Posted: May 29, 2013 By Tim Fish
You've missed a lot if you haven't followed Zinfandel the past few years. A quiet revolution has been going on in California, as a group of Zinfandel firebrands are raising the bar on quality. It's something I've written about as far back as 2009, but it's finally seeing fruition.
I explore the trend more thoroughly in "Zinfandel Renaissance," part of the cover package for the June 30 issue of Wine Spectator. The cult favorite and distinctly Californian wine just may be poised for a long-deserved mainstream revival.
Posted: April 15, 2013
Posted: March 18, 2013 By Aaron Romano
Posted: February 27, 2013 By Tim Fish
Zinfandel lovers won't be happy to hear that winemaker Ehren Jordan has left Turley Wine Cellars after 18 years, but if you've followed Jordan and the impressive work he has done at his own winery, Failla, it should come as no surprise.
"Most people think Helen is still making the wine anyway," Jordan laughed, referring to Turley's short-tenured first winemaker, Helen Turley, the sister of owner Larry Turley.
In the past two decades, Jordan and Larry Turley together crafted what I think are some of California's most impressive and iconic Zinfandels. You'll find Turley wines on the best restaurant wine lists in the country. They are full-flavored, powerful yet refined, and express the distinctive character of Zin and the classic old vineyards from which they come, like Hayne in Napa Valley, Ueberroth in Paso Robles and Dogtown in Lodi.
Posted: February 6, 2013 By Tim Fish
They may have pulled out a toupee's worth of hair during harvest 2011, but California Zinfandel producers have been telling me for months that the 2011s are much better than they expected. Of course, winemakers always say that after a difficult vintage because, eventually, they have to sell the wine, so I generally take it with a grain of salt.
But as the annual Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (ZAP) Festival in San Francisco on Saturday showed, they weren't stretching the truth this time. The 2011 Zinfandels are lovely wines in general: fresh, floral and elegant, with crisp acidity and modest levels of alcohol. Those who love to bash Zinfandels as fruit-bomb monsters have nothing to complain about with the 2011s.
Posted: January 14, 2013 By Tim Fish
Posted: November 12, 2012 By Talia Baiocchi
Balance in wine, as most of us describe it, is the harmony of fruit, acid, tannins and alcohol, such that no one component is all elbow, so to speak. Sounds agreeable, but the word balance—and what it implies in the modern wine world—has become a more complex and symbolic topic than that description suggests. And generalizing what balance means in wine, whether via degrees alcohol or grams of residual sugar, has become risky business.
The word balance in California, for example, has come to symbolize a movement toward restraint and lower alcohol levels, particularly in Pinot Noir. Rajat Parr, one of the wine world's most respected sommeliers and the beverage director at the Michael Mina Group, has earned three Wine Spectator Grand Awards for his wine lists. He has also become infamous for refusing to sell Pinot Noir that clocks in over 14 percent alcohol at RN74 in San Francisco and has started an organization called In Pursuit of Balance, along with Jasmine Hirsch, of Hirsch Winery in Sonoma. It's composed of producers making Pinot Noir and Chardonnay who are advocates for balance, which they believe is achieved at lower alcohol levels (though the percentage is not precisely defined).
Posted: November 7, 2012 By Tim Fish
Winemakers in Northern California are finally catching their breath as harvest 2012 winds to a finish. In the mood to kick back, and perhaps celebrate a little, winemakers Adam Lee of Siduri and Mike Officer of Carlisle had a long lunch last week at Stark's Steakhouse in Sonoma County and let me tag along.
Posted: September 26, 2012 By Tim Fish
An honest value is something you appreciate when you grow up in a blue-collar house like I did. Dad always joked that Mom had "Champagne taste on beer money," which was partially right. She didn't believe in settling for something inferior even if she wasn't spending a lot of money.
That's one reason I've always had a soft spot for wineries like Pedroncelli. It's owned by an old Italian family that has been in Sonoma County for four generations. They grow their own grapes and, without a lot of fuss, make wine that people can afford to drink every day. While many of California's Italian winemaking families have taken their businesses upscale or have sold to large companies, the Pedroncellis have stayed the course.
Posted: August 29, 2012 By Tim Fish
My grandparents owned a corner grocery store back in Indiana when I was growing up and my grandfather Sam was an old-fashioned butcher, cutting meat by hand on a wood butcher block table. Every Monday, a new side of beef arrived and he would painstakingly whittle it down to the various roasts and cuts and grind his own hamburger.
If there were any leftover steaks by noon Sunday--yes, he worked 6½ days a week--he would call my dad and say, “Light the grill!” That didn’t happen a lot, but somehow he managed to always have leftovers on Labor Day Weekend. So when I was 7 or 8, I was accustomed to eating good and incredibly fresh steak. The fact that my dad tended to cook the life out of them is another blog post altogether.
Posted: August 6, 2012
Posted: July 27, 2012
Posted: June 30, 2012
Posted: June 13, 2012 By Tim Fish
How can you not like a wine region called Rockpile? The name alone brings up all sorts of images, of prehistoric-style rugged countrysides or chain gangs busting stones in the godforsaken sun. The reality of the place is not all that different from that. Rockpile is a rustic landscape and a distinctive place that makes equally distinctive red wines, particularly Zinfandel and Syrah. Some of the wineries that make wine from the region's fruit include Carol Shelton, JC Cellars, Seghesio, St. Francis and Valdez Family.
That day, people were practically crawling across the Meadowood lawn like it was the sandy Mojave in search of something cool and refreshing. And all they could find was Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. Warm Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. They could have raised $100,000 on a single chilled bottle of rosé that day. I would have chipped in.
Posted: May 30, 2012 By Tim Fish
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.
Posted: April 9, 2012 By Tim Fish
One of California's best sweet spots for great old-vine Zinfandel is a remote little valley in western Russian River not far from Forestville. The best-known vineyard there is Jackass Hill, which was first planted in 1889 and is notably bottled by Martinelli Winery.
Just down the hill, and once part of the original Giuseppe Martinelli ranch, is the 18-acre Martinelli Road Vineyard. It's not nearly as well known as Jackass Hill, but Turley bottled it under the Rancho Burro designation for many years, and Mike Officer at Carlisle launched a single-vineyard Martinelli Road in 2009, which I rated 94 points on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale. Last week, the McWilliams family of Arista Winery purchased the vineyard for an undisclosed sum. It sounds like the vineyard is in good hands.
Posted: April 4, 2012 By Tim Fish
Back in the mid 1990s, there were three kings of California Zinfandel, the Three Rs we called them: Ravenswood, Ridge and Rosenblum. The snotty young punk in Zintown was Turley. Fast-forward almost 20 years and things have sure changed. The Three Rs continue to make fine Zinfandels—Ridge most frequently—but only Turley is on top of its game."
That's my takeaway after tasting through the winery's most-recent releases. I've been drinking Turley since the first vintage, 1993, and, taken as a group, these are some of the best Zinfandels that Turley has made. The group included 2009s from the winery's top single vineyards as well as early-release 2010 from its value-oriented blends.
Posted: March 19, 2012 By Tim Fish
Posted: February 27, 2012 By Tim Fish
Posted: February 1, 2012 By Tim Fish
Wine Spectator associate editor Tim Fish attended the Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (ZAP) Festival in San Francisco this past weekend. It was an opportunity for him to get a first impression of the difficult 2010 vintage, as well as taste more wines from the outstanding 2009 vintage. Here are his notes from the festival and scores for his top 10 favorite wines.
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