What's cooking this Fourth of July weekend? Something good on the grill, I hope! The barbecue season is in full swing, and if you've got an all-American cookout planned, bring an all-American bottle of wine to the table: California Zinfandel.
Zin's robust and spicy character make it a good partner for all sorts of grilled food, from hot dogs and hamburgers to Cajun spiced chicken and tri-tip. And with no shortage of producers offering a broad range of styles and prices, there's sure to be a good match for every palate and pocketbook. Here are a handful of my favorites.
Nalle Winery is a small producer in Healdsburg who makes what I'll call an old school Zin. By not bowing to the current trend of hyperripeness, the wines showcase some of the subtler and compelling nuances of the variety which can at times be dominated by jamminess and high alcohol. Check their website or give them a call to find out where the wines are currently sold - I've found them at the Sonoma Market. Cheers to Nalle for not letting this breed of Zinfandel fall by the wayside!
Rosenblum Cellars, right across the bay in Alameda, is a great place to go to taste a broad range of Zinfandels. These folks produce a staggering array of them, giving you the opportunity to try wines from many different growing regions in the state under one roof. With prices from around 12 dollars for the well-received Non-Vintage Vintner's Blend on up, there's something for everyone. And the winery is easily accessible from the Alameda ferry station, so if you're coming from San Francisco, you don't even have to drive.
Renwood Winery, located in Amador County in the Sierra Foothills, makes an intriguing Fiddletown Zinfandel. Wines from the Foothills tend to have distinct flavors and aromas which set them apart from other California bottles. Differences in soil types and growing conditions play a big part, and the result can be quite good. Compare a bottle of the Renwood Fiddletown Zin to one grown in Napa or Sonoma, and let me know if you get the same impression.
Turley Wine Cellars is immensely popular for their Zinfandel bottlings, so much so that at times it can be difficult to find a bottle, and they can be pricey. If you're looking for a bottle of Zin to splurge on, consider any of their offerings. I recently had the opportunity to taste through their range of Zinfandels and was quite impressed. They are big wines, to be sure, but possessed a complexity and a degree of refinement which I hadn't expected. Premier Cru wine shop in Emeryville has a good selection of current and previous vintages.
Ridge Vineyards rounds out my list of favorite producers. The first bottle of their Lytton Springs Zinfandel I tried, many years ago, made me stop and take notice of this variety. I'm partial to their York Creek bottling as well. Look for them online or in the city at K&L Wines or the Jug Shop (and say hello to Chuck).
Have fun with the Zins this weekend, and have a great 4th!