They don’t give awards at the annual Zinfandel Advocates and Producers Grand Tasting, but if they did I’d nominate Brown Estate for the top spot in 2012.
The estate-grown wine, from a five-acre plot in Napa’s Chiles Valley, exhibits a solid core of sweet red fruit and that lingered for a full 30 seconds on the palate. It was as smooth and creamy as it was delicious, with a lovely floral nose that was intoxicating. The wine spent a year in oak, half French and half American with 30 percent new barrels.
Crowded Field for Second
Several wines competed for second on my list, including a barrel sample of Acorn Winery’s 2010 Zinfandel from its Alegria Vineyard in the Russian River Valley.
This $40 Sonoma wine did not have quite the concentration and ripe fruit of the Brown Estate, but it did show a bit more complexity. I’d expect it to be even better upon release to the public.
Frank Family Vineyards 2009 Napa Valley Zin was another favorite. This spicy, deep purple wine comes from a Napa winery that’s used to excellence in both its red and white wine programs. The zinfandel showed beautiful, bright red fruit flavors (raspberries and plums come to mind) married with a streak of acidity needed to provide balance.
Gregory Graham‘s 2009 Zinfandel from his Crimson Hill Vineyard in Lake County also showed well at ZAP. Red and black fruits combined for a luscious taste in this $24 bottle that includes five percent petite sirah. Click here to read more about Gregory Graham.
I’m a long-time fan of Paso Robles Opolo Vineyards, but I had never tasted any of their reserve wine until the ZAP festival.
I love the Opolo 2010 Reserve Zinfandel ($45) which is as complete a zinfandel as I have tried from the Central Coast. The finely focused red/black fruits come in a smooth-tasting package with just enough spice to make it interesting. Tannins are seamless.
It’s ready for drinking now, but will surely get even better with another year or two in bottle.
Another first-time taste from a legendary producer caught my eye. It was the 2009 Carmichael Ranch Zinfandel, one of 11 zinfandels made by Ridge Vineyards. This is a very smooth offering from Sonoma County with no hard edges.
The flavor profile edges into plum/cherry territory and it’s a delightful mouthful of juice that includes eight percent petite sirah.
Valdez Family Winery worked magic with the 2009 St. Peter’s Church Vineyard Zinfandel from Alexander Valley.
The wine, made from a plot of century-old zin vines owned by the Catholic church in Cloverdale, is an exquisite bottle of red wine. It shows hints of mint and spiciness plus rich red fruit from the low-yielding vines.
Two Easy-Drinking Bargains
Sledgehammer’s 2009 California Zinfandel, made mostly from Lake County fruit, is a great buy at $16. It’s fruit-forward, but not over the top with too much sweetness.
Another bargain sipper comes from Chronic Cellars in Paso Robles. The Purple Paradise ($15) is mostly zinfandel with some petite sirah blended to give it a bit more backbone.
Try either of these wines with grilled burgers, pasta or pizza to elevate the meal without blowing your budget.