Zinfandel is a warm coat on a cold night.
The red wine shows intense flavors that pair well with heartier fall and winter foods. Zinfandel’s grapes ripen easily in the warm climates, concentrating flavors and sugars. Those sugars end up producing a wine with more alcohol than most, adding a warmth.
A favorite of home winemakers and a heritage grape for the California wine industry, zinfandel stands up well against oak character from barrel aging. You’ll often find zinfandels with cedar-like and toasty characters. Sometimes, those sort of zinfandels remind me of a toasty campfire.
Wineries rarely use 100-percent zinfandel, and most seem to have quantities of other big red grapes, such as petite sirah.
Zinfandel joins forces with petite sirah, carignan and a grape known as mixed black in Ravenswood Old Vine Sonoma County 2014 Zinfandel. Made from vines between 50 and 100 years old with interplanted desired grapes, the wine shows dried berry with floral character with vanilla and caramel notes. It finished dry and hot from the alcohol. $15.
The fruit-forward Rosenblum Cellars Vintners Cuvee XXVIII California Zinfandel shows dried cherry and berry with a distinct peppery finish. $11.
Rock Wall Wine Co. Jesse’s Vineyard 2013 Contra Costa Zinfandel is intense and concentrated, calling to mind brandy-soaked raisins. This creamy, big zinfandel comes from a project involving zinfandel pioneer Kent Rosenblum, who is no longer involved with the eponymous label he founded. $20.
Often, zinfandel can tax the palate with its weight, intense flavor and alcohol. But not St. Francis 2014 Old Vines Sonoma County Zinfandel, a more easy-going zin with reasonable alcohol levels that doesn’t wear you out after a glass. The wine shows black cherry and vanilla character with tobacco and pepper. This is one zin I can endorse with food or even as a holiday pairing. $20. 1/2