Zinfandel is something of an anomaly to me. I've had it, sometimes liking it, other times not really paying attention to what it has to offer. The Zinfandel session at the WMC was my chance to learn a little more.
By far, this was one of my most favorite afternoons. Hearing winemakers share about their growing region, the characteristics of the varietal, pairings, etc...is the equivalent of a DC or Marvel fan at Comic-Con. Pure joy!
Jonathan Lachs from Cedarville Vineyard in Fairplay notes the El Dorado area offers ideal weather for growing Zin. The long sunny days with low humidity and moisture are ideal for Zin. Also, the El Dorado area doesn't get as hot as Sacramento, down in the valley.
Jeff Meyers from Terra d'Oro Winery in Plymouth feels that Zinfandel is iconic to Amador County. Terra d'Oro hosted the 2017 Barbera Fest, and while I was at the festival I had a chance to walk in their beautiful Zin vineyards this past September.
Kevin Riley of Proulx Wines in Paso Robles mentioned Zinfandel's acidity is right for aging. I asked him where he thinks Zin grows best. He mentions it thrives well in climates that offer some heat, yet it likes to have a chance to cool off. So not as hot as a Cabernet country and not as cool a Pinot Noir growing regions—but someplace in between.
Jake Bilbro of Limerick Lane Wines in Healdsburg notes their vineyard is right where the fog line stops. When the Zinfandel grapes grow, it likes some heat, but it also needs a chance to cool down at the end of the day. Zin is a wine that offers acidity, but can achieve full body, size, roundness combined with balance, texture, and a clean finish.
Dan Panella, owner and winemaker of Oak Farm Vineyards in Lodi, feels Lodi's special quality is the region doesn't have a problem with fog. Also, Oak Farm doesn't want the fruit to get over-ripe. When harvesting, their winery is looking for elegant fruit on the vines for their Zinfandel.
Brandon Lapides of Armida Winery in Healdsburg shared how he's “standing on the shoulders of our forefathers—our California (wine) heritage.” When walking through the vineyards there's a sense of it being a “living museum.” A big part of winemaking and growing is the tradition. Incidentally, Armida also has a tasting room in the Capitola Village, in Santa Cruz County.
Ned Horton of Quivira Vineyards in Healdburg echos the common theme; acknowledging the wisdom of our forefathers. When he chose to purchase his vineyard he “committed to embarking on a relationship with the vineyard.” This kind of dedication to the craft is characteristic of so many California winemakers.
Wondering what to look for when enjoying a California Zinfandel?
And for food pairings, here are suggestions straight from the winemakers.
Have your car keys ready. You're going to want to grab a bottle of Zin and get cooking!
Many of California's Zinfandel vines were planted generations ago.
Today's winemakers focus on being stewards and caretakers of those same Zinfandel vineyards.
Honoring those who planted and pioneered, while focusing on the Zinfandel we drink today.
Best to you on your Zinfandel Wine Jaunt!
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