X Winery Zinfandel

X Winery ZinfandelWhile many of the zinfandels we’ve been reviewing lately come from Lodi, California, that’s not the only place that’s producing fantastic zin.  This one from X Winery comes from the Nova Vineyard in Lake County, California.  This is located just outside Kelseyville, California — which is a excellent bit north of Napa and Sonoma, and even further northwest of Lodi.
The zinfandel on this vineyard is organically grown and is California Certified Organically Farmed (CCOF).  If you’re looking for wine produced with organically farmed grapes, this is an outstanding one to try.  And to give it another notch in the environmentally friendly belt, the corks are certified as sustainable corks by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Rainforest Alliance.
We’ve reviewed a number of X Winery wines in the past and we’ve been consistently impressed with the quality of their products, and this is no exception. Read more

Glen Ellen Proprietor’s Reserve Zinfandel

Glen Ellen Proprietor’s Reserve ZinfandelA question I get questioned each now and then is, “Is any of the wine in those huge bottles any excellent?”
The small answer is, “yes, some it it is excellent.”  But not all of it.  Some folks submit to bottles that are 1.5 liter and larger as “large format” bottles.  And in some suitcases, very excellent high-end wine goes into large format bottles.  But most of the 1.5 liter bottles you see on store shelves are going to be the cheap stuff.  And, yes, even some of that is decent.
So, that brings me to Glen Ellen Proprietor’s Reserve Zinfandel.  And I find myself wondering, is the wine in this 1.5 liter of cheap zinfandel any excellent.  By cheap, I mean $9.99 for 1.5 liters — which is the equivalent of two standard size wine bottles.
Glen Ellen is a bargain-priced mark produced by Concannon Vineyards.  Since Concannon is known to produce some excellent wine, that’s a excellent sign.  It’s an “ancient vine” zinfandel, which is another excellent sign.  But it is Concannon’s entry-level mark, so it’s made with the less desirable fruit — the better fruit going to their premium marks.  As always, there’s only one way to find out if it’s any excellent, taste it.
But previous to we get to tasting it, a comment about opening it.  This wine is sealed with a synthetic cork.  I despise synthetic corks.  It’s just a private preference thing, though.  I don’t have any research to show that synthetic corks are any worse than additional closures (although I’m sure a name has researched it).  I just don’t like them.  If you’re not going to give me real cork, I’d rather have a screw cap.  I know some consumers poke fun at the screw cap, but to me they’re better than a plastic synthetic cork.
Now that I have that out of the way, on with the tasting. Read more

Villa San-Juliette Zinfandel

Villa San-Juliette ZinfandelWe’ve been talking about zinfandel for the past few weeks, and while many of those we’ve reviewed have been from Lodi, California, now we’re getting into some from additional regions.  And one of the fantastic appellations for zinfandel is Paso Robles, the origin of this wine from Villa San-Juliette.
When we’re prose about wines, sometimes it’s hard to find a tale to tell.  Some wines really don’t have much of a tale additional than the fact that they’re a product from some huge companionship.  That’s not the case with this wine.
Villa San-Juliette is owned by Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick, two life-long friends from Liverpool.  But they’re better known as the executive producers of the TV shows American Idol, America’s Got Talent, So You Reckon You Can Dance and additional shows.  And while they have been very successful in television, they didn’t have any experience in winemaking previous to purchasing Villa San-Juliette.
Needless to say, they were in over their heads and problems arose as they launched their new venture.  Potential investors backed out, wild boars hurt their vineyard, a customer cancelled a contract to buy their fruit, vines became rot infested and more.  But turning cataclysm into gold, Lythgoe and Warwick captured their adventures of learning how to run a vineyard in a reality television series called Corkscrewed: The Wrath of Grapes.
If you’ve ever thought that it would be fun to own a vineyard, you should watch this series to see the chaos that comes with that job.
But since those initial struggles, things have turned around and are looking excellent.  What changed?  They hired people who know how to run a vineyard.  In 2007, Tony Domingos was brought in as a consultant to help transform the vineyard.  And in 2008, Adam LaZarre came on board as winemaker for Villa San-Juliette.  LaZarre had spent the previous 8 1/2 years as the winemaker for Hahn Estates Winery.
While there are lots of fun tales in the rear this wine, it subdue comes down to what’s in the glass that really matters.  And when it comes to this zinfandel, I’d say it rocks! Read more

Cline Zinfandel

Cline ZinfandelToday we have a double-header!  Two different zinfandels from Cline Cellars.
Cline Cellars is in fact pretty well known for their zinfandel.  It’s their specialty, along with Rhone varietals, and they produce seven different zinfandels, that I know of, maybe more. These two are the “below $20″ offerings from Cline, while the others they produce a slightly more expensive.  But even with these entry-level wines, you’ll get some tasty juice.
Both of these zins have “California” listed as the appellation, meaning that the grapes come from multiple regions within the state, not just one AVA.
Cline Zinfandel Read more

Villacana Winery in Paso Robles

Villacana Winery in Paso RoblesA link weeks ago, I did a lengthy writeup about my recent visit to Paso Robles.  But I didn’t highlight any of the specific wines I tasted there.  Tonight I want to touch on a few wines I tasted on that visit, from Villacana Winery.
Villacana is a small winery run by a husband and wife team, Alex and Monica Villacana.  Of course “small” is all relative.  The property, which they bought in 1996, is 72 acres on the west side of Paso Robles.  Now you may be thought that 72 acres seems huge not small, but only 13 acres of the property are vineyards and their total production is below 2,000 suitcases.  Therefore, I’d say they officially qualify as a “small winery.”
The soil in the vineyard varies from calcareous soils to acidic shales and the Villacanas have chosen locations for different varieties of vines where they will perform the best.  They produce a combination of Rhone varietals, which do better on the calcareous soils, and Bordeaux varietals, which do best with the shale.  The vineyards are also at a high elevation, which brings some challenging winds.
Part of their philosophy in wine production, consistent with others I met in Paso Robles, is they let each vintage express the wine uniquely.  They don’t want to manipulate the juice to achieve consistency from one vintage to the next.
In addition to their wines, they are building plans to get a subdue so that they can produce grappa and vodka.
I had the opportunity to taste three of their wines, the viognier, the cabernet sauvignon and the syrah.  Here are my notes on each.  I should point out that because I didn’t taste these in my habitual environment, with my habitual administer, I did not score the wines.  But, I assure you that they were all excellent. Read more

181 Merlot

181 MerlotI really want to like this wine.  The overall look of the packaging is clean and simple but the blazoned red “181” on the black mark is striking.  I also like the choice of tapered meritage-glass for the bottle.  It looks premium and very up-market.  As I review the wine, I find myself taking a few extra sips, as if I’m waiting for the wine to suddenly unleash a torrent of fruit and complexity.  But it never really comes. Read more

Brazin Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel

Brazin Lodi Old Vine ZinfandelWe review a lot of wines here, but surprisingly only a handful of them end up on my private list of trusted favorites.  This is one of those wines.
Brazin if honestly young as a brand, although the winemaker in the rear it, Sue Hofmann, has plenty of experience.  We first exposed it with the 2007 vintage, when there was just one wine offered by Brazin.  Now they produce four different zinfandels below the Brazin brand, including some single vineyard releases.  But their Lodi Ancient Vine Zin is the most widely available, and the most affordable of the bunch.
Although it’s only $15.00, this is a serious zinfandel.  It’s huge, it’s bold, it’s fruity and it’s spicy.  The wine is matured in oak barrels to give it a bit of spice.  And at 15% alcohol by number, it has a kick.
We did a mini-review of this Brazin back in Development, when I met up with Sue Hofmann previous to the Cincinnati International Wine Festival.  But I didn’t score the wine then, as I wasn’t tasting it in my predictable fashion.  So, I thought it would be excellent to do a formal review of it. Read more

7 Deadly Zins 2008

7 Deadly Zins 2008Continuing with the current theme of zinfandel, tonight we’re reviewing a cult classic of sorts in the zin drinking world.  7 Deadly Zins is a trusted favorite of many zin fanatics.  It has a fun and memorable name.  It’s got some tasty juice in it.  And it’s affordable.  What more could you want from a zinfandel?
7 Deadly Zins is produced by Michael David Winery, one of the producers that’s on my “yes, please” list.  I can’t recall ever tasting a wine of theirs that I didn’t like—but more importantly, I can remember tasting several of their wines over the years that have made me say, “Wow, that’s excellent! What is it?”  Unfortunately, some of those wines have been in a fee range that’s above what we typically consider a bargain.  But they do have some, like 7 Deadly Zins, that are priced just right.
This is a Lodi zinfandel, meaning it’s from the Lodi province in California.  If you’re a zin junkie, you probably already know about Lodi.  If you’re just getting into zinfandel, make a note of it and try several from this province.
7 Deadly Zins is made with grapes from seven of the best growers in the Lodi province.  That’s where the name comes from… well, the fact that the grapes came from seven growers and the fact that it’s a fun and memorable pun.  The zinfandel is blended with a small bit of petite sirah and petite verdot. Read more