Zinfandel has gotten more expensive in recent years, there's no arguing that. Zin vines will crank out buckets of wishy-washy juice if you let them, but it takes effort and time and money to make great Zin.
That's particularly true with the 2010 and 2011 vintages, in which Zin makers faced every plague but locust. Good Zins from those vintages selling for less than $15 or $20 a bottle will be few and far. In my annual report, "Zinfandel Elegance" in the June 30 issue of Wine Spectator, I was so concerned about the challenges and quality of those vintages that I didn't give readers enough good advice on value.
Consider this the makeup test.
Consumers are lucky because there are still plenty of tasty 2009 bargains on the shelves and a few 2010 values are arriving. Only providence knows what the next year will bring with the 2011s.
Here are 10 of my favorite values from the past year. I'm sure I missed a few. Any suggestions? I selected wines that had good availability and cost less than $20. Wine Spectator members can read the full reviews by clicking on the links.
Ancient Peaks Zinfandel Paso Robles 2009 (88 points, $17)
Artezin Zinfandel Mendocino County 2010 (90, $18)
De Loach Zinfandel Russian River Valley 2010 (88, $18)
Easton Zinfandel Amador County 2010 (90, $18)
Edmeades Zinfandel Mendocino County 2009 (88, $20)
Kenwood Zinfandel Sonoma County 2009 (87, $14)
Kunde Estate Zinfandel Sonoma Valley 2009 (90, $18)
Sausal Zinfandel Alexander Valley Family 50 Year Old Vines 2009 (88, $19)