Today – 17-November-2021 is National Zinfandel Day
I have been fortunate to spend a good amount of time in Dry Creek Valley. I have been in mid-winter to fantastically triple digit summers. I have picked grapes and I have been on a sorting table sorting Zinfandel. I love Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel and the many producers in this American Viticultural Area (AVA). Every producer will give you a different Zinfandel experience. I can certainly be tasting the same vintage but, of course, each producer will have a remarkably different Zinfandel: it can attribute to terroir and vintage but also each producer has their own philosophy and how they vinify their wines.
Dry Creek Valley like other wine regions in California weathered the storm of prohibition. But in this storm things were lost and some things were retained. What I mean by this are mixed black sites of wine grapes in a single vineyard site with Zinfandel, Alicante Bouschet, French Columbard, Carignan and Petite Sirah. While wine grapes were still cultivated in that period for religious purposes and in some cases medicinal or even wine grapes where individual families who could create wines for their own consumption. While mixed black vineyard sites are not as common as they once were the wines from these sites are not just novel but compelling wines.
Zinfandel today does finds itself in a comfortable and most appreciated time in its existence–most assured today than ever. The many styles I do find intriguing and compelling and I love 100% Zinfandel wines with a vitreous quality. I too love Zinfandel with a smidge of either Alicante Bouschet or Carignan to be wines to be sought after. One producer, Quivira uses the Primitivo clone of Zinfandel; and if blind tasted this wine I would not recognize it as a Primitivo wine necessarily. But the diversity and willingness of producers in Dry Creek Valley to adopt this clone I think are telling of a devotion and love for Zinfandel.
Dry Creek Valley is just west of the charming town of Healdsburg and a great place to stay and find very nice food I might add. Setting base here is a great way to explore Dry Creek Valley over a weekend–don’t come one day but spend the night and, at minimum spend, two days.
Dry Creek is 9,000 acres of vines planted with a diversity of wines from Syrah, Petit Verdot, Barbera, Sangiovese to Chasselas and Chardonnay and more is telling of this AVA’s ability to foster wine grape diversity. King of wine grapes is Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. But I do think Zinfandel is the signature wine of Dry Creek Valley red wines.
Alberto Rafanelli founded this winery in 1900 is a wonderful place to visit (an appointment is needed). I don’t have a tech sheet but based on previous vintages I do suspect a very small percentage of Petite Sirah but the absolute majority is Zinfandel. A. Rafanelli is dry farmed which is always a great feature and done with a great commitment. A wonderful thing and a good practice.
This wine is eight years old and is not tasting like an aged or very aged wine–it has a lively and lovely acidity. Based on other A. Rafenelli wines and again I don’t have a tech sheet the Zinfandels undergo 18 months in French oak – a combination of new, one and two year old barrels.
Use a Burgundy glass to enjoy Zinfandel to enjoy the optimum expression of the wine. The nose of this wine is rich black cherry, dried herbs, flowers, leave on forest floor, suede; the palate is refined and the acidity is bold and appreciable. The palate expresses red and black cherry notes, pepper, a core of bay leaves, peppercorn, and violets; a satisfying and lingering finish.
National Zinfandel Day is important to recall and position Zinfandel for a dinner wine in this autumnal period. In fact, I have listed in my Thanksgiving Wines – Ideas for Your Table article some Zinfandel wines for Thanksgiving. I have listed 9 Zinfandels including A. Rafaenelli’s Zinfandel. I think of what I prepare and how apt they are to pair Zinfandel with a Thanksgiving meal – I think of the flavours of Thyme, bay leaf, Tarragon, Rosemary, accenting dishes like Turkey, stuffing, vegetables and so much more. Try Zinfandel for your Thanksgiving meal!
Have a Happy Thanksgiving and National Zinfandel Day!
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