Tag Archive: Zinfandel


Orin Swift Rant

The most recent Wine Spectator magazine, August 31st 2016 presents a tiny blip of an article about Orin Swift. Recently, Orin Swift vineyards was sold to E & J Gallo, the announcement quietly popping into public view on June 9th. Writer, MaryAnn can be quoted in this blip saying that “All signs point to Orin Swift growing after the transaction, with access to more vineyards.” While it may be possible that Orin Swift’s wines will have greater success, as someone who values what makes wines as Cult-worthy as these have been, I see it as a sell-out. Not, of course, to say that success is bad, or that it will inevitably change the product, (Wine is, after all, a grocery, and the end game is still, on some level, to make money), it is sad sometimes, to hear that the small business has been bought out by the Wal-Mart of the world.

I really admired the Orin Swift wines, for their beautiful dark fruit, the astounding amount of personality in each bottle. The cult following that these wines have come to enjoy is a fun thing. They are fantastic representations of the zinfandel grape, as far as I can tell. (admittedly, I don’t have that much experience with zin, but I liked the Orin Swift wines for special occasions.)

While I still study wine, work in the industry both in the Distributing end and the retail end, when I see, “beloved small business X, bought by BIG BOX X,” as an average consumer, the first thing I think, is “I’m not buying that anymore.” Part of the appeal of wines with personality, is that they’re not necessarily owned, or made by big businesses.

Part of the appeal of wines like that, the small winery ones, is that the grapes are treated as though they are special, as indeed they might be if you can’t afford acres and acres of land for it. The other part is that it’s touched by human hands, raised and made with history. That’s the romanticized version, the version that sells wine, (not always the case, as I’m well aware.) A large part of why large wineries are unappealing is precisely the opposite. The goal is consistency, from one year to another, without allowing for personality and vintage quarks of the wine and grapes. The grapes are treated exactly the same, with as little room for human error as possible, and that includes, mechanical harvesting, pressing, processing, pesticides, etc. Not something I care to buy, and lately, fewer consumers are interested in monopoly wine.

So… Sad to hear. I probably will buy one or two more bottles just to see what happened. In a few years. We’ll see…

The Prisoner 2011

This is one of the wines from Winegardner’s Wines, a lovely, deep dark zinfandel blend with cabernet, syrah, petite sirah, and charboneau. This leads to an inky, dark wine that is huge, but perfected in it’s light age. It opens with warm stunning blackberries, with fruit so pungent that when I inhale and swallow, I can taste the fruit on my tongue. It progresses to sage, thyme, black cherries, strawberries, and sun-warmed leather. This wine is the patch of sunlight that the Prisoner sees from his shadow shrouded cell.
The Prisoner is so amazingly intense, surprisingly flavorful, and mellows out across the palate, a crusade, really. This wine is perfect with chocolate.

This wine is a pre-release of this particular vintage. Less than 100 people have tasted it, and I have the pleasure of being one of them! This wine is one of the most luscious zins that I’ve had. Equity zin takes some time to open in the glass, and sipped before that, it’s tight, cranky, and prickly. After it opens, this wine explodes with luscious blackberries, raspberry jam, sweet black cherry juice, toasty oak, and tempered with vanilla.

McCay Zin

Synapsis of Zinfandel

All of the previous zinfandels share a depth that marks them richly as the zinfandel varietal. There are subtle differences, with regard to both climate and maker. I’m impressed at the variation. The benefit of tasting in “Wine Flights” is that you get different wines, by different makers, but the same varietal, so you can begin to recognize the similarities and variations.

Earthquake is very, very feminine. It has all the alluring of a woman of 29-34, sweet and welcoming one sip, then tart and pouty the second, with an attitude.

Decoy is distinctively more reserved, grown in colder weather. It is a masculine wine, and I found myself fighting with it, fighting it’s scents, like it was a stubborn hunter, set in his superstitious ways, and not at all interested in company. *This wine changed to become much more approachable with food! Like a hungry hunter, it was easily pacified with food.

Plungerhead is comfortable, with a pleasant but softer body, with a campfire, and the memories of good times.

Food took away from the two other zins, but it enhanced the Decoy. Conclusion: a more reticent, less welcoming wine will probably be better with food.

Plungerhead Zinfandel 2011

This zinfandel is one of a few  made by “The Other Guys” in California. I did not get a look at whether this was the Dry Creek or the Lodi Zin. However, it was a tablecloth twirl of red cherries, anise seed, and black plum flesh.This wine is meaty, glazed with cherry Madiera sauce and seasoned with Tuscan herbs. It reminds me of the comfortable 40-something uncle you might have a back yard camping trip with, and it finishes with whisps of campfire smoke.

Decoy Zinfandel 2011

Decoy Zinfandel 2011 is a very different style zinfandel than the Earthquake Zinfandel. It is much more masculine. This zin tastes as if it’s grown in cool weather, and is more musky. Decoy is much less herbacious, and actually presents more aromatically like a pinot noir. While this wine is more refined, it is distinctively zin. Decoy has chokecherries, sage, and the finish is much fruitier than the body, offering red and black currants like fruit leather.

EarthQuake Zinfandel 2011

EarthQuake Zinfandel from Lodi California is a rich bevy of dried cranberries. It opens with lush velvety raspberries, with ardently tart moments that flirt with the palate. It opens to seasonal greens, celery, and spicy earth with whiffs of Ann Klein perfume. This wine is more reticent than expected, but slowly blossoms to a mellow cherry vanilla and a lovely oakiness that makes you think that if the wine cask it was born in were to write a poem, this wine would be it. This wine is a woman, though. It is feminine through and through, flirty, spicy, welcoming, but only at her own pace.

Rosenblum Cuvee XXIV

originalThis big California Zinfandel bursts with baked cherries, boysenberry, raspberry jam and hints of red apple peel. There is a pleasant depth that whirls into thyme and cloves. Zinfandel is produced in a myriad of ways, Rosenblum Cellars itself, making 20 different varieties all on its own. This particular Zin is big, loose and fun. It’s fabulous with or without food, shining especially with fruit salad, and simple stir fry. Although I confess to not having tried as many Zins as I might have, this one is most certainly the most approachable that I have found to date.

Rosenblum Cellars was the founder of Zinfandel Advocates & Producers.