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Blogs  :  Outside the Bottle with Talia Baiocchi

A Case Study in Balance: Zinfandel

The model for Pinot Noir cannot apply to every grape

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).

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

Let's Get Real About 2012

Two of California's best winemakers ponder the future of this year's vintage

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.

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

Value Is a Family Affair

Pedroncelli Winery is an authentic slice of old-school Sonoma County

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.

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

Value Reds for the Labor Day Grill

When it comes to steak or burgers, it's hard to beat these bargain bottles

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.  

Learn Wine  :  Ask Dr. Vinny

Isn't white Zinfandel really just cheap and underhanded?

Posted: August 6, 2012  

Learn Wine  :  Ask Dr. Vinny

Why do people hate white Zinfandel?

Posted: July 27, 2012  

June 30, 2012 Issue  :  Alphabetical Listing

California Zinfandel Alphabetical Listing

Posted: June 30, 2012  

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

Between a Rockpile and a Zin Place

Sonoma's young AVA is a distinctive place that makes distinctive wines

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.

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

Buy These Value Zins While You Can

Few bargains as the 2010 and 2011 vintages come on the market

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.

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

One of Sonoma's Oldest Zin Vineyards Gets a New Lease on Life

Arista Winery's McWilliams family buys Russian River's Martinelli Road vineyard

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.

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

The Snotty Young Punk of Zintown

Once the upstart, Turley is now one of the undisputed kings of California Zinfandel

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.

News & Features  :  Tasting Highlights

14 California Zinfandels for $25 or Less

New reviews of great red values from across the state in a range of styles

Posted: March 19, 2012  By Tim Fish

News & Features  :  Tasting Highlights

12 Winning Sonoma Zinfandels

New reviews of good value Zins from recent vintages

Posted: February 27, 2012  By Tim Fish

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

2010 Zinfandels a Mixed Bag at ZAP Tasting

Notes on my favorite wines at the annual San Francisco event

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.

Blogs  :  Exploring Wine with Tim Fish

JC Cellars Back in the Zin Saddle Again

Winemaker Jeff Cohn returns to his roots and proves he still has the touch

Posted: January 11, 2012  By Tim Fish

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.

News & Features  :  What We're Drinking Now

A Hearty Zin for the Holidays

Michael & David Phillips Zinfandel Lodi 7 Deadly Zins Old Vine 2008

Posted: January 5, 2012  By Kim Marcus

Learn Wine  :  Ask Dr. Vinny

Are Zinfandel grapes and wines produced only in the United States?

Posted: January 4, 2012  

News & Features  :  Tasting Highlights

14 California Zinfandels

New releases in a range of styles, from bold and ripe to supple and elegant

Posted: November 28, 2011  By Tim Fish

News & Features  :  What We're Drinking Now

A Zesty Red That’s No Turkey for Thanksgiving

Buehler Zinfandel Napa Valley 2009

Posted: November 21, 2011  By Tim Fish

Nov. 15, 2011 Issue  :  Features

Living History

California’s old-vine Zinfandels stand the test of time—and then some

Posted: November 15, 2011  By Tim Fish

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