Zinfandel is not a bad hair day. Nor is it, at least as far as I know, a famous airship. Actually, it’s one of the younger, hipper grapes that you can thank for adding zip to those wines that pair so well with BBQ. While other varieties turn in early, Z is often found clubbing in a loud shirt, wearing sunglasses, and dancing like Vanilla Ice to Lady GaGa.
So today is Global Zinfandel Day, where we celebrate all things Zin-Zanny (not the show mind you).
When it comes to the robust, explosive grape, there are three wineries most will recommend, accompanied by some derivative of the “Three Rs of Zin” catchprase; they are: Ravenswood, Ridge, and Rosemblum. Today, in honor of this special day, I’ve pulled two Ravenswood Zins, ready to go, fresh from the samples bin here at Stark Insider.
First off, I should admit — and I don’t mean to be the curmudgeon sitting in the corner while everyone else parties like it’s a Breakfast at Tiffany’s all-nighter — the Zin grape is not my favorite. Then again it’s hard to top tried-and-true Napa Cab; for me, it’s the one. I simply love it. Big, bold… and very much unique in personality. Pinot Noir is a close second, and on some days, with its dust and earth glory, can bring it on. Zin, however, can often be too sharp. Or bright. Or young. Take your pick. It’s like the Northern California ethos in a bottle, with some Silicon Valley hubris thrown in for good measure. If not your approval, it at least seeks your attention.
On to the Ravenswood then.
If you’re looking for a value play for the big Z, then it’s a good one to consider.
On many an occasion I’ve picked up a bottle at Trader Joe’s or BevMo, especially when I know hearty meats will follow — Ribs, Lamb or Filet are some favorite pairings. For me, it really shines when matched with a strong dish. Although, as is the case here at least with one of these Ravenswoods, it can also serve as a feisty, but satisfying solo drinker.
2007 Ravenswood – Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel (Lodi), 14 ** VALUE **
This is the value play. Certainly let it breathe before attempting to tame the beast as it can be a little bright. But after an hour or so, you can enjoy layers of dark fruit, and ample vanilla, notably on the finish. Spice adds welcome zing, making this one not to forget. It’s not Cary Grant, perhaps more like James Franco with the stubble, and a certain goof-ball-ness.
2007 Ravenswood – Barricia Zinfandel (Sonoma), $35 ** PICK **
Claret-style, yes. If you like dark, juicy, and sumptuous wines then this Zin is likely to please. It surprised me at first. Is this a Cab? But after reviewing the winemaker notes, I can assure you this is, in fact, 74% Zinfandel, and 24% Petite Sirah (which would explain its intense brooding nature). When you hear about so-called “balance” this is a good example.
This Barricia — an old, low-production vineyard in Sonoma — adds enough structure to the wine, preventing that gruesome kool-aid effect that can taint wines that lack acidity. Meanwhile dark berries ensure that fruit gets its due. It’s worth seeking out.