The Weekend's Zins
What to look for when you're looking for good zinfandel
Hey, AI dingus, write my blog post for me this week?
*looks around* No? Oh well. Looks like you’re stuck with me.
It’s Memorial Day weekend here in the U.S., the unofficial beginning of the summer. (Wasn’t it just January? Dang!) ‘Twould be a good time to rattle off some suggestions for your barbecues, and my first go-to would tend to be zinfandel.
The “real” red stuff, not the white stuff. Which I probably shouldn’t entirely crap on, as it is one of the most popular wines sold in the U.S., and a gateway for many to drinking drier stuff. I just don’t like sweet wines.
It’s an American wine (and an immigrant, from Croatia, that has succeeded in the U.S.!) The vast majority of the Zinfandel on the market grows in California, and a smaller percentage comes from Italy where it’s called Primitivo. Its intense fruitiness matches well with tomato-based barbecue sauces, making it a great guest at your holiday get-togethers.
But there’s a lot of syrupy fruit-bomby zinfandel out there. I myself have drunk way too much 7 Deadly Zins and it made me swear off zin entirely. I’ve written about my love of Napa’s Turley Wine Cellars before, but I also get that waiting a few times a year and spending a lot of money on shipping aren’t feasible for everyone.
How, then, do you find good zin at your local shop? Our friends at WineFolly have these suggestions:
Who makes the best Zinfandel?
There are several sub-regions in California that make great Zinfandel. Currently, the most popular are Napa Valley, Dry Creek Valley (in Sonoma), Russian River Valley (in Sonoma) and Lodi.
Hot Tip! High Elevation
Look for Zinfandels from high elevation areas (such as Howell Mountain or El Dorado County). High elevation Zinfandels tend to have more savory intensity and richness.
There’s also this great deep dive guide on their site, with descriptions of characteristics from each sub-region and some names for you to check out.
Alcohol level matters Do you want a richer Zinfandel or a lighter Zinfandel? The easiest way to tell how a Zinfandel will feel is to look at the alcohol level.
Riper Zinfandel grapes produce wines with higher alcohol. Riper = richer darker ‘sweeter’ tasting Zinfandel.
If you like a certain region’s Zin, you’ll probably enjoy others. 7 Deadly Zins hails from Lodi, but Turley is from Napa, so I’ll probably look more there.
Another I’ve really liked before is Saldo, which selects zin grapes from all over Northern California to make a unique blend. This is one you should be able to find in your nearest store.
Whatever you drink this weekend, please do it safely, at home, and certainly not if you’re driving. And thanks to all the servicepeople who have given their lives over the years so we can sit around in the backyard drinking anything at all. Enjoy the long weekend!