For lovers of Zinfandel from California, there are two important functions on the “must do” list. Zinfest, sponsored by the Lodi Wine Commission (www.lodiwine.com) is generally a May event in Lodi. The Zinfandel Experience, usually held in San Francisco in January, is sponsored by Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (www.zinfandel.org). Between these two events, you can taste some marvelous wines and learn about the variety of Zinfandel styles from our California vineyards and winemakers. I’m focusing here on Lodi Zinfandels to encourage you to go to Zinfest.
Some of my favorite Zinfandels are designed “Old Vine.” Those are wines made from vines planted pre-prohibition, before 1930. Some old vine roots go as deep as 25 feet so there is consistent access to moisture regardless of whether the year is wet or dry. Roots which reach through several layers of soil yield special fruit and this is reflected in the wines.
Macchia’s 2012 Old Vine Zinfandel “Michievous” comes from five different old vine vineyards near the winery in Acampo, Lodi AVA. This wine has the classic fruit-forward characteristic of Lodi Zinfandel, and is a lovely deep-hued wine. There are rich ripe berry flavors and a hint of soft vanilla. 15.5 percent alcohol. $20 the bottle. www.macchiawines.com
McCay Cellars 2009 Truluck’s Jupiter comes from a vineyard on the west side of Lodi with 80 year old vines inter-planted with 40 year old vines. The resulting wine is beautifully structured with layers of flavors like blackberry, black cherry and cola. It is both spicy and fruity, and round on the palate. This well balanced Zinfandel has soft tannins, a nice acidity, and a long finish. 14.6 percent alcohol. $32 the bottle. www.mccaycellars.com
d'art Winery, located in Lodi, is known for its hand crafted wines. Dave Dart, an artist who is also the winemaker at d’Art, sourced fruit from vines 85 to 125 years old for his 2011 Zinfandel. It is a peppery, fruity Zinfandel that spent 18 months in American oak barrels. 16 per cent alcohol. $24 the bottle. www.dartwines.com
Toasted Toad Cellars fruit for its 2010 Zinfandel came from the Clements Hills area of Lodi, near the Mokelumne River This yummy Zinfandel is bursting with ripe berry flavor, vanilla and spice, and has a deep red color and lasting finish. Despite the high alcohol (17.2 per cent), which winemaker Jeff Werter purposely decided to not water back to a lower rate, this wine is perfectly balanced. $24 the bottle. www.toastedtoadcellars.com
Zinfandel can be a blending grape too. Harney Lane Winery, Lodi, does a nice job with its 2012 Dry Rose, using Zinfandel, Tempranillo and Petite Sirah. Warm weather is not far away. Grab some of this. 13.9 percent alcohol. $17 the bottle. www.harneylane.com