When we hear someone ordering Zinfandel we thing “ah, another California wine lover”. Prevalent in California’s Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties, Zinfandel has been growing in our country for hundreds of years.
When the Italians immigrated to America, they tended the vine in Northern California and many thought that “Primitivo”, grown in Puglia (the heel of Italy), was Zinfandel’s original home. Thanks to DNA testing, we find that Zinfandel is also known as “Crjlenak Kastelanski”, a red variety grown even today in the small country of Croatia just East of Italy.
Notorious for uneven ripening and rather thin-skinned, Zinfandel is California’s little darling. Making robust, fruit-forward, and full-bodied wines, Zinfandel can reach alcohol levels of over 16% due to the warm and sunny climate of California. Most Zins are at their best in 6-8 years, but producers such as Ridge and Storybook are raising the bar. More care is taken with the handling of the grapes, triage (selective harvesting) is practiced, and, once oak barrel ageing was introduced, the love affair began adding complexity to the aromas, flavors and textures.
Of course, Zin’s sister wine, White Zinfandel, must be given the credit it is due. Made from the same grape but lighter in color and body, not to mention sweeter, it was this wine that clinched Zinfandel’s rise to fame and its success in becoming a household name selling many times over its higher quality more expensive sibling.
Pass the Ridge, please.
It was once said: In victory you deserve Champagne, in defeat you need it – Napoleon Bonaparte