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The art of Zinfandel

I know, I am often talking about wines that have too much oak, too much tannins – wines that can overpower the food. You guessed it, my personal preference leans towards wines with more finesse, maybe even less body, more acidity and complexity.

Wines, that may not appeal to you at all. But maybe you would fell for such wines if they were served to you the way they were meant to be served – with food.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate a glass of nice, huge Cabernet Sauvignon from California, Brunello or Amarone from Italy, famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape from French Rhône or some spectacular and impressive Garnacha from Spain. Absolutely!

But can you drink it every day? Besides the negative effect on your wallet, trust me – you can get tired of these wines. And it’s not because they are not good enough. Just the opposite.

Lined up at any wine tasting, these wines are always the winners! They stand out. The tannins, the full body, the aroma. Totally impressive! But put the same wine next to your food…. not so much anymore.

When I go through my tiny wine cellar, I noticed that these big wines are always left there, waiting. Sure, the price is the factor as well, and we tend to leave wines like that “for a special occasions”.

But I know one thing for sure: when deciding what to have with my dinner, I am always looking for more acidic, light or medium body wines (mainly from European production). The famous “table wines” from Europe. There is a reason why Italian, Spanish or French wine lovers could have a glass of wine with their lunch. Their table wines are light, fruity, with low alcohol – that are meant to just complement the meal.

When I want to entertain and share a “big bottle” of wine with my wine enthusiastic friends, I plan to prepare a richer meals like steak, beef stew, barbecue, grill meats and sausages – something that can stand to wines I intend to drink. (Note: if your friends drink anything, don’t waste your really special bottle. It’s not being cheap. The chances are they wouldn’t appreciate the flavor of it anyway.)

When talking about these big, special wines, I realized that I completely forgot about the traditional American grape, Zinfandel. Yes, the sometimes unjustly neglected Zinfandel.

Experts say that this grape is genetically similar to Croatian grape called Crljenak Kaštelanski and to Primitivo, traditionally grown in Italy since 18th century.

Zinfandel, as we know it in California, perhaps got its bad name among wine drinkers thanks to its “White Zinfandel” cousin. I am talking about the almost best selling variety of wine in United States of America that outsells the red six times!

Today I have picked three Zinfandel wines that have nothing to do with their “white friend” but everything to do with the original, noble red grape, proudly grown in California. These are wines that I repeatedly tasted over several vintages, and always appreciated the quality and complexity that they offer.

The art of Zinfandel – just right for our autumn mood for something comforting, impressive and big. There are many great Zinfandels on the market that I know of, but today I have picked some of my personal favorites.

I hope you like my selection:

Artezin – wine produced by Hess Collection Winery in Napa, is blended with a tiny bit of Petite Sirah to add character and complexity to the wine. Winemaker Randle Johnson, prior his work at Hess Collection, was a big passionate lover of this traditional American grape and produced some great wines in Mount Veeder.



Cline Ancient vines Zinfandel – one of many Zinfandel wines produced by Cline cellars in Carneros. Fred Cline restored many ancient vines, originally planted in California by Italian and Portuguese immigrants more than 100 years ago.


Mara Reserve Zinfandel Dolinsek Ranch The art of Zinfandel

one of his two excellent examples of wine created from old vines Zinfandel in the heart of Napa Valley. Charles Mara is not only producing these outstanding Zinfandels, he is also a wine merchant, wine judge, Professor of Oenology, a member of the Society of Wine Educators (bot don’t worry, there is nothing “professor” about him and his wines). He use his knowledge and passion to produce best possible Zinfandel. And he does a great job…

Please, let me know your favorites. I would like to taste them next!