Ravenswood Lodi zinfandel: COME-FROM-BEHIND WINNER

22 08 2012

Tonight we examine a 2009 zinfandel from California’s Lodi area, which I bought at Total Wine for $12.50.  I also received a free sample of it.

Last night we compared three zins, at $17, $15, and $15, and it was basically a tie.  Guess what — tonight, I can announce a clear winner.

Ravenswood Lodi old vine zin.  It wasn’t one of the three we compared, but Ravenswood Lodi has the juicy, crowd-pleasing warmth of last night’s Kenwood.  Going beyond the Kenwood, it has some (but not all) of the spice and tannins of the Rancho Zabaco.  And like the Ravenswood Sonoma, Ravenswood Lodi is definitely not wimpy.  (Partly because it’s actually 23% petite sirah.)  But it doesn’t take the big risks that Ravenswood Sonoma does, which causes that very nice red to have potentially more limited appeal.  In fact, the Lodi is just generally, flat-out delicious.  I love it.

All this, and it’s only $12.50.  It might not be the best of these zinfandels in absolute terms, but then again, it might be.  Taking price into account, Ravenswood Lodi clearly defeats all of last night’s notable contenders.

Ravenswood Lodi zinfandelHighly recommended.





Kenwood, Ravenswood, and Rancho Zabaco: ZINFANDEL SHOOTOUT

21 08 2012

Today, it’s a comparison of three red zinfandels from Total Wine:

RESULTS:

Kenwood Sonoma:  Light, bright, easy, minimal tannins, mildly spicy.  It’s not a “fruity” wine, but it has more fruit than the others.  A potential crowd-pleaser.  However, it’s very neutral, and doesn’t have much aroma.

Ravenswood Sonoma:  Powerful.  Serious. Abundant mouth-drying tannins.  Eucalyptus and a hint of licorice.  An interesting wine.  A food wine.  However, not much aroma, and the flavor is taking a risk, so not everybody will like it.

Rancho Zabaco Dry Creek:  Seductive aroma of coffee, rhubarb and cedar.  The two extra dollars you spend on this zin get you complexity, serious tannins, and a combination of cinnamon, cocoa and blackberries.  I like it a lot, but again, it’s a bit different, so it may not appeal to everyone.

If you factor in the cost, this trio is basically a dead heat.  A three-way tie.  If forced to rank them, I would say:

1. Rancho Zabaco (duh, it’s the most expensive) (I want more)

2. Kenwood (easy-breezy)

3. Ravenswood (serious and real, takes risks, can’t please everybody)

All three, however, are:

Highly recommended.

Kenwood Sonoma zinfandelRavenswood Sonoma Old Vine zinfandel

Rancho Zabaco Dry Creek zinfandel





artezin zinfandel review: ACH-CHOO!!!

4 04 2012

Today we look at a $15 California red zinfandel from 2009.

Hey!  It’s spring of 2012, it’s pretty outside, and you might be in a hurry.  So let me break this down quickly for you.  The 2009 artezin zinfandel has a cool label, it’s affordable, it smells complex and wonderful, and on your tongue it gives you:

1.  high-quality, freshly-ground pepper that may make you sneeze,

2.  black licorice, and

3.  drum roll…. it’s not too sweet.

Plus at 14.5% alcohol, it will rock your block.  I love this wine!  It has its own flavor, not that typical California red goulash.  THANK you, artezin, from Hess vineyards.  You have blessed us with a red that we can take to any party and show people that we are on the “inside track,” while not breaking the bank.

In the realm of $10-20 wines, artezin zinfandel  is sophisticated, deep, dark, and delicious.  And it is definitely:

Recommended.





It’s Thanksgiving: What wines should you buy?

19 11 2011

Hello!  Today we are going to get right to the point.  For Thanksgiving, here is what I recommend:

1.  Do not buy “Beaujolais Nouveau,” no matter how much your wine store pushes it.  It is light, boring, and basically worthless.  Ha!  THAT should generate some friendly comments.  Just to put the cherry on top of my popularity profile, you should also avoid California chardonnay at Thanksgiving.  Its flavors are non-complimentary and too dominating.  For turkey, cranberries and stuffing, the next 3 wines are where you want to be.

2.  Zinfandel.  This is THE All-American grape, and yes, it goes very well with turkey.  For a very friendly, sweeter version of this very Thanksgiving-ish red wine, buy 99 Vines for $10.   Try 1 bottle first, and make sure you like it.  For $10 it’s a great value, but it may not be for everybody.

For a more serious, kickass zin, acquire Oak Ridge ancient vine zinfandel, just $12 at Total Wine.  This wine is very dark purple, oaky, spicy, with some sweetness way in the background, and basically acts like a wine that costs almost twice as much.  For a better, more well-known name, buy Ridge “Three Valleys” zin, for $20.  Yes, the Ridge “Three Valleys” is superior, but is it 67% better than Oak Ridge?  No.  For a serious knockout punch, you can buy any zin by Ridge in the $30-and-up range.

3. Pinot Noir.  Buy a bottle of La Crema pinot, the “Monterey” version.  I reviewed it here.  More light on its feet than a zinfandel.  It’s $20.  If that’s more than you are used to spending:  just trust me.  This wine is lovely, spicy, and tastes very organic.  It adds a LOT to any Thanksgiving dinner.  In my opinion, more important than the zinfandel.

For a bolder, also-excellent pinot, buy Hahn SLH Estate pinot noir from Santa Lucia Highlands, which I reviewed here.  It’s around $25, and again, worth every penny.

4. Sparkling pink stuff.  If you want your Thanksgiving table to say “FUN!” loud and clear, add a bottle of Martini & Rossi sparkling wine from Italy, reviewed here.  On the back, it says “Rosé.”  To you and me, it’s pink champagne.  And it’s good.  Only $15.  Definitely not bone-dry, this one’s a crowd pleaser.  Don’t bother with snooty impressive champagnes up to $50, because they are mostly terrible.

So, I am recommending 2 reds, and a sparkling rosé if you want a high fun factor.

If you want a white wine, I recommend the super-friendly David Hill “Farmhouse White” blend from Oregon.  Around $11.  Floral and tropical, this is a brilliant blend of mild sweetness with crisp tartness and acidity.  You don’t want your white wine to steal the show at Thanksgiving, and this won’t.

Have a wonderful holiday!

ridge zinfandel99 vines zinfandeloak ridge zinDavid Hill Farmhouse White





Plungerhead zinfandel review: WHOA, DOGGY!

15 08 2011

Today it’s a 2009 old vine zinfandel from California’s Lodi area, which costs about $19.

This is a big one!!  The label is awesome: a guy with a plunger on his head.  It’s pretty hot when first opened, meaning, it smells and tastes of alcohol (it is 14.9% alcohol).  It’s also pretty darn spicy.  That’s a good thing.  More good stuff:  the medium-to-full-bodied texture is wonderful, and there is some nice complexity on your tongue that says HEY, this wine is better than a $9.99 special. 

In your nose, there is a bit more “rhubarb pie” sweetness than actually greets your taste buds.  Meaning, Plungerhead tastes more dry and balanced than it smells.

The problem is, for $19, I just didn’t warm up to the dense, spicy blueberry, rhubarb and eucalyptus flavors, as nicely put together as they are.  At $12, this would clearly get a recommendation from your Wineguider.  Although this zin with the big impact is obviously high quality, my picky, cranky self has decided that it is:

Not recommended.





Frei Brothers reserve zinfandel review

13 06 2011

Today we review a 2009 zin from Dry Creek Valley in northern Sonoma Valley, California.  I got it for $20.

OK this Frei Brothers zin is really good.  It has 15% alcohol, so, if you want to wind down after a hard day’s work — WAY down — it will do the job.  Spicy, rich and tannic, full of dusty blackberries, and deadly serious, this wine tastes like a real step up from the normal $10 family dinner wines.

The problem is, I’m not excited about paying a full $20 for another bottle.  If it were $15 or $16, Frei Brothers reserve zinfandel would receive a committed, definite recommendation.  At this price, however, it’s a delicious, happy dreams-inducing, near miss.

Not recommended.





Buffalo Grove zinfandel review: great news

17 01 2011

Today we review a $9 red zinfandel from the 2009 vintage in the exclusive wine region “California.”

HEY this zin is nice, and it’s cheap.  Is it great?  No.  Do I want to keep drinking glass after glass?  No, but then again, I don’t really love red zinfandel. 

If I did love zinfandel, I would absolutely love Buffalo Grove.  It’s totally drinkable.  That’s saying a lot, because I usually hate inexpensive red wine.  I found this at Total Wine.  It smells like a generic California red, but it has a snappy, bright, peppery, open and very berry-berry taste that wakes you up.  And at just 12.5% alcohol, it’s easy-drinking.  I liked the deeper, darker Zen of Zin more, but that’s a little more expensive.

Buffalo Grove zinfandel review

Recommended.