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Senior Tim Fish joined the Wine Spectator staff in 2001. His tasting beat includes Oregon, Washington, California Zinfandel and Rhône-style reds, and U.S. sparkling wines.
Tim Fish

A Zinfandel Built for the Cellar

Seghesio Zinfandel Sonoma County Old Vine 2008

Tim Fish
Posted: October 1, 2010

If you have a wine cellar, chances are there’s not much old California Zinfandel in it. Even many Zin fans aren’t convinced it improves with age, but I don’t think most of them particularly care. For them, Zin is about big, zesty fruit and a distinctive personality. In my opinion, a few Zins benefit from a year or two of rest to smooth out their youthful vigor, but only a handful truly get better after five years or more.

A few months back, I wrote about a Carol Shelton Zin that was built for the cellar, and I’m betting that the Seghesio Old Vine 2008 ($36) will be one, too. The Seghesio family has been growing Zinfandel in Sonoma County for more than 100 years, so they know a thing or two. A blend of grapes from vineyards in Dry Creek and Alexander valleys, the 2008 is a bruiser, offering dense blackberry fruit with notes of sage, olive and white pepper, yet there’s a sense of suppleness and complexity at the core. I gave it 90 points, non-blind.

WineSpectator.com members: Get scores and tasting notes for previous vintages of the Seghesio Zinfandel Sonoma County Old Vine.

• Plus, get our quick list of Top Values among California Zinfandel.

Stewart Lancaster
beaver,pa —  October 1, 2010 2:39pm ET
I tend to think zins can age well, especially ridge zins which I still enjoy from the mid 90's especially the geyserville and lytton springs. Also have some Rosenblum Richard Sauret from 2002-2004 that are tasting great.
Tim Fish
Santa Rosa, CA —  October 1, 2010 3:11pm ET
Stewart, thanks for the note. You make a valid point. Many Zins will drink beautifully after 10-15 years of cellaring. The question is will they improve? Are they better wines after 10 or 15 years? The answer is subjective to a degree, depending on personal preferences. I think only a handful - and Ridge can be among that group - actually improve over the long haul.
David Peters
Mission Viejo, CA —  October 1, 2010 3:30pm ET
Tim........My experience with aging Zins (assuming the wine is WELL-BALANCED) is the range of 3 to 7 yrs, with the 'sweet-spot being 3 to 4 yrs. If the Zinfandel is really 'well-built' it might even improve to the 8-9 year mark. I've had a few Zins aged 10 yrs that kept the spiciness of the Zin grape while also taking on some characterists of a mature Cali Cab or French Pauillac.
David W Voss
elkhorn, Wi —  October 1, 2010 5:05pm ET
Seghesio is one of my go-to Zins even for my Wisconsin family. The 2006 Old Vines numbers a half dozen in my cellar after a two bottle testing, lol. I always try the various Seghesio's that I can find locally and add in Four Vines for medium drinking.
Don Rauba
Schaumburg, IL —  October 1, 2010 10:10pm ET
I'm drinking a lot of 2003, 04, and 05 zins right now, and many are just starting to mellow nicely. Seghesio, Ridge, and Ravenswood make a lot of zins that seem to achieve 5-7 years with ease, at which point I drink for fear of losing them. But for the crappy TCA tainted corks in most of them, I would buy more. But if 1 in 3 is tainted (which has been my experience), what's the use? The vintners can't replace my carefully aged bottle with the same vintage, so I'm just out of luck. I'm gonna ask this again: If you bottle wine that really isn't meant for long-term aging, why wouldn't you use screw caps on ALL of it?
Garet Tanaka
Maui, Hawaii —  October 2, 2010 4:11am ET
Kudos to the Seghesio family for consistently making great zins year-in, year-out. And they do this while keeping them affordable, unlike some of the other wineries that receive high scores one year, then increase prices the following year.
George Jordan
Scituate, Massachusetts —  October 2, 2010 10:40pm ET
I would put Robert Biale's zins in this group, his 05 Black Chicken Vineyard definitely needs the time to mellow. I have some zins in half bottles as well and I've been told that half bottles age differently. Not sure if this is true. Tim, do you have an opinion on this?
Terrance Rooney
San Francisco, CA —  October 3, 2010 6:18pm ET
Kent Rosenblum told me that he considered aging Zins five years to be the maximum, and in 35 years of drinking Zins, I would have to agree with him.

Yes, some Zins (Ridge, etc.) can age but they start to taste like Cabernet then. To which I say: what is the point? If you want a Cab taste, buy a Cab. I drink Zin (lots of it) because I like the taste of Zins.
Tim Fish
Santa Rosa, CA —  October 3, 2010 8:17pm ET
Terrance - "If you want a Cab taste, buy a Cab. I drink Zin (lots of it) because I like the taste of Zins." Well put.
Jennifer Grobelny
Philadelphia,Pa —  October 3, 2010 8:55pm ET
I just received the 2008 Old Vine Seghesio as part of their club and was really impressed with this one, the fruit exploded in your mouth. It will be interesting to see how this ages but is going to be tough to not drink.
Ray Famiani
Kingsford, MI —  October 4, 2010 3:51pm ET
Seghesio Zins have been my favorite for the last 12 years. I've never been disappointed.
Karen & Blair Francis
Mississauga, Canada —  October 5, 2010 9:44am ET
Are there any Peter Franus zin fans out there? How does Seghesio compare to it?

We order a case of Peter Franus annually since it knocked our socks off once at a wine dinner. I think we still have some 2004 in the cellar. Have never noticed a decline in the taste.

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