Sonoma Wine Country Weekend kicks off tomorrow and while I will not be in attendance this year (I write this while touring Northern Italy for a couple of weeks–I know, rough life), there are over 200 wineries and 60 local chefs that come together to make this one of the best wine charity fundraisers in the country.
There are winemaker lunches and dinners on both Friday and Saturday, culminating in the Sonoma Harvest Auction and winemaker barbecues on Sunday. The Sonoma Wine Country Weekend has raised over $20 million dollar since its inception for schools, children, and farm workers in need across the county,
As a way to “kick-off” the weekend, I was asked to sample a bevy of Zinfandels (and one red blend with a bunch of Zin in it) and while I am by no means a Zinfanatic (see what I did there?), these were certainly some fine examples of how the variety can really excel across the county.
So even if you do not plan to be in Sonoma this weekend for the event, grab a bottle or two of Sonoma County wine and play along at home.
2013 Acorn Zinfandel Heritage Vines Alegría Vineyards Russian River Valley: Retail $45. 78% Zinfandel, 12% Alicante Bouschet, and 8% Petite Sirah (the other 2% is a real fruit salad of 13 varieties). 14.4% ABV. Fairly dark in the glass with notes of blackberry, vanilla, and some allspice. Lovely fruit that is certainly on the big side, but far from being overbearing. After that first wave of juiciness, there is considerable depth and the spice comes roaring in. This is a lovely quaff with something for everyone: fruit, depth, and a long finish. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2014 Hartford Old Vine Zinfandel Russian River Valley: Retail $40. From dry farmed vineyards with an average vine age of over 100 years. Blackberry jam out the ting-yang here. At the back a bit herbal as well (basil?). Wonderful fruit up front with fantastic acidity with that fruit lasting all the way though to the finish. Big, but just short of huge. Yum. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2013 Limerick Lane 1910 Block Zinfandel Russian River Valley: Retail $48. Limerick Lane Vineyard is one of the more renowned Zinfandel vineyards in Sonoma County and this bottling is at the top of their lineup (Limerick Lane was first planted to grapes in 1910, hence the name). A bit hot on the nose with some tight dark berry fruit. On the dark side of color: opaque and brooding. Rich. Really rich. Based on the nose, I feared that the wine might be too high in alcohol (14.8%), but this works and works well. It is not one to age in the cellar at all, but big Zin lovers will covet this. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2013 Pedroncelli Red Wine Blend Barrel Select Dry Creek Valley: Retail $25. Petite Sirah, Merlot, Sangiovese, Syrah and Zinfandel. I have probably spent more time in Dry Creek Valley over the last two years than any other wine region, but I have never been to Pedroncelli for some reason. That might have to change. Dark raspberry fruit with black pepper subtlety tickles the nose, and some juicy fruit initially tantalizes the palate. Good balance of acidity and oak–neither one out of place nor lacking, and a tasty, lasting finish. Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2014 Mauritson Rockpile Zinfandel Rockpile Ridge Vineyard: Retail $41. On one of my first visits to Dry Creek, I rode my bike up to the Rockpile Appellation, which sits high above the Valley floor, above Lake Sonoma. It is a beautiful and excruciatingly painful trek, a 12 mile climb with several lengthy stretches of 10% and higher grade (for most people, climbs start to get hard at 5-6%). The wine? Much easier to handle: Raspberry, black raspberry, and any other kind of raspberry you can think of. Certainly fruit driven on the palate but nicely balanced and seamless. Surprisingly, not much on the backend regarding tannins, but a lingering finish. This is not one to keep in the long-term, but it is a delightful wine. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2012 Sbragia Gino’s Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley: Retail $34. 94% Zinfandel, 4% Carignane, 2% Petite Sirah. A blend of three Sonoma County vineyard’s (Gino’s, Italo’s, and La Promessa), Gino was Ed Sbragia’s father and this is an ode to the traditional blend that his father would make every year. Fairly light color in the glass, with a bit of a Thanksgiving vibe with plum, cranberry, and vanilla. Fruity and full, but fairly tame when it comes to California Zinfandel. Honestly? This is certainly close to my wheelhouse as there are ample tannins implying the wine could benefit from a little time in the cellar. Even a lot of time. Still, it is fabulous right now, much more of a restrained, earthy Zin than the others. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.