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Aging potential for Zins


ademello
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I recently purchased a fair quantity of the following zins:

  • A. Raffaneli 2002
  • Turley Old Vines 2002
  • Rosenblum Continente 2002
  • Rosenblum Carla's Vineyard
  • C.J. di Arie 2002

My question is, do I have to drink all of these wines within the next year or so? Will any of them age well? I love the fruity zestiness of young Zins but I would also like to keep some of these around for a few years. Does anyone have any experience aging zins?

Would really appreciate any advice on this subject.

I'm also sitting on a few bottles of Ravenswood Old Hill Zinfandel 1998 - should I drink them now?

Thanks in advance.

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I recently did a flight of Ravenswood, from '94 to '00 zins and found the older ones definitely wanting.

Part of the conundrum of sitting on Zinfandel is that what makes Zin such a desirable wine (for most folks) is the fact that it is IN YOUR FACE with spice and zest. This goes away the longer you sit on it.

Now that is not necessarily a bad thing -- it is a matter of what YOU like in your wines. In April or May of every year, Gundlach Bundschu releases its new Zinfandels with a release party that includes tastes of their library Zins. Last year, I was buying up some of their 97 Sonoma Valley Zin and 98 Morse Zin. I love how they had aged!

I am also sitting on a few 97 Zins that I will probably open up this winter. Usually, I definitely wouldn't go more than five years in aging a zin but a lot of that has to do with knowing the producer.

In April, I opened a vineyard flight of 1998 Renwood Zins (a lovely boxed set). They were just so-so -- the GrandPere was the winner.

Hope that helps!

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Thanks Carolyn - I recently tasted the Turley 2002 Old Vines and I loved how deep, fruity, thick and almost port-like it was. My gut feeling was that the wine would age fairly well, at least for the next few years. Do you think it will lose its fruit?

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I don't think it will lose as much fruit as it does spice. It will mellow a bit and could get bricky and/or bretty (that barn-yard sort of age that some really like). If you really loved how deep and port-like it was when you tasted it, than I would drink it in that state. What if you don't like it when it gets older? Than you just have a great memory of what was.

Something Shawn and I have done with several bottles that we find and like -- we buy a whole case and pick a specific weekend every year. Then we open that particular bottle that weekend every year. We keep good notes and have been able to gauge the age-worthiness of some wines and wineries with this method. Sometimes, we are pleasantly surprised when, five or six years later, a wine becomes truly exceptional. Then, by year eight or nine, we learn that it should have all been opened in XXXX year.

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Of the wines mentioned, most have a life of 5-7 years. However, if you get your hands on some Ridge Zinfandel (try the different appellations), then you have a keeper.

I recently opened a 1969 Ridge Mountain Zinfandel. It was one of the most spectacular wines I ever tasted and will probably last another 5 years or better. Others that will age well inlcude GB, Martini and some from the Amador Foothills.

Edited by rich (log)

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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I recently went to a Zin tasting and Paul Draper of Ridge was saying he likes to age Lytton Springs for 10 years. He knows better than I, but I would guess the Turley would age nicely for 10 years. That being said I would taste the wines every year or 2, because I find we each have differrent preferences for aging.

Ed McAniff

A Taster's Journey

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That's a good point you make Carolyn - the only reason why I would keep them is not so much \ to age them, but to be able to taste it the way I first tasted it a few years later. Then again, with so many great wines out there, there's so much more to look forward to! Thanks for all the advice, folks. I have a little less than four cases of the Turley, so I'll have plenty of opportunity to figure out if it was worth aging or not.

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So much to comment on here. But the obvious question is do you like mature zinfandel? Some people quite frankly don't. They want the in your faceness that Carolyn descritbes. If you do, these wines may not be the ones to stow away.

Turley does not benefit from age in my opinion. These wines are such high alcohol that the freshness and vibrancy of the youthful fruit dissipates rather quickly. Especially the California Old Vines label.

A. Rafanelli shows so well when young, I've never really let them age much.

Rosenblum can go to the 5-7 year window.

I don't have experience with the other.

I've had a few producers' zins that I think improve with age. Ridge has already been mentioned. I've posted not long ago on the Cline Fulton Road, which is quite nice right now. Some, not all, Ravenswood -- particularly Old Hill, and Cooke (although the latter hasn't been made in a while). Fanucchi can go some distance. So can Terraces. So can Forchini.

Again, most people don't cellar zinfandel for long periods of time. The best thing to do would be to try some older ones and see if they are ones you like. Then I would buy those labels because not all zin will age well.

We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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Piling on...

Rosenblum's top wines will keep for around five years but I don't find they improve much even within that time frame. Beyond five years, watch out. I opened my last bottle of the 1993 Hendry Vineyard a few months ago and it was a shell of its former self. Ditto the '94. Both wines were most enjoyable within two or three years of release.

Based on my limited experience and much anecdotal evidence, Turley zins don't age. Even four or five years is pushing it. I suspect it's a question of balance or lack thereof (and the balancing act between extraction and alcohol that makes them so compelling in their youth ain't what I'm talking about). If you have nearly four cases (!), I'd suggest tracking them on a monthly basis and preparing to organize a blow-out at the first sign of crack-up.

By the way, I love old zins and am only now beginning to open my Ridge Lytton Springs, Geyservilles and Essences from the early '90s. But, as Carolyn points out, they are exceptions. And bear in mind that the first two are essentially zin-dominated field blends containing a healthy percentage of grape varieties like petite sirah that provide tannic backbone and increase their aging potential.

edit: it's sirah not syrah...

Edited by carswell (log)
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I pretty much drink all of my Zinfandel early.

In fact, I don't think I currently have anything older than a 2001, as I pretty much drink what I buy right away and don't cellar anything. Several have already touched on this, but I don't want to miss out on all that juicy fruit and spice that might fade with age. Your mileage may vary, of course, but to me, that is the appeal of Zin.

But, that's just me! :biggrin:

All the best,

Jean

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In April, I opened a vineyard flight of 1998 Renwood Zins (a lovely boxed set). They were just so-so -- the GrandPere was the winner.

Carolyn, the '98 Renwood Grandpere was one of my all-time favorite Zinfandels. None of mine lived to see any great age, but I am sure I went through close to a case of it. I loved that stuff!

Jean

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The best collection of old zins (in my opinion) can be found at Bern's Restaurant in Tampa, Florida. The selections they offer (and at the price) is nothing less than spectacular. It's worth the airfare just to have dinner and an old zin. Nothing goes better with their Delmonico cut (medium rare to rare) than an old zin.

Among other reasons, that's why Bern's is certainly one of the top five restaurants in the world.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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Everyone's said everything that needs to be said already, but I might want

to add a small point:

Years ago, many California producers treated Zin differently than their

other red wines. Zin was the fun and juicy wine that was often released

first of the vintage, and (outside of those that were taking it seriously),

wasn't taken very seriously.

These days, more and more Zin producers are treating it like Cabernet;

giving it more oak, releasing it later, and giving it higher prices. With

that comes an implied "you can cellar this!", but I don't think that's

necessarily the case. As others have pointed out; the ripe style and the

high alcohols don't give much hope for aging; no matter how much wood you

slap on it. And in general, since fruit is the first thing to fade when a

wine is aged, and these tend to be fruity, juicy wines, aging is a big

gamble.

"Why does man kill? He kills for food. And not only food: frequently there must be a beverage."

Woody Allen

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Hey, wait for me! Ditto on the alcohol and fruitiness issues. I'd also like to add that back in the '60s and '70s Paul Draper bucked the 'fruity zin' trend and began making heavily tannic zins--many of which have aged beautifully. Reviewers at the time ridiculed the idea that zin had enough tannin and balance to go the distance. Producers followed Draper's example, but often overdid it in a race to produce the ultimate tannic zin--they were also trying to compete with cabernets--but many of those wines did not have the crisp acids and bright fruit necessary for longevity, so . . . they turned into wonderfully tannic dust. Which reviewers gleefully pointed out later.

Thanks to Draper we now know that certain vineyards can produce potentially long lived zins, if the berries can be coaxed to ripeness while sugar levels are still relatively low, which is extremely difficult in zin. A zin with aging potentially generally tastes sharp and astringent when young compared to other releases. Look for fresh, spicy tannins; minimal oak; bright acids; fresh summer fruit flavors like strawberry, cherry and raspberry as opposed to overripe plum or jam flavors; plenty of pepper; and 12-14% alcohol.

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Mary Baker

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Look for fresh, spicy tannins; minimal oak; bright acids; fresh summer fruit flavors like strawberry, cherry and raspberry as opposed to overripe plum or jam flavors; plenty of pepper; and 12-14% alcohol.

Great advice. But minimal oak? Everything is relative, I guess. While Ridge may not be as over the top as the "Care for some zin with your oak juice?" winemakers, the oak regimen isn't exactly minimal. Indeed, a healthy shot of American oak is a key component of the Draper perfume™.

Edited by carswell (log)
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Funny, I read this after drinking a bottle of 1990 Ridge Howel Mtn, and despite a small "donut" in the middle was pretty fresh, with good pepper on the nose and decent length. Had with a Charlie Trotter pork loin stuffed with dried fruit and it was perfect.

Also had a 1993 Turley Duarte the other day and it had great spice, tar, lots of brambly fruit and was not disappointed at all. A '96 Ridge Jimsomare , arguably not old, was soft but quite complex and had a fair amount of blackberry & blueberry jamminess.

My biggest disappointment on the Zin longevity scale has to be Biale, a few years ago I drank two different '94s and they were well over the hill. And they're now ridiculously expensive, $70 or something?

Anyway, this is my first posting ever, so be nice to me! After this anything goes.

Cheers,

Vaughan

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I think it depends on the winery as to its aging potential. Last year when we were out in Sonoma Mazzocco was offering some of their library wines. We brought some of the '90 zin home and they were absolutely wonderful.

Best,

Mike

Edited by mike volker (log)
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Welcome Vaughan and Mike.

I'm a little surprsied about the 93 Turley Duarte. I had the 93 Turley Aida side by side with the 97 Aida. This was back in 1999. That really showcased the fading of the 93, which came across as thinner and more alcoholic.

We cannot employ the mind to advantage when we are filled with excessive food and drink - Cicero

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As a long time lover of Zinfandel I have come to a few conclusions.

Most but not all are best enjoyed not more than 5-7 years from the vintage.

Much of the the varietal character I like in Zin is gone after the 5-6 year mark.

Exceptions to the rule are Storybook Mountain, some mid 80's Grgich zins and Ridge Lytton/Geyserville,1995 Turley Aida.( there will be a few others that I forgot and will remember at 2am but it's still a short list) I shared a 91 Lytton Spring earlier this year with friends and it was magnificent.

I agree with Vaughan about the Biale wines, I sold them to Vaughan and they went over the cliff faster than Thelma and Louise. :smile: The 93 Aldo's tasted like $3.00 Pinot Noir about 12 months after it's release. I've seen milk last longer.

If you like the opulent fruit drink em. I always say "I would rather drink a wine 2 years too early rather than 1 day too late".

If it's slower than me.

Dumber than me.

And tastes good.

Pass the salt.

Anthony Bourdain

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