Foppiano Vineyards, Zinfandel 2004

by Tim Elliott on December 13, 2007

Longtime readers and listeners know about my love of Zinfandel. In fact, the most reviewed varietal here is this California transplant from the Old World. My love for Zinfandel started right when I got into wine in 1982. Most of the first wines I tried were either from Napa Valley (Cabs and Merlot) or Bordeaux (indifferent bottlings of third rate wine). While I liked some of what I was drinking, I gravitated toward wines with more fruit. Then I had a Zinfandel from Lytton Springs Vineyard. This was before Ridge bought them and I was hooked. Sebastiani Zinfandel became my house wine for all of $2.50 a bottle; ah, the good old days…

Aside from Ridge and Sebastiani another name stood out for Zin in my formative wine years: Foppiano. A family winery for more than 100 years, this Sonoma winery produces some of the best Petite Sirah and Cabernet in Sonoma. I’ve also enjoyed their Zinfandel over the years but have not had the opportunity to taste a recent vintage until they sent me some samples recently. And I’m glad they did as this is one of the better Zins under $20 now in wide release.

Foppiano Vineyards, Zinfandel 2004Foppiano Vineyards, Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley 2004 ($15/sample) – Medium purple in color with aromas of blackberry, black raspberry, fennel and vanilla. Nice dark cherry and blackberry fruit flavors with cracked black pepper and moderate tannins. Textbook, old-school Sonoma Zin.

14.5% ABV

Natural cork closure

Score: 87

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy this wine online

Ridge, Zinfandel, Geyserville 2005

by Tim Elliott on November 19, 2007

Ridge Geyserville Zinfandel 2005When the wine bug first bit me back in the early 1980′s, Zinfandel became my favorite varietal in large part due to the wines of Ridge Vineyards. Their field blend from the Geyserville vineyard in the Alexander Valley AVA of Sonoma County soon became the benchmark that other Zinfandels were judged.

Although I also greatly admire the Ridge Lytton Springs bottling, I always come back to Geyserville for the power and elegance that could only come from old vine Zinfandel, Carignan and Petite Sirah grown in this vineyard. Over the years the wines have been distinct and very malleable to the vintage but the layers of dark fruit flavor is always represented. So this wine was the natural choice for me to pickup to celebrate my birthday this past weekend.

Ridge Vineyards, Zinfandel, Geyserville 2005 ($34) – A field blend of 77% Zinfandel, 17% Carignane and 6% Petite Sirah. Very deep black-purple color with aromas of blackberry, kirsch, sage, fennel and cedar. The palate is classic Geyserville, with layers of dark fruit — blackberry, black cherry, black raspberry — supported by black pepper and spices. The tannins are firm but nicely integrated making the wine well balanced and very enjoyable right now. I would also expect this to age well over the next 8 to 10 years.

14.6% ABV
Natural cork closure
Score: 94
Rating: 4/5 stars

Buy this wine online.


Peterson, Zinfandel, “Tradizionale” 2002

by Tim Elliott on June 20, 2007

Wine: Peterson, Zinfandel, “Tradizionale” 2002

Added on: 06/20/2007

Notes: This Zin from one of my favorite Dry Creek wineries is a traditional “field blend” where other varletials are intermixed in the vineyard and fermented together. This practice dates from the 19th Century where Italian immigrants practiced techniques similar to their homeland. Over 90% of this blend is Zinfandel with Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouschet, Carignane, Semillon, Palomino and Chasselas mixed in. The last three varieties are whites which is used to add aromatics and help extract color during fermentation from the red grapes. The Peterson’s like to season their reds with a fair amount of American oak but this wine seemed to have a lighter hand in this area; perhaps it’s also the age of the wine where the oak component is nicely integrated.

Tasting Notes:

Deep ruby in color with aromas of black raspberry, sage, vanilla and licorice. Well balanced bramble fruit with black pepper and spice finishing with moderate tannins. Very nice, old school Zin and a good value.

14.7% ABV
Natural cork closure
Score: 87


Rating: 4

ZAP on the road!

by Tim Elliott on May 4, 2007

ZAP logoI’ve been meaning to mention that ZAP is not just about their big tasting in San Francisco in January or their other events in California, but they take their wines on the road and visit a number of cities across the U.S.

Their spring tour is in full swing this week with stops in Austin, Texas on May 8th, Phoenix, Arizona on May 10th and my hometown of Minneapolis on May 11-12. Get all the details at the ZAP website. If you are a zinophile like me, you will want to attend these tastings.

For Twin Cities readers and listeners, I’ll be at the Zinposium and Grand Tasting next Friday evening. Feel free to interrupt my spitting and scribbling anytime… and, yes, that long delayed ZAP podcast is in the works for posting next weekend. Think of it as the best of ZAP, coast to prairie ;-)

WBW 32: Regular vs. Reserve

by Tim Elliott on April 11, 2007

The theme for this month’s virtual tasting seemed deceptively simple. Find two wines from the same producer, varietal and vintage; one the regular release, the other the “reserve” and compare them. Is the reserve worth the extra money or not? Nice and simple but the only problem is finding synchronized vintages in the stores which I think will be a problem for a lot of participants this time.

In the four stores I visited, I only found a couple of options (ironically in the same store). The first were a couple of Rosemount Chardonnays from 2005; the regular Diamond label, the other their “Show Reserve”. I’ve had the “Show Reserve” Rosemount wines in the past and thought they were generally worth the price difference but trying a $25 Chardonnay against their $8 Chardonnay didn’t seem too interesting to me. And the bottles were standing up on the shelf for who-knows how long. The second choice ended up being my selection here. Two Rancho Zabaco Zinfandel’s from Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley. Although the regular release was the 2004 vintage, I was able to spot a single bottle of the 2003 in the bottom of the bin to compare with the ’03 “reserve”.

The term “reserve” is used by many wineries but in my experience there are two usage methodologies. The first is just branding to imply higher quality for lower-end wines. You’ll see term this used on Yellowtail, Columbia Crest and other popular brands to separate those from their entry priced wines. Many times the wine in the bottle is not that different from the regular release. The second methodology is used by several established Napa Valley wineries where “Reserve” or “Private Reserve” is used to designate their best wines. At one of the better local stores they stocked nearly a complete 1990′s vertical for Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, but were selling the 2003 vintage of the regular release (the reserves were also $95 a bottle and up so I probably would not have gone in this direction had they stocked the 1999 Beringer Cab to match with the youngest reserve in stock). The wines I ended up with are probably somewhere in between these two usages of the term so I thought it was a pretty decent choice. I also like Zinfandel quite a bit and haven’t had this brand recently.

Rancho Zabaco is one of the many Gallo sub-brands used for Zinfandel, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah. Their ubiquitous “Dancing Bull” bottling gives the Ravenswood Vintner’s Blend brand a run for the money in the $8 and under range of Zinfandel. But they aspire to higher levels of Zin and each of the wines I selected tonight is from this upper tier.

Rancho Zabaco ZinTasting Notes:

Rancho Zabaco, Zinfandel, “Sonoma Heritage Vines”, Dry Creek Valley 2003 ($15) – Dark garnet-purple in color with aromas of black raspberry, sage and vanilla. Rich in the mouth with very ripe blackberry fruit, black pepper and spice finishing with supple tannins. A very nice soft and jammy Zin for the money.

14.3% ABV
Natural cork closure
Score: 87

Rancho Zabaco, Zinfandel, “Sonoma Reserve”, Dry Creek Valley 2003* ($22) – Dark purple-black in color with aromas of blackberry, sage and spice. Blackberry, black pepper and spice flavors finishing with medium firm tannins and a bit of heat. More structured than the regular release with nice body but not nearly as jammy in the fruit department. The heat is the main difference here.

14.5% ABV
Natural cork closure
Score: 85

So is the “reserve” better than the regular release? Not in this tasting although the wines are very similar. The regular release is a softer wine with less of a tannic backbone but a lot more ripe fruit. The reserve is more of a structured Dry Creek Zin with hard angles but some heat on the finish. Each wine is recommended but the regular “Heritage Vines” release is the best value here as for $22 there are much better Zin’s to be had on the market.

Thanks to the folks at the Wine Cask blog for an interesting theme and I’ll see you all next month for what I hope is a bit easier theme ;-)

* The first bottle of this wine was corked so I only tasted this wine over one night. The other wine was tasted over two nights and the notes and score was a composite.

Quick Picks 6 – Chase Cellars Zinfandel

by Tim Elliott on February 28, 2007

Chase Family Cellars ZinfandelQuick Picks rolls into 2007 with a look at the standout Zinfandels from Chase Family Cellars tasted at last month’s ZAP tasting in San Francisco.

Tasting notes:

Chase Family Cellars, Zinfandel, Hayne Vineyard 2004 ($45) – Ruby-purple in color with aromas of raspberry, blackberry and spice. Ripe blackberry and black cherry fruit flavors with black pepper finishing elegant and very balanced with medium-firm tannins. A real fruit bomb but has enough structure for further aging.

Score: 91

Chase Family Cellars, Zinfandel, Hayne Vineyard “Reserve” 2004 ($75) – Dark purple in color with intense aromas of blackberry jam, raspberry and licorice. In the mouth, there is rich blackberry and black cherry fruit along with white pepper and spices finishing very smooth and long with well integrated tannins. Perhaps the best Zinfandel I’ve ever had. Only 100 cases produced.

Score: 95

Show Notes:

00:04 – Welcome and winery background
01:30 – Chase Family Cellars, Zinfandel, Hayne Vineyard 2004
02:12 – Chase Family Cellars, Zinfandel, Hayne Vineyard “Reserve” 2004
03:29 – Contact details

Feedback: winecast@gmail.com
Copyright 2007 Acan Media, Inc. Licensed to the public under Creative Commons.

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