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Zinfandel novice


lamington
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I've only twice drunk Zinfandel, both cheap exported exemplars -- one was bigger than ben hur in the berry department, but a pleasant experience once one got over the shock. The other tasted like undiluted raisin juice. Blurk.

Heading to San Diego next week for a few days and would love the opportunity to pick up one or two useful examples of "classic" (or contrasting) exemplars. What do people think it *should* be? I accept that zinf is not to everyone's taste, but i want to see where this curiosity will lead me.

* Price tag would have to be below about $25, rather less if I'm looking at multiple bottles -- I'll most likely be drinking this alone or with undiscerning drinkers (I wouldn't call myself discerning either, but am attempting some self-education :cool: ), AND I have no idea of what food will be around, so best to assume no accompaniment

* Needs to be readily obtainable in San Diego

Thanks in advance:)

-- lamington a.k.a. Duncan Markham

The Gastronomer's Bookshelf - collaborative book reviews about all things food and wine

Syrup & Tang - candid commentary and flavourful fancies

"It's healthy. It's cake. It's chocolate cake."

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I've only twice drunk Zinfandel, both cheap exported exemplars -- one was bigger than ben hur in the berry department, but a pleasant experience once one got over the shock. The other tasted like undiluted raisin juice. Blurk.

Heading to San Diego next week for a few days and would love the opportunity to pick up one or two useful examples of "classic" (or contrasting) exemplars. What do people think it *should* be? I accept that zinf is not to everyone's taste, but i want to see where this curiosity will lead me.

* Price tag would have to be below about $25, rather less if I'm looking at multiple bottles -- I'll most likely be drinking this alone or with undiscerning drinkers (I wouldn't call myself discerning either, but am attempting some self-education :cool: ), AND I have no idea of what food will be around, so best to assume no accompaniment

* Needs to be readily obtainable in San Diego

Thanks in advance:)

In that price range I'd suggest the 2003 Seghesio Sonoma County Sonoma or if you can find it, the Rosenblum Zinfandel Paso Robles Richard Sauret Vineyards. Or go up a couple of dollars to the Rosenblum Zinfandel Rockpile Road Vineyard, the Ridge Dry Creek Valley Lytton Springs or Ridge Paso Robles Dusi Ranch.

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I am one who was not wild about Zinfandel when I first experienced them.

Initially, I was not a fan but over the years and after tasting many,

I now appreciate them.

At their best, Zinfandel provides a lot of immediate pleasure

(some do age well but this is the exception not the rule).

The key is loads of ripe fruit (the best seem to come from the hotter climes of

California---Dry Creek in Sonoma for eg) a medium to heavy body, notes of pepper and spice.

You will also get (because of the ripeness of the fruit) relatively high alcohol levels.

The key to the better examples is how the fruit balances the alcohol--that is--how much do you notice the alcohol?

These wines are not really complex wines on the nose or the palate but some can be suprising in having some added depth beyond the luscious fruit.

They are also fairly broad in delivering this fruit. There is not a lot of structure or backbone though, again, some will suprise here. Some will have spicy, peppery notes, some herbs (watch out for too prominent herbal notes--not good). Most will have oak flavors --vanilla etc but you don't want too much so the fruit is masked also they should not be overly tannic.

Prunes and raisin notes but these shouldn't dominate--the fruit should be the main thing and it should have a freshness to it. Mouthfeel should be lush and glossy almost silken qualities.

Most of the recommendations here, thus far, are good. I would add Ravenswood (vintner's blend), Trentadue, Marietta Cellars (Old Vine Red), Peachy Canyon, etc.

There are quite a few good wines at reasonable prices.

If you can, try to taste one of the higher end examples from Turley, Martinelli, Biale, Ridge(Lytton springs), Ravenswood (Old Vines), Rosenblum (Rockpile). Though these offerings often start at around $50 --they are IMOP --about as good as Zinfandel can possibly get.

I think the key is to taste Zinfandel and appreciate it for what it is, not making comparisons to other wines and varietals. Look for examples that balance the high alcohol with fruit--it is really about the fruit here. Don't look for complexity but be prepared to be suprised. Acidity is also not what these wines are about but you want enough balance to focus the fruit on your palate. They should not be flabby.

As for food. Easy, really, big bold flavored food--grilled meats especially with a glaze (fruit and sweet sour spice hot pepper combinations). Duck or Venison.

Simple hamburgers or steaks.

A cool evening outdoors around the grill!

To me, Zinfandel is about simple flavors and enjoyment. I wouldn't get too intellectual about these wines. They are not wines to sip and ponder. They are not going to spark Proustian self awareness and contemplation.

They will, at their best, provide basic drinking pleasure--the very top examples will offer an initial wow factor and if you can be happy with that and not be concerned about finding the meaning of the universe in the glass--you will really enjoy them.

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Thanks everyone for your helpful and interesting comments and suggestions. (I'll be in 92108, dockhl.) I look forward to trying one or more of these while I'm over:)

-- lamington a.k.a. Duncan Markham

The Gastronomer's Bookshelf - collaborative book reviews about all things food and wine

Syrup & Tang - candid commentary and flavourful fancies

"It's healthy. It's cake. It's chocolate cake."

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