Top Quality/Value Zinfandels

StateWays’ sister publication Beverage Dynamics publishes a list of wine recommendations, called Retailer Wine Selections, in every issue based upon written evaluations by its National Retailer Wine Panel. The parameters of each list range from specific varietals to favorite summer wines or favorite holiday wines. Each review includes brief tasting notes, a rating and the wine’s retail price (which varies from store to store and market to market). The following is a sampling of top Zinfandels recently recommended by the Beverage Dynamics National Retailer Wine Panel.






(95) Hartford Court Jolene’s Vineyard Russian River Valley Zinfandel 2011 (California). A stunning zinfandel from 100+ year-old vines; shows near perfect balance between fruit, tannins and acids. ($60)



(95) Outpost Howell Mountain Zinfandel 2011 (California). Full-bodied with loads of ripe fruit; blackberry jam, wild berry and black cherry flavors fill the palate and lead way to a robust, spicy finish, with a hint of crack pepper. ($50)


(95) Brown Chaos Theory Napa Red Blend 2009 (California). Blockbuster blending of Cab/Zin (60/40% for this vintage); all estate-grown fruit from the Brown family, who started farming over 30 years ago in Napa; bold, balanced, great concentration of flavors; black peppercorns, wild blackberries, black cherries; richly textured; the finish is long and lingering. ($69)


(94) Cline Big Break Zinfandel 2011 (California). Big and bold; the higher alcohol and extremely concentrated flavors offer up layer after layer to explore. ($25)


(93) Rombauer Napa Valley Zinfandel 2011 (California). Blackberry and spice aroma; blackberry, spice and peppery flavors; firm tannins, high alcohol, long finish. ($31)


(93) Klinker Brink Old Ghost Old Vine Zinfandel 2011 (California). A deep garnet color with rich aromas of brambleberry, exotic spice, botanical garden notes and cedar shavings; yields were a bit lower in 2011, resulting in rich concentration of color and flavor; delicious, dark fruits fill the palate and finish with a long, silky texture. ($45)


(93) Peter Franus Napa Valley Zinfandel 2009 (California). Balanced structured and elegant zinfandel from the Brandlin Vineyard; cherry, blackberry, and toasty oak; small production wine. ($35)


(93) Sbragia Family Vineyards La Promessa Dry Creek Sonoma Zinfandel 2010 (California). A nose like cherry pie; red and purple fruit aromas are followed by slightly smoky scents that border on French vanilla coffee; a big, fat red that’s soft, ripe and fleshy; silky tannins support spicy flavors of blueberry, black raspberry, black cherry and a finish that conveys subtle baking spice and vanilla nuances. ($35)


(93) Block 919 Dry Creek Zinfandel 2012 (California). Complex, offering ripe flavors of black cherry, raspberry, plum and wild berry that come together and finishes with a rich, long aftertaste. ($25)


(93) Seghesio Sonoma County Zinfandel 2011 (California). Made in the classic style with mid-palate acidity, dark cherry and raspberries and moderate alcohol; for the consumer that eschews the too-ripe style of zin. ($20)


(93) Cline Ancient Vines Contra Costa County Zinfandel 2011 (California). Intense aromas of lilac, rose petal, and spicy black fruit that lead to concentrated flavors of blackberry, currant, and wild plum along with notes of clove, allspice, and “cigar box”; the finish is long and zesty with lip-smacking sweet/tart acidity. ($17)


(93) Deux Amis Sonoma County Zinfandel 2009 (California). There are lovely notes of wildflower, berry, and plum with a hint of the “terroir” of the vineyards of Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys; a Rhone-like earthy nuance that makes this a great match to lamb, game and grilled steak. ($20)


(93) Scott Harvey Amador County Mountain Selection Zinfandel 2010 (California). A classical Amador style; richly aromatic with ripe, concentrated flavors of blackberry and cherry preserves with hints of coffee and spice; balanced by supple tannins on the finish. ($20)


(93) Moss Roxx Ancient Vine Zinfandel 2010 (California). This wine is from 50-year-old vines; big and bold with flavors of raspberry, chocolate and spice. ($25)


(92) Ca’ Momi Napa Valley Zinfandel 2012 (California). A soft, easy-to-enjoy style with nuances of blackberry, cherry, plum and spice; a hint of vanilla and clove on the finish with supple tannins; lovely and a great value. ($14)




(92) Federalist Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley Sonoma Zinfandel 2010 (California). Plum, cherry aroma; plum, blackberry, cinnamon flavors; firm tannins, long finish ($27)




(92) Hartford Old Vine Russian River Valley Zinfandel 2011 (California). Made from vines that average over 85 years of age, the wine is a deep, inky ruby red; wild cherry and raspberry aromas are coupled with hints of rose, spiced tea and fennel; lively red and dark berry flavors pick up spiciness as the wine breaths; shows good length on the finish, which is enhanced by well grained tannins. ($38)




(92) Fritz Estate Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2011 (California). Exhibits seductive aromas of raspberries and toasty oak; there are delicious flavors of blackberries, spice, and black pepper which are well balanced by a focused, vibrant finish; a captivating California Zin. ($25)




(92) Five Vintners Dry Creek Zinfandel 2009 (California). An immaculately proportioned red with a perfumed nose of subtle ripe cranberry, dark cocoa, and a hint of wood smoke; medium to full-bodied, with a wonderful silkiness and polished flavors of boysenberry, raspberry syrup and wild cherry; long and elegant. ($25)




(92) Jeff Runquist Z Amador County Zinfandel 2011 (California). Blended with 18% Petite Sirah, this is a deep purple wine with red currants, raspberry and chocolate flavors with a velvety finish. ($26)




(92) Layer Cake Primitivo 2008 (Italy). Balance of fruit and pepper with almost a creamy texture; deep structure and warm rich fruit add to this powerful yet elegant powerhouse. ($17)








(91) Elyse Korte Ranch Vineyard Napa Zinfandel 2009 (California). Rich purple in color with ripe red and black fruit aromas that draws you to the glass; lush, textured palate bursting with raspberries, sweet cherries, plums, caramel, and hints of vanilla; rich and jammy while remaining balanced on its way to a long finish. ($34)




(91) Za Zin Lodi Zinfandel 2009 (California). Originally a second label for Laurel Glen, and the sequel to the “Reds” series; almost black color in the glass; rich, viscous, “chewy” and intense; hints of tea, leather, tobacco, and rich black fruit on the nose; long velvety finish. ($36)




(91) Sentall Cellars Dry Creek Sonoma Zinfandel 2011 (California). Classic Dry Creek style zinfandel, balancing fruit with judicious use of oak; it embodies terroir: soil, minerals, water and sunlight with the vines; this wine over-delivers. ($38)




(91) Earthquake Zinfandel 2010 (California). This is a big, bold, jammy zin, full bodied and loaded with berries. ($30)




(91) The Fugitive Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2012 (California). Full-bodied and voluptuous with jammy blackberries, raspberries, and spice; a crisp finish laced with well-integrated tannins provides great balance on the smooth finish. ($28)


(91) Truett Hurst Three Vineyards Zinfandel 2011 (California). An elegant Zinfandel that delivers generous flavors of blackberries, raspberries, mocha, and spice; full-bodied and savory, this zinfandel finishes gracefully with smooth tannins and silky texture. ($24)




(91) High Valley Lake County Zinfandel 2011 (California). Concentrated and focused with rich, briary fruit flavors of cherry, plum, wild berry and boysenberry; vibrant spice merges through the big tannins on a long complex, earthy finish. ($20)




(91) Joel Gott Zinfandel 2011 (California). An amazing food wine because of its balance and prettiness; bright fruit and a rich lingering finish complement any red meats or tomato sauces; an elegant finish. ($18)




(90) St. Amant Old Vine Lodi Zinfandel 2012 (California). This rich Old-Vine Zinfandel shows impressively opulent blackberry and spice upfront; this is a stylish and focused zin; a solid finish that deposits subtle black pepper notes. ($20)




(90) Sextant Wheelhouse Paso Robles Zinfandel 2010 (California). A full-bodied Zinfandel with brooding undertones of dark plums, cedar, and spice; firm tannins and a crisp finish add good balance; this is a zinfandel with admirable finesse. ($22)


(90) Forever Lodi Zinfandel 2011 (California). An old vine zinfandel that has plenty of savory blueberry, plum, and blackberry fruit; fresh and smooth, the silky finish boasts additional spice, chocolate, and black pepper flavors. ($10)




(90) Courtney Benham Sonoma Zinfandel 2012 (California). Blackberry and vanilla emerge from this concentrated and full-bodied zinfandel; luxurious dark fruit intermixes with flavors of black pepper, nutmeg, and cedar; an attractive and well-balanced wine. ($18)




(90) Brutocao Mendocino County Primitivo 2008 (California). Earth and tar notes are followed by aromas of fresh herbs and dried red fruits; medium-full and round, it shows off a bevy of bright red fruits on the palate, and almost none of the peppery spice often found in this variety, but that certainly doesn’t detract from anything. ($20)




(90) C.G. Di Arie Sierra Foothills Breakaway Zinfandel 2009 (California).  From the inventor of Captain Crunch (seriously), this is a balanced zin with soft tannins; it delivers blackberries, spice, vanilla and a hint of orange peel; break away from overly extracted, high alcohol with this. ($15)




(90) Hook & Ladder Russian River Valley Zinfandel  2009 (California). After Cecil and Christine De Loach built and sold De Loach, they established a small family winery – Hook & Ladder; this cool climate zinfandel is a delicious brambly, fruity expression laced with cedar; drink it now with anything grilled or let it age a few years. ($20)




(90) Folie a Deux Zinfandel 2010 (California). Big and strapping; some black pepper spice tones, but has blackberry and plum undertones as well. ($18)




(90) St. Francis Zinfandel 2009 (California). Classic old vine style, cherries and spice with toasted oak gives this full-bodied wine a long finish; velvety smooth tannins. ($21)




(90) Avenel Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2012 (California). A jammy Zinfandel with unapologetically rich flavors of blackberry, cedar, and spice; full-bodied and generous with a smooth, bold finish. ($16)




(90) Renwood Fiddletown Zinfandel 2010 (California). Dark fruit, toffee and dark chocolate flavors with a long, long finish. ($21)




(90) La Storia by Trentadue Alexander Valley Zinfandel 2011 (California). A smooth, full-bodied zin that presents aromas of dusty cedar, vanilla and cherry liqueur; subtle forest berry and ripe cherry flavors are sustained by well-concealed acidity and vanillin oak flavors; a pleasing hint of lavender surfaces in the finish. ($24)


(90) Predator OV Lodi Zinfandel 2012 (California). These are 50+ year-old vines that produce fruit that is very concentrated and complex; great forward fruit flavors of black cherries and raspberries, with aromas of spice, espresso, and bacon fat; a real “chewy” wine, perfect with BBQ ribs or venison chili. ($27)




(90) Tin Roof Cellars Zinfandel 2011 (California). Hints of strawberry on the nose with mouth-watering raspberry and currant flavors; soft and smooth finish; a good value. ($12)




(90) Edmeades Mendocino County Zinfandel 2011 (California). Wonderfully layered with flavors of raspberry, smoke and hints of cocoa; a controlled concentration of fruit; the alcohol is also kept in a classic range making for a satisfying and enjoyable wine. ($17)




(90) Montoya Zinfandel 2011 (California). Plenty of rich upfront fruit to keep any California Zinfandel lover happy; blackberry, plums, and blueberries are interwoven with black pepper on the velvety smooth finish. ($14)




(90) Oak Grove Reserve California Zinfandel 2011 (California). Boasts deep raspberry and black pepper flavors that are fresh and vibrant; the finish is silky smooth and crisp; an excellent Zinfandel to pair with food. ($9)




(89) 7 Deadly Zins 2010 (California). The aroma had subtleties that included sweet forest floor and raspberry; enjoyable fruit taste, followed with earthy berries; round tannins and a silky almost creamy mouthfeel; a long finish; a crowd pleaser. ($19)




(89) Gravelly Ford Zinfandel 2011 California (California). The mild bouquet has some stewed fruit aromas leading off and then some ripe plum and cranberry aromas become better defined, and there is a subtle earth note too; medium-full and round, it is rich and fruity on the palate, showing real depth and good balance; a bit spicy, but the fruit flavors remain the star of the show. ($10)




(89) Maggio Family Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel 2011 (California). Bright fruit on the nose with chocolate and raspberry jam flavors; great BBQ wine. ($11)




(89) Cameron Hughes Lot 321 Field Blend 2010 (California). A smoky note opens the bouquet and ripe blueberry and candied cherry aromas quickly join in; impressive depth and a silky mouthfeel, while rich raspberry, blackberry and blueberry flavors roll across the palate; made from 78% zinfandel along with some petite sirah, carignan and mourvedre. ($15)


(89) Cloud Break California Zinfandel 2012 (California). A generous Zinfandel that offers good value; densely-packed flavors of blueberries, pepper, and baking spices; a pleasurably crisp finish balances the upfront fruit. ($9)




(89) Vicious California Zinfandel 2011 (California). Abundant, jammy flavors of blackberries and plums intermix with mocha and black pepper for a plush texture; the wine transitions to a silky smooth finish with echoes of cedar and spice. ($10)




(88) Manifesto Lodi Zinfandel 2011 (California). Oak spice frames the bouquet nicely, with subtle black cherry and plum aromas; nice zing on the entry, but stays well balanced and has a tasty mix of ripe red berry flavors; less oak here (but still a noticeable touch), and a nice vanilla note arrives in the finish. ($15)




(88) Tomei Cellars California Zinfandel 2010 (California). This is definitely a food wine, a zinfandel to complement your meal rather than overwhelm your palate; lovely fruit flavor with light tannins. ($17)




(88) Cigar Lodi Zinfandel 2011 (California). This Lodi zin shows prunes and loam with medium tannins and weight on the palate, not overly-done like some but still a crowd- pleaser; serve with grilled foods.




(88) Ringside Zinfandel 2010 (California). Has a pretty expressive bouquet at this price, with rich blackberry and brambly fruit aromas tinted with spicy oak; fruity and forward on the palate, while cracked black pepper brings in the finish and some licorice lingers in the aftertaste. ($9)




(87) Brazin Old Vine Lodi Zinfandel 2011 (California). Spice, pepper, plum aroma; plum, spice flavors; nice tannins, medium long finish; good buy. ($14)




(87) Cortenova Venezie Primitivo 2012 (Italy). Shows off more terroir than you would expect from such a modest wine, along with tea leaf and new wood; a touch tart up front and stays light bodied and mild throughout, as low acidity keeps the cherry and red berry flavors in focus. ($10)


(85) Ravenswood Vintners Blend California Zinfandel 2011 (California). Black cherry, spice aroma; red fruit, pepper, spice flavor; moderate tannins, medium finish. ($9)


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