Winemaker Jeff Cohn was the man behind Rosenblum’s stellar Zinfandels during that winery’s heyday, so when he launched his own winery, JC Cellars, he focused almost exclusively on Syrah and other Rhône varietals.
“I wanted some separation,” says Cohn, who launched his winery with his wife, Alexandra, in 1996 and departed Rosenblum in 2006. “But I missed Zin, and I feel like the water has cleared enough that I can do what I want to do.”
The sluggish sales of California Rhône wines played a role no doubt, but I’ve always thought Cohn had a gift for Zin, so I’m glad to see him returning to his roots. And his new releases from the 2009 vintage certainly prove the point. All five of the wines are outstanding.
Two of the Zins are new additions to Cohn’s lineup. The bottling from Dusi Vineyard ($35), in Paso Robles, is that rare mix: ripe and briary yet still focused and complex. At Rosenblum, Cohn used to work with St. Peter’s Church Vineyard in Sonoma’s Alexander Valley, and it shows with his big, distinctive St. Peter's Church Vineyard bottling ($45), loaded with flavor and personality.
The 2009 Landy Sweetwater Springs Vineyard ($38) is Cohn’s third Zin vintage from this Russian River Valley site, but this time he tried a new approach, fermenting and aging 60 percent of the wine in cement tanks before aging the final blend in large-format French oak barrels.
“I wanted to bring out more of the vineyard’s minerality,” Cohn said. “Landy is in an area known for Pinot Noir, so I thought I’d try to bring out some of the elegance of the Zin.” I don’t know if I’d call the Landy elegant, but it is certainly rich and crisp, and an appealing loamy element adds vibrancy.
Cohn’s two other 2009s are love ’em or hate ’em wines; for me, they are wonderfully exotic and flamboyant and altogether different beasts from the three other Zins.
The 2009 Zinfandel from Iron Hill Vineyard ($35), in Sonoma Valley, recalls a Côte-Rôtie, with smoky black raspberry and zesty, complex flavors of peppered beef. If you’ve tasted any of the other Zins made from Iron Hill over the years, you know that’s simply the nature of that vineyard.
The Impostor California 2009 ($35) is Cohn’s Zinfandel blend, and at 1,200 cases it’s also his largest-production wine. Blending in Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Viognier, Cohn creates an idiosyncratic red with smoky cherry, Asian spice and date bread notes.
Cohn, who makes his wine in an Oakland warehouse, hasn’t given up on Syrah and other Rhône wines, but he seems happy to be back in the Zin saddle again.
Mark Lyon — Sonoma, CA; USA — January 11, 2012 12:21pm ET
Joseph Trdinich — Mars, PA — January 11, 2012 1:18pm ET
Jeff Cohn — Oakland, CA — January 11, 2012 1:49pm ET
Brian Burkhard — Cleveland, OH — January 11, 2012 3:56pm ET
Rich Meier — Reno,NV. Washoe — January 11, 2012 4:43pm ET
Russell Quong — Sunnyvale, CA, USA — January 11, 2012 10:04pm ET
Tim Fish — Santa Rosa, CA — January 12, 2012 11:37am ET
Jeff Cohn — Oakland, CA — January 12, 2012 12:57pm ET
Jeff Cohn — Oakland, CA — January 12, 2012 1:11pm ET
David Rapoport — CA — January 12, 2012 7:01pm ET
Dustin Gillson — Dayton, OH — January 14, 2012 12:26am ET
Karen Peterson — Great Falls, VA — April 23, 2012 7:47am ET
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