Zinfandel has a lot going for it, but it also has its share of problems and missed opportunities.
The wine is uniquely Californian. It grows well in many areas of the state, is capable of expressing terroir and is stylistically versatile. But it could win a much wider following if producers shifted gears and aimed it in the direction of where Pinot Noir is headed, where the emphasis is on fruit purity, supple textures, greater balance and finesse and softer tannins.
That said, I wouldn't for a minute change the style of some of the big boys. The amazing, powerful expression of a Turley Hayne Vineyard or a Rosenblum Rockpile Vineyard Zinfandel shouldn't be sacrificed. These kinds of vineyards are genuine treasures and the wines are proof that big can be balanced. But most Zinfandel vineyards can't produce wines of that caliber, character and depth on a consistent basis, and that's the problem.
Winemakers’ desire to showcase a single site often overlooks what might be achieved by tweaking a wine through blending, along the wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Grapes such as Carignane, Grenache, Petite Sirah and Syrah could fill in flavor and textural gaps, and give the wine a silkier texture and added flavor dimension.
Too often Zinfandel's quirks and idiosyncrasies are readily apparent in the wines. The grape is difficult to grow, sets uneven-sized clusters and berries and then, as a result of that, ripens unevenly. (Site and precision farming are essential to its success.) Too often Zinfandels are unbalanced, that is, they're short on fruit density and character and simple or hollow from midpalate on. The mix of high acidity and alcohol and dry, chewy tannins define the wine, rather than its more pleasurable wild berry and pepper nuances.
There are times when I like the wild stallion side of Zinfandel. But many other times I wish that that stallion had been broken, making it more approachable, caressing, even gentle, and so that its graceful strides and subtle nuances can be better appreciated.
I don’t want to strip Zinfandel of its varietal personality. I’d just like to harness it a bit and move it in the direction of where Pinot Noir is headed.
Patrick Cook — San Mateo, CA — January 26, 2007 1:07pm ET
Tim Sylvester — Santa Monica, CA — January 26, 2007 1:09pm ET
Paul Gallagher — Berkeley Heights, NJ — January 26, 2007 1:38pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — January 26, 2007 1:59pm ET
John B Vlahos — Cupertino Ca. — January 26, 2007 2:06pm ET
Kurt-inge Eklund — Esl?v, Sweden — January 26, 2007 2:08pm ET
Donald C Young — des moines,ia — January 26, 2007 2:13pm ET
Rajiv Modak — Tucson AZ — January 26, 2007 2:40pm ET
Totv — La Quinta, CA — January 26, 2007 4:01pm ET
Tim Sylvester — Santa Monica, CA — January 26, 2007 4:20pm ET
David Ruvalcaba — San Francisco, CA — January 26, 2007 4:40pm ET
Scott Oneil — UT — January 26, 2007 5:40pm ET
Chris Hilliard — Minnesota — January 26, 2007 5:44pm ET
Dave Joyce — Winston-Salem, NC — January 26, 2007 6:18pm ET
Doug Wilson — January 26, 2007 7:09pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — January 26, 2007 7:14pm ET
Jameson Fink — Seattle, WA — January 26, 2007 7:44pm ET
Elyse J Ward — Buffalo Grove, IL — January 26, 2007 11:34pm ET
Thomas Smith — Antioch CA. — January 26, 2007 11:55pm ET
James Novack — Agoura Hills, CA — January 27, 2007 9:06am ET
Michael Culley — January 27, 2007 12:24pm ET
Ray Carlson — redding, ca — January 27, 2007 12:47pm ET
Scott Oneil — UT — January 27, 2007 2:23pm ET
Michael Mintz — Washington DC — January 27, 2007 8:08pm ET
Michael Culley — January 28, 2007 11:36am ET
Gary M Lewis — Beverly Hills Ca — January 28, 2007 9:59pm ET
Chris Hilliard — Minnesota — January 28, 2007 11:54pm ET
David A Zajac — January 29, 2007 9:17am ET
John Barlow — Libertyville — January 29, 2007 11:22am ET
Michael Greenwald — Wynnewood, PA — January 29, 2007 12:02pm ET
Anthony Velebil — January 29, 2007 1:54pm ET
Dave Joyce — Winston-Salem, NC — January 29, 2007 1:56pm ET
David A Zajac — January 29, 2007 3:33pm ET
John B Vlahos — Cupertino Ca. — January 29, 2007 5:12pm ET
Peter Seghesio — January 30, 2007 12:33am ET
Gary M Lewis — Beverly Hills Ca — January 31, 2007 11:35am ET
Dave Adams — Maple Grove, MN — February 5, 2007 9:56pm ET
Patrick Cook — San Mateo, CA — February 6, 2007 12:43pm ET
John Hingley — san francisco — February 17, 2007 12:54pm ET
John Woodbyrne — Redding, CT — February 22, 2007 7:26am ET
Shawn Burns — April 3, 2007 2:05am ET
Arman Pahlavan — April 22, 2007 4:37pm ET
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