Temperatures are soaring this week in Central and Northern California, reaching 111° F in Healdsburg on Sunday, for example. We're drinking rosé just to survive, but Zinfandel has been on my mind, too.
Zin is one of the few wine grapes that doesn't mind the occasional blast of summer heat. Many winemakers believe a little heat in July and August contributes to the jammy, plump aromas and flavors that flesh out the hearty red.
Extended heatwaves like we're experiencing this week can wreak havoc later in the growing season, laying the groundwork for pruny, overripe and high-alcohol Zins. But in mid-June the grapes are still small, hard and green—they can more or less shrug off the heat at this stage. The high temps could even slow development, since vines tend to shut down when it reaches 95° F or hotter.
If Zin is on your mind, too, check out my annual report, "Winning Streak," in the July 31 issue. The 2014s and 2015s now on the market are the latest in a series of excellent Zinfandel vintages for California. Both growing seasons were moderately warm but balanced by cool periods that generally allowed for good flavor maturity. That's nearly ideal for Zin.
While I focus on the top wines in the report—reviewing the best releases from Turley, Bedrock, Carlisle, Jeff Cohn, Dry Creek and more—today I'm talking value. And that is one of Zinfandel's strong suits.
Valley Vineyards Zinfandel Alexander Valley Sin Zin 2014 (88 points, $20)
Loads of briary cherry and licorice flavors.
Zinfandel Mendocino Old Vines 2015 (88, $18)
Zesty and easygoing with plum and pepper notes.
Zinfandel Contra Costa County Ancient Vines 2015 (88, $15)
Plump and jammy, with zesty wild berry and grilled anise aromas.
Zinfandel Sonoma County 2015 (90, $25)
Sleek with lively cherry and dusty sage flavors.
Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley Mother Clone 2014 (89, $18)
A hearty, zesty red with cherry and sweet anise accents.
Zabaco Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley Sonoma Heritage Vines 2014 (88, $18)
A jammy frit bomb with black raspberry and pepper aromas.