Zinfandel fans are a devoted bunch. Not only has the annual Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (ZAP) tasting thrived for 20 years in San Francisco, but thousands of Zin buffs lined up Saturday in the drizzling rain for a chance to taste the latest releases from more than 200 producers. Except for a few 2006s and 2007s, most of the wines poured were from the 2008 vintage or barrel samples from 2009. The 2008s remain a mixed bag, with many unbalanced wines, but the best are showing more promise than I expected a year ago. The 2009 Zinfandels should have wide appeal, at least from my preliminary tastings. After the 2009 harvest, many of us didn’t know what to expect. The vintage was like a good book with a lousy ending. But the initial 2009 barrel samples seem pleasantly ripe and balanced, offering good structure and acidity. Following are my notes on some of my favorite wines among the roughly 50 I sampled.
A lot of us drank Zinfandel in the old days because it was cheap. For 10 bucks, I could buy a terrific bottle in the early 1990s and I didn’t have to cross my fingers or anything. Today the top wines run $30 or $40 and, since I don’t have a mattress stuffed with Facebook stock, I can’t drink those every day.
And yet, one of the perks of being a Zin buff is that it’s still possible to find a tasty wine at a decent price, and not just the generic Zinfandels that carry a California designation. Most regions still produce a few honest, handcrafted Zins that sell for less than $20.
Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County is home to two of my favorite values, and the current releases remind me why the wines are so reliable.
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