2018 Zinfandel (Paso Robles) by Lusso Della Terra

2018 Zinfandel (Paso Robles) by Lusso Della Terra, Fiddletown, Amador County, CA

Intense clear ruby color. Out of the bottle nose is restrained, especially for a Zinfandel with notes of straw, slightly ripe berries. That signature raisin is barely noticeable, almost nonexistent. Swirling vigorously adds ripe dark cherries, pinewood sawdust and honey beeswax. These all conspire to create a subtle anise essence. Rich. This is not your typical zinfandel.

Body is nicely balanced, greeting with a subtle acidity that lends good tension up front. This is followed immediately by a thin lightweight, dry body of blackberries and dark cherry skins. Tannins are crisp, heavily restrained and fully integrated into the body. A crisp, unobtrusive oak caramel softens this otherwise crisp, sharp body. Hints of stone fruit (especially dried apricots) linger in the distant background. Mouth feel is light, dry, smooth, especially for a Zinfandel. Midway a warm spice heat emerges and eventually dominates the entire palate. Ahhh yes, you can only tame Zinfandel so much. The palate is left fairly neutral in short order with little more than a warm spice heat from front to back and down deep into the chest.

This is a highly understated Zinfandel. It has really benefited from the more gentle climate of this region. The winemaker has done a great job of creating a very mature, classy interpretation of this varietal. In the right hands, Zinfandel can be so much more of a sophisticated wine. Nicely done Ed!

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2018 Zinfandel by Caddis Wines, Sonoma

Tonight’s Occasion: 2018 Zinfandel by Caddis Wine, Sonoma Valley, CA

Purple, semi opaque color. Out of the bottle a firm, tart, black plum greets the nose. As it breathes, this turns slightly ripe. Slightly ripe dark cherries and boysenberry emerge atop a soft faint butterscotch underlayment. This progression continues, ripening, slowly adding sweeter notes until it finally reveals both its identity, Zinfandel and sense of place, Sonoma in the form of a raisin and loamy, earthy leather both so faint you’d likely miss them.

Smooth buttery tannins smother the palate in the form of crisp plum and berry skins accompanied by crisp caramel. These conspire to create a soft, slightly viscous mouth feel. Interestingly, it’s acidity that usually greets the palate first but the opposite is true here. Midway through, a slightly dry tartness re-balances the body. A gentle spice heat emerges, intensifying as it transitions to finish. The palate is rendered dry, with a gentle tannic grit and plums and berries fully ripen. At this stage the spice heat has made it farther down, warming the chest.

This is a clean, classy execution for a Zinfandel. A varietal better known for its brute, brash, and often off-balance expression, this winemaker has made a handsome, gentleman’s wine of it. If you are in the Sonoma area, I highly recommend stopping by the understated tasting room and taking a look at Chris’ work. You will be pleasantly surprised at the quality of his wines and tickled by just how artisan and limited (79 cases) his wines are. Truly special. Nicely done Chris!

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Harold’s Reserve (Red Blend) by TKC Vineyards, Plymouth, CA

Tonight’s Occasion: Harold’s Reserve (66% Syrah, 33% Zinfandel) by TKC Vineyards, Plymouth, CA

Dark opaque color. Crisp intense nose with lots of dry plum and blackberry. Swirling unlocks a burst of sweet dark cherries, red vines licorice and a hint of soft oak vanilla. A touch of dry dusty granite lingers in the distant background. Good sense of place.

A bright, fresh, crisp attack greets the palate. Moderate acidity creates good tension up front. This is quickly followed by thin, crisp and firm tannins, which add great structure. A crisp oak vanilla adds more dimension to a very structured body, further enhancing dry fruit expression. Body quickly dissipates, leaving behind tart blackberries, bitter cola and a slightly dusty dry tannic grip. A gentle spice punctuates the whole experience.

This very small boutique winemaker has been making little gems for over 40 years. Not far off Shenandoah road in Plymouth, Amador, you’ve likely driven by many times and missed it. This past weekend I was only tickled to stumble upon it and even better, Karina the winemaker was pouring our tasting just outside the cellar. I liked every one of her wines. They were all well built, balanced, and fairly dry, especially for this region. She has a very mature style. Have you tried TKC wines yet? What’s your favorite? Let me know in the comments below.

2016 Zinfandel by Madroña, El Dorado, California

Tonight’s Occasion: 2016 Zinfandel by Madroña (@madronavineyards), El Dorado, CA

Dark semi opaque color. Nose is a little shy and restrained especially for a Zinfandel from this region. Tart plum skins, blackberry and a faint soft oak vanilla. Swirling vigorously intensifies the nose and unlocks a gentle granite leather l, anise and cola. Great sense of place. Classy expression.

Body is balanced from front to back. Slightly restrained. Soft gentle mouth feel with slightly ripe plums, dark cherries and granite leather. Good unobtrusive structure is further softened by an almost unnoticeable oak vanilla. Midway through, a firm spice heat emerges and dominates the palate. This marks the transition to finish characterized by gentle, dusty tannic grip, cola, and spice. What a masterfully crafted Zinfandel. Very classy. After a couple hours the grip intensifies along with the mineral leather and bitter cola. Love it!

It’s so easy for Zinfandel from this region to get out of control if not way off balance with overbearing fruit, pepper spice and residual sugar. This Zinfandel gives the palate space to indulge and take it all in, its nuance, character and sense of place. This expression stood out the most for me when I visited the Estate.

Great wines Madroña!

2014 Zinfandel (Salvador Vineyard) by Turley

Tonight’s Occasion:  2014 Zinfandel (Salvador Vineyard – Contra Costa County) by Turley Wine Cellars, Plymouth CA

Dark opaque color. For a Zin this big, nose is a bit shy out of the bottle. Up front, lots of red berry, touch of sweet cherry cola, hints of red vines licorice over a backdrop of damp sandy soil. As it breathes, the wet sand develops a leathery quality. I like it!

Body is fairly restrained, balanced, very well integrated for a Zin, monolithic in expression. You are greeted with soft tannins. Hints of berry tell you this is Zinfandel without overpowering the experience. A light vanilla cherry cola follows. Shortly after all fruit vanishes leaving behind as it takes a more serious note leaving the palate bone dry with a bitter cola and firm dusty tannic grip. At this point we are well into the finish. The third act begins as an intensifying spice heat slowly consumes the palate from back to front, reminding you, this is in fact a California Zinfandel.

I think of Turley as a Zin House. If you like Zinfandel, I think you should pay them a visit. They were gracious enough to make this Library wine available on my last visit. It is a masterful representation of the quintessential California Zin without completely altering its expression.

Nicely done Turley!

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2012 Zinfandel (Fiddletown) by Easton

Tonight’s occasion: 2012 Zinfandel (Fiddletown) by Easton (@terrerougeeastonwines), Plymouth, Amador, California.

Deep dark clear ruby red color. Pouring right out of the bottle fills the air with crisp plum. Closer inspection reveals this Zinfandel’s faint raisin/berry underpinnings and a very unmistakable star anise, a hallmark of this region’s terroir. The nose then recedes until swirled again. Hints of wet wood leather linger in the back. This is surprisingly restrained for a Zin

Body is precisely balanced from front to back. Clean crisp and measured. Plum turns more ripe dark cherry, wet wood and oak become more refined crisp caramel. Crisp tannins provide precise frame as they quickly turn buttery, and render the palate moist. Mouth feel is clean, light. Transition to finish is characterized by subtle black currant as the body fades gently, revealing a gentle spice, moist lips and slight dusty tannic grit.

This Winemaker’s work is some of the best I’ve seen yet. This zinfandel is no exception and should easily stand as a reference, an example of everything Zinfandel could be, not just in this region but California and the world at large. NOW! is the time to indulge in his work.

Thank you Bill, Jane and the entire crew at Terre Rouge Easton wines for bringing us world class wines.

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