05/30/07 – Zinfandel

By Jesse on May 29, 2007

Wine groupies,

Hi there, it’s great to be back from my journey elsewhere.  What better way to celebrate my return to California than by drinking copious amounts of the full-bodied red with the most acres planted of all grapes in the entire state?!!?  So that’s what I did tonight, I drank a bottle of Cabernet all by myself.  However, I also very much look forward to this week’s meeting, in which we’ll be tasting another quintessentially California varietal, the legendary Zinfandel.

Zin has one of the longest and most storied histories of any varietal grown in California today, and last year was the subject of a vicious lobbying battle in the state legislature when Sen. Carole Migden proposed a bill to make Zinfandel the official grape of California (for two pro- perspectives on this unsuccessful bill, check out this weblog and this other weblog).  Whatever your position on the issue, Zin’s historical presence in the state can’t be denied… some of the vines in the state are over a hundred years old, and the presence of the phrase “old vines” on bottles of California Zin denotes the increased interest in these ancient, gnarled plantings, which are more likely than young vines to produce low yields of deep, intensely-flavored grapes.  Lets get some Old Vine Zin at this meeting.

As we’ve discussed before, Zinfandel is not native to California, as was once believed.  Rather, its roots were traced in the late 60s to Italy, where it was found to be identical to the Italian grape called Primitivo.  In the 90s, it was traced even further back to Croatia (the whole sordid tale is detailed in this Wikipedia article, which is interesting reading even if you don’t believe in the merits of Wikipedia).  Zin is grown all over California, but excellent plantings can be found in Sonoma, Mendocino, Napa, and — as we discovered a couple weekends ago — Paso Robles.  The grape is made into several styles of wine: the sweet, fruit-forward blush called White Zinfandel, first created by Sutter Home in 1972; traditional red Zin, which is full, jammy, and often spicy; and “Zinfandel Port,” a rich dessert-style wine that we sampled at Stuart Vineyards in Temecula.  Feel free to buy any style you like (though lets try to avoid those mass-produced bottles of White Zin from Ralph’s that cost less than $8 a piece, because we all know exactly what those taste like).  And don’t forget to check out the Appellations America entry on Zinfandel to learn more about its flavor profile and its best areas.

We’ll be meeting at Andrew’s new place in Hollywood!  Bring a delicious bottle of Zinfandel (red, white, “old vines” or port), and we’ll see your bad asses Wednesday at nine.