Sierra Vista 1996
Comes on bright, fruity, clear. Classic dark berry, not as tannic as some zins. Peaks on the swallow with a cherry flavor. Nice enough.
Berringer 1996 North Coast
Seems almost light for a zin. Doesn't jump for the nose and throat, very nice to the tongue. Swallows easy. Not iron-bodied, just a nice mix of fruit, leather and pepper. Smooth mouth feel. Tannins are present but well balanced.
Sierra Vista 1996 El Dorado
Very purple color, subtle bouquet, part ethanol and part fruit. Tastes at first of butter on the tongue, blackberry fruit, then anise on the swallow. Tannic is well under control. The finish isn't long, but a tasteful pause is still experienced.
Rosenblum Cellars 1997 Russian River Valley
VERY NICE: Big nose, comes on strong, almost like Vicks Vapor Rub; surprisingly sweet on the lips, usual tannic buzz on the throat and palate. The fruit is delicate and refined, however, with blackberry, currrant, dark cherry, black plum flavors and a touch of vanilla for delicacy. Nice long finish, then clean. A refined wine experience.
Foppiano 1997
A REAL ZIN: Plenty of tannic buzz, but cultured. An almost metallic twinge at first, but it settles down. Has a long finish. Initial sharpness gives way to heavy fruit, but trails off with an interesting vanilla effect. One needs to acquire a taste for this, a lot going on at once, but nonetheless interesting and complex.
Clos Du Bois 1997 Sonoma
Full nose. Hearty, lots of tannic buzz noticeable on the rear palate, even in the stomach! A bit of spice essence, much blackberry, almost sweet. Clean swallow, a touch of wood on the front palate. A smooth finish follows the initial tannic assault, but the mouth is left a bit puckered.
Seghesio 1998 Sonoma
Heavy body, rich, intense. Deep berry, nice tannic balance. A slight off-taste of "dirty sugar" or earthy mold on the lips, but then refines itself. Bit of an alcohol buzz before swallow. Clear finish.
Peachy Canyon 1998 Paso Robles
VERY GOOD: Pours with a strong nose. Quite smooth, tannins well under control. Deep currant, blackberry. Very consistent, no off-tones. Slight alcohol buzz after swallow, not very long. Just a hint of spice, a trail off of nutmeg or cardamom. Very good company.
Bogle 1998
Almost attacks the back of the throat at first, jumps out with peppery acid. Then tones down, becomes pleasant, almost sweet. Deep berry, nice mouth feel, not terribly tannic after all.
Montevina 1998
POLISHED: Rich nose. Very full, big even when still on the lips. Classic zinfandel plum, blackberry. Some tannic but relatively mild. Clean finish, not much after-taste. Overall quite nice, very well balanced, polished.
Fife 1998 Mendocino
Alcohol nose, big tannic buzz esp. on roof of palate, but not "huge" on the tongue. A touch of ester and vanilla, but otherwise plum, raisin, blueberry. Clean finish.
DeLoach 1998 Russian River Valley
Fruity nose. Big tannic buzz on the palate, delicate tastes on the tongue. A hint of vanilla mixed with blackberry and currant. A quick finish that nevertheless fades out gracefully. Just a hint of brighter cherry flavors. The usual tannicy zinfandel at first, but after a while, a well-balanced, somewhat subtle wine.
Franciscan Estate 1998 Oakville
Deep red color, opaque. Balanced nose, fruit, alcohol and licorice. Smooth mouthfeel, almost lush despite the tannins. Very round mouthfeel, typical zinfandel fruit i.e. prune, currant and blackberry. But a bit of sweetness, although not cloying or inappropriate. A long swallow, mellow wood resin tone in the backdrop, tannins and sourness balanced against sweetness and dark fruit flavors for complexity. A mellow overall impression.
Rancho Zabaco 1998 Sonoma Heritage
VERY PLEASANT: Big fruity nose, deep red color. Tannic/pepper is nicely balanced against an almost lush, delicate berry / cherry fruit. A hint of vanilla on the swallow adds to a flavorful experience. Well balanced, a decent interval for the finish, not all that complex, but a very pleasant experience overall.
Robert Mondavi 1998 North Coast
A fruity, rather big nose. Complex, but relatively soft. Tannic is present, but well balanced. Pepper, currant, cherry, leather, a hint of vanilla on the swallow. A good finish, not abrupt, although not all that long.
Rabbit Ridge 1999
Dark purple-red, big floral nose, almost minty. Strawberry on the lips, then heavier plum and currant flavors join in. Pleasant, but not long. Not very complex, not much to balance, but a decent experience overall.
Kenwood 1999 Somoma
Dark purple hue, a deep but bright nose. On the lips, a hint of anise, polished leather. Fruit is typically dark, i.e. currant and blackberry. Well rounded despite the usual zinfandel tannic onslaught, no rush to swallow. A somewhat buttery aftertaste. Not bad at all.
Nevada County Wine Guild 1999
DIFFERENT, ENJOYABLE: A dark, dense, opaque wine, truly "wine dark". Very round and full on the lips, blueberry and blackberry out in front. Tea flavors, with the usual zinfandel tannins, make for a long but surprisingly bright and spirited finish, almost brandy-like. Densely fruity, but not lush, not simple, not unsophisticated. Imagine blueberry brandy. Different, quite enjoyable.
Cline 2000
HEARTY, ROBUST: Clear, ruby-red. Big spicy nose. Big on the lips too, coming on strong. Black cherry and plum, well-mannered tannins, vanilla, good balance. A note of tobacco on the finish. The tannins make for a long swallow, more than 5 seconds. Overall, big, robust, a hearty experience.
Rancho Zabaco 2000 Dancing Bull
THIS AINT BULL: Spicy nose. Comes on fast on the lips and tongue. Fruit is currant, prunes, dark raisins, with some spice and vanilla, lending a sense of brandy-like aromatic brightness. Tannins are there, but are subdued. A relatively long swallow. Nicely balanced.
Saint Francis 1998 Old Vines Sonoma
Pours with a clear, slightly brownish-red appearance. The nose is bright with much vanilla. Presents the mouth with a rich feel. Excellent balance and a lengthly presence on the palate make for a long, rewarding swallow. The requisite zinfandel tannins are there, but quite muted. This wine is a bit dry, an October-like experience reminiscent of falling leaves, smoke and cold earth.
Sebastiani 2000 Sonoma
WHAT A RED SHOULD BE: An opaque purplish appearance. The nose is very fragrant, almost like floral soap. The wine comes on big but mellow, rich and full bodied. The tannins are demure. The fruit is blackberry, even blueberry. The backdrop is of bright, aromatic herbs, somewhat like Benedictine. The swallow seems quick and clean, but some fruity presence remains in the throat, with a closing touch of vanilla. This is a very nice, very rich and flavorful experience; just about everything a red wine should be!
Sierra Vista 1997 El Dorado, Reeves Vineyard
REFINED: Pours out with a dense ruby hue. The nose starts on a floral note, then deep, spicy and complex. Very comfortable in the mouth, subdued tannins. Not the biggest or most intense of zins -- actually rather subdued. Fruit is muted, a hint of raspberry, with spice and polished wood more prominent. Not a terribly long finish, some tannins left on the tongue. The start is nicer than the ending. Nonetheless, a refined experience.
Cline 2000 Live Oak Vinyard
A very dense purple hue and a demure nose that offers just a bit of fruit and vanilla. A tannicy start, more so on the palate than on the tongue, that persists all the way through the swallow. But behind all that lies a dense, rounded mix of fruit and polished wood. The tannins make for a long if not entirely smooth finish. The fruit is recessed blackberry and dark plum. This is a full bodied wine, but demure in certain ways. Quite good with food, but not really a "sippin" wine.
Vondange None!
MONGREL THAT DOESN'T BITE: I've drank some of the roughest, cheapest, most unrefined zinfandels out there, and I'm always up for a challenge. This mongrel sells for $4, so here goes. We pour a very dark wine, purple and brownish red. Its nose is interesting, somewhat like spearmint. In the mouth, it's a bit watery and sour, not surprisingly. But then again, not horrible, no blasts of tannin or acid. A bright spicy backdrop and a charry fruit base makes its presence felt. The dried, sour, stunted autumn leftovers seem to be the basis for this wine; but the vinter has nonetheless coaxed some hints of complexity, if not bigness. Not all that bad for a cheap wine, really.
Francis Coppola 2000 Diamond Series
QUINTESSENTIAL: Clear and dark red, with a big fragrant nose of vanilla and flowers. Gangbusters on the tongue: big, bright, deep, rich. The tannins are just about right for a zin, nicely balanced by lush caramel. The fruit tones are blueberry, blackberry and dark plum. The backdrop is of vanilla and cocoa. A quintessential zin, could be the picture in the dictionary on the Z page.
Redwood 2000 Sierra Series
Pours with a light ruby hue and a nice nose, promising a balance of fruit, spice, wood and spirit. The sip says yes, this is a zin, with tannins buzzing merrily upon the palate. Some vanilla, then dates and currant and black plum. Just before the swallow, a bright raspberry note and a hint of anise. A slow fade as the tannins wash away to a slightly bitter afterglow. Not a huge zin, somewhat demure. But a good table wine, a decent enough product.
Ravens Wood 2000 Belloni Russian River Valley
Pours with a dense purple hue that coats the glass. Presents a full fruity nose. But on the lips, a bit thin with a tannic-sour edge to it. Fruit tones of blackberry and currant emerge, with a hint of cocoa in the background ... along with the detergent smell of warm dish water. The finish is long enough, but the sour-tannic feeling hovers and controls the show. There is something missing with this wine, i.e. the lush richness that usually tempers the rough edges of a big zin. Perhaps this bottle didn't age well. This one seemed rather bare-boned.
Norman Vineyards 2000 The Classic, Paso Robles
Red-purple and dense, has a big, fragrant, tarry nose with a metallic edge. To the lips, mellow at first, but then the tannins kick in. Once they tone down, a rather light, delicate texture emerges along with blackberry fruit and a bit of graphite and pepper. The tannins lengthen the finish with a peppery fade out. The Classic has California sweetness but also has the typical French disregard for body. This one is somewhere between those two worlds, not necessarily the best of both.
Joel Gott 2001
Clear, light red hue, with a brandy-like nose. The wine itself seems bright, light but bright. I taste cherry, raspberry, polished wood, aromatic herbs like sage. The tannins are demure, but lead to a nice finish, with no abrupt transitions. What you sip is what you get. There's a brandy spirit-like backdrop all the while. This wine seems closer to a Bordeaux than to your usual California zin; it has much finesse, if not as much power and presence.
David Bruce 2000 Paso Robles
VERY VERY NICE: Pours out ruby red, with a strong, spicy nose, quite fragrant. Has a rich, velvety mouthfeel, with dark cherry fruit tones. A bit of sweetness balanced by tannins. Quite mellow . . . a backdrop of spice, flowers, shoe polish. An easy swallow leaves a rich, satisfying feeling. A very, very nice wine. Mr. Bruce has lived up to expectations in this offering.
Bogle 2002 Old Vine
A clear, purple-red color for the eye, a nice bouquet of licorice and spice for the nose. Comes on like a true zin, rich and caramelly with a tannic buzz close behind. It starts sweet but soon fades into darker fruit tones of currant and dates. There's just a hint of spearmint-like brightness and polished leather. Then on the finish, things get a bit thin, with tastes of tea and tobacco. A rather complex presentation, starting out sweet and rich, but ending thin and astringic. Overall, though, a decent enough zin experience.
Norman Vineyards 2001 The Monster
TRUE ZIN: In the glass, a dense garnet color with a bold nose -- fruit, earth, licorice. Feels big in the mouth, full and round. Presents cherry, plum and blackberry flavors, but ain't overly tannic. Some tea and tobacco comes through, but also the richness of cocoa. It finishes long and balanced, a bit sour but also a bit caramelly. This is a quintessential zin, indeed.
D-Cubed 1999
A huge nose, fruity with a hint of spice, floats over a dense ruby-purple hue. The wine meets the tongue and palate with a bit of licorice, a bright note of benedictine (or spic and span floor cleaner), and lush fruit of blackberry and dates. Tannins are there, but well mannered. A thin finish that these polite tannins extend for a moment. Very much a zin.
Rosenblum Estates 2004
THUMBS UP! A dark purple wine, mellow on the tongue with tannins buzzing on the palate. A spicy wine, licorice, ripe black plums, prune. A balanced wine despite the density. The tannins make for a long and pleasant finish, although leaving you a bit dry at the end (so have another sip!). This is a good, hearty wine, a big old zin with a nice mixture of heft and finesse.
Jewel Collection 2002 Old Vine
Despite a dense purple dress, has a light nose and body. Some tannic buzz on the tongue, over which pass cocoa, polished leather and dark berry fruit. In the end, you know you've had a zin, but not a big jammy zin. Drinkable, but not great.
Ravenswood 2002 Dickerson Napa Valley
ENJOYABLE: A nose of rose and vanilla; an opaque purple hue. Then a very smooth entrance, coating the tongue with caramel. The fruit comes forth, blackberry, blueberry and black plum, together with some leather and polish. Tannins kick in, but don't steal the show. They do build up at the finish, however, making the swallow long if not entirely smooth. Still, this wine makes for an enjoyable experience.
Peachy Canyon 2003 Incredible Red
Pours with a big fruity nose having a touch of clove. Stays big and pleasant on the tongue, fruity but complex. Then the sweetness fades, leaving notes of tea and cocoa. The tannins move in at that point, for a long but bittersweet swallow. But at the start, it's all berries, ripe plums and spearmint. Overall, it's quite interesting, if a bit puckery at the end.
Kenwood 1999 Sonoma
Has a rich nose of drambuie and berries, complementing a dark hue. This one comes on big, with tannins on the loose. In the fruit basket is currant, prune and blackberry, followed by a bright, benedictine-like finish. There's a surprisingly quick fade out with some lingering buzz, however. Overall, not bad; a complex mix of the rich and the astringent. Still "zin- enuf for you", though.
Four Vines 2000 Sonoma
The nose is robust and tarry, with plum and blackberry. The hue seems to match, dark purple with a bit of brown. However, the wine starts out slow in the mouth. There's a bit of sweetness on the tongue, with some vanilla, some raspberry, some dark plum, some tannins and some body behind it -- but not much body. It's rather demure, a weak wine. Not much happening. The finish is OK, but it never really got going.
Rosenblum Cellars Vinters Cuvee 26
Has a nice nose, subtle yet fragrant. It starts out yeasty and grapey (imagine that, a wine that tastes like grapes! I guess they call that "jammy"). After the bright fruitiness fades (raspberry and strawberry), the wine settles into darker tones, of tea and bitters. The finish is long, as the bitter notes fade slowly. Definitely a wide ranging experience!
Shaw Vineyard 2002 Kunde Estate
Pours with a nice clear, dark ruby hue and a rich nose of ripe fruit with just a bit of minty brightness. Provides a very rich, velvety reel in the mouth, smooth and caramelly. There's a bit of raspberry, black cherry, and prune, and somewhere in there a touch of spearmint. The tannins are very well behaved, even on the finish. It achieves length more from its body than from its buzz, with a fruity aftertaste set against just a touch of cocoa. A well mannered wine, extremely well behaved. You could get used to this VERY easily!
Kenwood 2002 Old Vine
This one looks a bit like syrup; has a rich nose that's a bit woody. Makes a very rich entrance, bringing out blackberry, blueberry, cocoa, tea, and the usual tannic buzz. Then it concludes with a puckery finish, perhaps less pleasant than the start (so many things in life are like that, alas). This wine does not stand out, but is a fair enough dinner companion.
Rancho Zabaco 2002 Dancing Bull
Pours with a dark purple-brownish hue and a toasty raisin nose. Has a smooth and rich mouthfeel, with just enough tannin present to keep it interesting. Flavors of currant, blackberry, polished wood, and melted chocolate flow together. Everything is subtle and in good proportion. On the swallow there's a hint of tea but also some lingering sweetness, which makes for a satisfying afterglow. The Ranch has put out another lovely, mellow wine. A true Californian, perhaps a bit shy on complexity, but very dependable.
Rosenblum Cellars 2005 North Coast
This is a very enjoyable selection! It has a dense purple-ruby hue and a surprisingly subtle, woody nose. It makes a smooth entry, showing body and depth. The tannins start early (as with most zins) but never overwhelm. The fruit is also out front, blackberry and ripe blueberry, with a resin and brandy- like backdrop. Makes a good finish with a bit of length. Quite complex, developed and polished. The tannins provide just enough astringency to keep the jammy fruit in balance.
Sin Zin 2004 Alexander Valley
Pours ruby red with a prominent nose, a bit like candied fruit and brandy. It greets the lips smoothly, while the body is somewhat light. Doesn't stay long on the palate and tongue. Shows a bit of licorice, currant, blueberry, blackberry and a hint of earth. Its tannins are very demure. The swallow is quick, not much leftover. This is a quickie wine, complex enough with a clean finish. It's on the light side, with a French touch. Not much sin to this zin.
Bogle 2005 Old Vine
THIS ONE IS A WOW. A dense purple wine with a demure, candy-like nose. It has a very nice, caramelly-smooth body with enough tannin for firmness. There is a note of licorice, a bit of pepper, and just a touch of chocolate involved. Then a fruit basket of raspberry, blueberry and a hint of cherry makes for sweetness and a 'jammy' character. It's very drinkable; try a glass after sampling an Italian or French wine and it's like coming home. VERY NICE.
Peachy Canyon 2003 Westside
This is a classic zin, rich and chewy, all- California. The hue is dark purple with a strong nose of wood lacquer and dark fruit esthers. It makes a big, powerful entry over the lips, full bodied. Caramel coats the tip of the tongue while the tannins buzz the palate. It brings forth polished wood, chocolate, dark ripe plums, currant, and just a hint of blueberry. The caramely body coats the mouth, allowing for a long satisfying finish. Nice stuff!
Joel Gott 2005 Amador County
TRYING TO HARD TO BE SOPHISTICATED: Through the glass this one is opaque and purple, with a big nose of rose, vanilla and confectionary sugar. It has a smooth, caramelly texture, just a bit "syrupy". There's lots of tannic buzz up front, slightly annoying. The flavor notes are of blackberry, a hint of blueberry, shoe polish and wood lacuqer. Then you swallow, a brief finish with a lingering pucker as with strong tea. So, it's a big zin trying to be a sophisticate, but not doing it very well.
Rex Goliath ? 47 Pound Rooster
Here we see a clear, light ruby hue. There's a lacquer nose with a hint of sweetness. The mouthfeel is easy and carmel-bodied, coating the tongue. Blackberry and blueberry notes chime in over a firm, woody backdrop. Then some well-mannered tannins start biting, thinning things out for a quick but relatively clean swallow (with just a dash of cocoa at the end). So, not a big zin, not a "goliath" at all. But still nicely balanced and tasty.
Dancing Bear 2005
This bear pours with a dense ruby hue and a nice prominant nose, presenting charry fruit and currant. Then it makes a nice rich entry over the tongue, but attenuates quickly once it settles in. In the end, it doesn't deliver very much. It disappears quickly on the swallow, with little tannic structure (strange for a zin). There's a nice but all-too-brief fruit presence, blueberry and dark plum, with additional notes of black pepper and polished wood. SO, this one is a fleeting pleasure. Too bad it doesn't have more body and structure to it.