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2011 Harney Lane Old Vine Zinfandel Lizzy James Vineyard Lodi

Lodi is well-known for old vine Zinfandel with many vines planted more than a century ago. Some of Lodi’s grape-growing families have participated in as many vintages themselves. The Schnaidt-Mettler family, which created Harney Lane Winery in 2006, started as growers and planted their first Lodi grapes in 1906. Winery founder George Mettler [1943–2013] resided adjacent to the family vineyard his entire life.

The Lizzy James Vineyard, which belongs to Harney Lane and has produced the winery’s most-celebrated wine from the beginning, dates back to 1904. It holds roughly 20-acres of gnarled, head-trained Zinfandel vines planted on Lodi’s unique Tokay sandy loam.

The 2011 Harney Lane Lizzy James is a hedonistic, yet balanced, Zinfandel: deeply-colored wine and full-bodied with medium+ chalky tannins. Its luscious aromas and flavors of sweet red and black cherries, spice, toffee and caramel are so generous that it's hard to put the glass down. The stated alcohol is high, but rich fruit and a touch of residual sugar ensure  there’s no heat on the palate. Enjoy over the next three to five years. Highly Recommended

2011 Harney Lane Old Vine Zinfandel Lizzy James Vineyard Lodi
2011 Harney Lane Lizzy JamesRating: Highly Recommended
Drink: now through 2018
Release Date: November 9, 2013
Closure: Cork
Production: 443 cases
Retail Price: $35.00

Winemaker: Chad Joseph
Blend: Zinfandel
Origin: Lizzy James Vineyard, eastern Mokelumne River AVA, Lodi
Aging: 22 months in French oak
Residual Sugar: 1.3 g/L Alcohol: 15.9%

Service Recommendations
Decanting: Not recommended
Temperature: 58º - 62º F
Food Pairings: Duck Breast with molé sauce (from Alebrijes Mexican Bistro)

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Disclosures: The FTC has tightened its guidelines with respect to online ads, reviews, blogs, etc. in response to people who are passing paid ads off as personal recommendations or who accept samples of expensive hard goods in exchange for reviews. My lengthy disclosure here is meant to address those guidelines.

The wine review above reflects my personal experience with the product. It is not a paid ad, nor do I accept ads or compensation for reviews from wine producers. Reviews may cover products that I have purchased, received as samples, or tried under other circumstances I consider to be good tasting conditions. Receiving a product as a sample does not obligate me to review it positively (or at all) and I do not consider samples to be compensation or “free wine.” I have purchased plenty of wine over the years and have more of that than I can drink. Samples are opened for review purposes, not added to my personal cellar or taken to restaurants.

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This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2013 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

2009 V. Sattui Zinfandel Gilsson Vineyard Russian River Valley

V. Sattui makes this wine from Russian River Valley vines that are nearing 50 years of age. They’re on St. George rootstock, which keeps the phylloxera away, and located in the eastern portion of the AVA. Low-nutrient, clay loam combined with the vines’ age minimizes vigor, emphasizing character.

The wine is very fragrant, melding warm spices, brown sugar and oak with ripe black cherries and blackberry. In the mouth there are medium+ body and tannins that start out silky and gradually transition to a lightly chalky feel. The flavors are rich and long-lasting with blackberry, spice and oak plus some warmth from the alcohol. The 2009 V. Sattui Gilsson Vineyard Zinfandel is an engaging, easy-to-like Zinfandel that will go well with a slab or ribs or a meat lover’s pizza. Drink now through 2016. Recommended+

wine-gilsson-vineyard-zin12009 V. Sattui Zinfandel Gilsson Vineyard Russian River Valley
Rating: Recommended+
Drink: now - 2016
Release Date: Spring 2011
Closure: Cork
Retail Price: $37.00, available winery-direct only

Winemaker: Brooks Painter
Origin: Gilsson Vineyard, Russian River Valley AVA, Sonoma County
Fermentation:
Aging:
Alcohol: 15.0%

Service Recommendations
Decanting: Not required
Temperature: 58º - 64º F
Food Pairings: Braised short ribs, fall-off-the-bone pork ribs or fennel sausage pizza

The wine above was received from the winery for review.

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This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2012 NorCal Wine. Photo courtesy of V. Sattui. All rights reserved.

2009 McCay Cellars “Jupiter” Zinfandel

The Mokelumne River AVA is central within the larger Lodi AVA.  Old-vine Zinfandel is more prominent there than in the other nested AVAs of Lodi. Its deep, well-drained Tokay Sandy Loam is well-suited to Zinfandel and also keeps phylloxera at bay, allowing the vines to thrive for decade after decade.

The Jupiter Vineyard is located in the eastern portion of the Mokelumne River AVA. That side is a bit farther from the cooling influence of the Delta and produces the style most people consider “classic Lodi Zinfandel.” The vines used in this wine from McCay Cellars are around 40 years old, not the region’s most venerable but more than old enough to provide old-vine concentration and complexity.

The 2009 McCay Cellars Jupiter Zinfandel has a character that newcomers to McCay’s style might find surprisingly savory. Winemaker/Proprietor Michael McCay picks earlier than many of his colleagues, relies on native yeast fermentation and uses only French oak barrels, just a small percentage of which are new. The resulting wines tend to be more nuanced and offer a wider range of flavors than might otherwise be the case.

There are plenty of huckleberry and chocolate aromatics in McCay's 2009 Jupiter Zinfandel, but also a lot of cola, herb and tobacco. In the mouth, the wine starts out creamy with medium+ body. Gradually, lightly chalky tannins reveal themselves and, along with noticeable acidity, help to balance the rich red fruit and alcohol. There is a broad spectrum of delicousl flavors, including sour cherry, raspberry, cola, oak, tangy spice, mocha and forest floor which weave around each other for a generous finish. The 2009 McCay Cellars Jupiter Zinfandel is a complex and tasty old-vine Zinfandel with enough flavor and richness to stand on its own, but also the restraint and structure to compliment a nice meal. Drink now through 2015. Highly Recommended.

For more on McCay Cellars see my profile of the winery, including a video interview with Michael McCay.

2009-McCay-Cellars-Jupiter-Zinfandel2009 McCay Cellars “Jupiter” Zinfandel
Rating: Highly Recommended
Drink: now - 2015
Bottling Date: November 11, 2012
Closure: Cork
Production: 449 cases
Retail Price: $28.00

Winemaker: Michael McCay
Origin: Jupiter Vineyard, eastern Mokelumne River AVA, Lodi
Fermentation: Indigenous yeasts in large bins, manual punch down, malolactic fermentation in barrel
Aging: 26 months in French oak — 22% new, 33% twice or thrice used, 45% neutral
Alcohol: 14.7%

Service Recommendations
Decanting: Not required
Temperature: 58º - 62º F
Food Pairings: Seared duck breast on beluga lentils or smoked baby back ribs with a savory dry rub

The wine above was provided by the winery for review.

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This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2012 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

2009 JC Cellars Iron Hill Vineyard Zinfandel Sonoma Valley

Jeff Cohn, proprietor and winemaker at JC Cellars, has been making Zinfandel for nearly two decades. He’s made many excellent and high-scoring Zins under his own label and at Rosenblum (which he left in 2006). However, Cohn is a Rhone-variety guy at heart. His love of those wines dates back to his days as an enology student.

Cohn refers to the 2009 Iron Hill Vineyard as the Cote-Rotie of Zinfandel. That fits. Tasting the wine with him, hallmark aromas of Northern Rhone Syrah were obvious at first sniff: wild game, rosemary-like herb, earthy spices. The palate carried on the illusion, or allusion.

The power of suggestion is strong though. So, I bought a bottle — okay, two, I wanted to drink one — and poured the wine blind for a small panel of skilled tasters. I gave no hints as to what the wine was or where it was from. “Mourvedre, maybe Southern France?” asked one. “Could be Northern Rhone, Crozes-Hermitage?” offered another. When I eventually confessed that the wine was not French, there was more guessing which culminated with, “Oh, my God. It’s not Zinfandel is it?” Yes. Yes it is.

I had poured this wine after we’d tasted several very good Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, all California wines. So the fact that this wine immediately took everyone’s minds to France is telling. As is the fact that it was also everyone’s favorite glass of the day.

The 2009 JC Cellars Iron Hill Vineyard Zinfandel is dark ruby and very generous aromatically. It offers a range of brambly berry fruits, leather, game, rosemary and cedar forest, white pepper and baking spice. The palate is medium-plus in body with light to moderate, fully integrated tannins. There are rich flavors of sweet oak, dark fruit, blueberry, raisin, cured black olives and spice. The finish is medium-plus. Drink now through 2017. Highly Recommended+.

2009 JC Cellars Iron Hill Vineyard Zinfandel Sonoma Valley
wines-09_Iron_Hill_Zin-0.0.250Rating: Highly Recommended+
Drink: Now through 2017
Closure: Cork
Production: 225 cases
Retail Price: $35.00

Winemaker: Jeff Cohn
Origin: Iron Hill Vineyard, Sonoma Valley
Alcohol: 14.8%

Service Recommendations
Decanting: Not required
Temperature: 60º - 64º F
Food Pairings: Lamb tagine or merquez with couscous

The wine above was purchased for review.

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This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2012 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

2010 Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel Sonoma County

There are many excellent single-vineyard Zinfandel bottlings. They are distinct, interesting and reflect both the vintage and the vineyard’s terroir. On the other hand, single-vineyard wines can be pricey, too much so for most people’s every day drinking. And they are produced in low volume, so finding the one you want on the spur of the moment can be difficult.

It’s good to have a high-quality regional blend as a “go-to” wine. The blends can still have unique personalities, whether that’s a regional character or house style. They reflect vintage, but more subtly. Less variation from year to year makes regional blends a reliable choice even when you’ve not tried a particular vintage yet. The blending process also allows winemakers to smooth out rough edges and fill in gaps to create a wine that will appeal to a broader range of drinkers. Bottle prices are usually lower than single-vineyards wines, volumes higher. And you can find them.

Seghesio’s Sonoma Zinfandel has long been one of my top choices among regional Zinfandels. Most of the grapes come from Seghesio estate vineyards, three in Dry Creek Valley and one in Alexander Valley. The wine is consistently good and full of prototypical Zinfandel character. It’s also a wine that is pretty easy to afford and locate in stores. I purchased the bottle I reviewed at Bevmo for about $22. You can even find the wine overseas at places like Tesco sometimes. That's a rarity for quality Zinfandel.

The 2010 Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel Sonoma County is medium-plus ruby in color with welcoming aromas of candied black cherry, caramel, coconut and vanilla. The palate is spot on for Zinfandel. The body is medium to medium-plus and supple with moderate, fine-grained tannins that smooth out after five minutes in the glass. Core flavors of black cherry, blackberry and blueberry are complemented by notes of spice, oak and cocoa. Highly Recommended.

2010 Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel Sonoma County
2010_seghesio_zinRating: Highly Recommended
Drink: Now through 2015
Release Date: October, 2011

Closure: Cork
Retail Price: $24.00

Winemaker: Ted Seghesio
Blend: Zinfandel with Petite Sirah
Origin: Sonoma County, predominantly Home Ranch, San Lorenzo and River Road in Alexander Valley, and Cortina in Dry Creek Valley
Aging: 10 months in oak barrels, 75% American (10% new), 25% French (all neutral)
Alcohol: 14.8%

Service Recommendations
Decanting: Not required
Temperature: 60º - 63º F
Food Pairing: fire up the grill

The wine above was purchased for review.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2012 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.