recommended. RC
The bottle says 14.5% alcohol. My nose and eyeballs suspect if might be well north of 15%. This is a big wine, with brawny red fruits, a bowl of mixed cherries ranging from barely ripe to nearly black and strawberries to match, fighting it out with blackberries in a ring made of American Oak, refereed by a box of raisins. Sweet dusty tannins abound, but there is enough acid to match. This might settle down and blend together with a few years in the cellar. It is more a stand-alone snack than a food wine, but if you must, match it with a very sloppy cheese steak sandwich. Recommended.
A mouthful of wine, this Zin is a moderate (by today's standards) 14.8% alcohol, but has loads of black fruit, cocoa, and coffee. The nose is slightly vegetal, suggesting perhaps some whole cluster fermentation. Blackberries on attack are followed by raspberries on the mid-palate and finish. Black pepper runs under everything from attack to finish. On the mid-palate, first mocha, then dark chocolate, come through. The long finish tastes of dark chocolate and dusty tannins. Drink with well smoked pork ribs. Recommended.
California hardly conjures up an image of a wine region struggling with an identity crisis. But there are areas of the Golden State that have never fully defined a winemaking niche.