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Zinfandel’s Home In California

Sample This Zinfandel Collection In

Great Falls

McLean

Vienna

Zinfandel is often thought of as a quintessentially American grape, and this is certainly the case today. Despite Zinfandel gaining its place is the American wine market, the grape originated from Croatia eventually making its way to California. Napa Valley and the Sierra Foothills are home to some of the most sought-after Zins, and below, let’s examine a few examples that show how Zinfandel deserves attention from Cabernet and Pinot drinkers alike. Also, the wines mentioned below are listed above!

Napa Valley hosts some of the most expensive Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the country; however, Zinfandel was the dominant grape in subregions of Napa, such as Howell Mountain, until the late 20th century. Howell Mountain is an excellent growing environment for Zins, as it is over 1,600 feet in elevation, has cooling winds from the Pacific, and has a diverse array of soil types. Zinfandel does well in a variety of climate, but when the weather is consistently too hot, Zinfandel berries tend to become overripe, leading to jammy and unstructured wines. The cooling influences on Howell Mountain allow the grapes to retain their acidic content, making them both age worthy as well as complex. A perfect example of Zin from Howell Mountain is the Lamborn Family’s “Happy Dirt” made by one of the best winemakers in North America, Heidi Barrett. Barrett is behind Screaming Eagle, which is some of the most expensive Cabernet Sauvignon on the planet. Her skills extend well beyond that one variety, and in the “Happy Dirt,” Barrett shows was mountain Zin can be. According to Barrett, the wine “is rich blackberry in color open aromas of layered cherry and ripe raspberry, complemented by a seductive spice and mineral character…An exceptional example of mountaintop Zinfandel, the Lamborn vineyard is definitely in a league of its own.” For us, this is a wine that must be experienced, and it is perfect for Napa Cab drinkers that want a slight twist to their usual wine selection.  

Heidi and Bo Barrett in Napa Valley from Barrett Wines: http://www.barrettwines.com/

If we travel a bit further south within the state of California, we arrive in the Sierra Foothills, and, more specifically, Amador County. Amador County is where Easton produces one of the more celebrated Zinfandels at a more modest price point. Easton’s 2015 Amador Zinfandel is was #45 on Wine Spectators Top 100 Wine of 2018, and we can see why! According to Easton’s National Sales Manager for Easton and Terre Rouge Wine, Les Doss, Amador County is one of the best growing regions for Zinfandel in California. He notes that “this is Amador Mountain Zin where you’re actually going to have tannin and structure, something that lowland, coastal Zin usually doesn’t have a lot of…its all fruit.” Here, is where we can once again see the importance of cooling influences (such as altitude) on the structure of Zinfandel. Winemaker Bill Easton has this down to a science, and his 2015 is a benchmark for California Zinfandel. If you love Paso Cab or even cooler climates like Washington State, this Zin is a must-try.

Counties of the Sierra Foothills from Gallo University on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/158963061821368214/

As mentioned above, Zinfandel eventually made its way to the States from Croatia, and the mid-nineteenthcentury witness a huge influx of Zinfandel vines in California. Truly remarkably, some of these vineyards still are producing excellent fruit and Andis Wines’ 2017 “Original Grandpere Vineyard” Zinfandel is using fruit of vines that were planted all the way back in 1869. The Grandpere Vineyard is potentially the oldest still-operating Zinfandel vineyard in America, and what results are wines of amazing complexity. Full of structure from Amador’s climate, a mix of red and slightly dark fruits, along with notes of sweet tobacco and spice, this is a wine for all red wine drinkers to appreciate. Try this Zin side-by-side with Easton’s 2015 to see the differing results old vines can produce in Zinfandel.

The Original Grandpere Vineyard from Taste California: https://www.tastecaliforniatravel.com/drink/wine/item/2218-amador

All of the wines mentioned above can be found at our three location in the links at the top, happy sipping, and cheers!

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