Category - General
Posted - 02/06/2015 03:04am
Tasting Who You Don’t Already Know

ALAMEDA, CA— Last week, I spent the afternoon tasting wine at the Zinfandel Experience Trade & Media Event held in the East Bay just days prior to their Annual Grand Tasting in San Francisco. The Grand Tasting features over 500 wines. Many old friends and familiar faces were in attendance as were plenty of excellent Zins from dozens of fine wineries with which I was already quite familiar.


Joel Peterson, founding winemaker extraordinaire, from Ravenswood brought large format bottles of 1994 Zinfandel that had aged “exceedingly well”. Tasted SO good; mellowed but held on to its structure! I’ve heard some say that Zinfandel doesn’t age that well. Don’t you believe it… Of course, it all depends on the particular Zin. (Sidenote: Catch me after a few sips of Moscato and I’ll tell you about my life’s biggest regret: turning down a younger Joel Peterson when he asked me if I wanted to invest in a new winery to be called "Ravenswood". Oh, the pain!)


Sommelier Christopher Sawyer was there, looking sharp as ever, and in perfect form as he tasted and greeted various winemakers in attendance. Sawyer is cool. If you’ve never seen him make a presentation on wine, you must. One of these days, I’ve got to get a hamburger with Chris and compare notes on California wine.

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Before entering the tasting zone, just to tease my palate, I attended an hour-long, sit-down panel discussion that included servings of the following premium Zinfandels:

2012 Turley • Pesenti Vineyard from Paso Robles. 16.2% alcohol. — “Delicate.”

2012 Hartford Family • Fanucchi-Wood Rd. (I believe this is a 100-year-old vineyard) • Russian River Valley. 14.6% alcohol. — “Also Delicate.”

2012 Ridge Vineyards • (Blend: Zin/Carignan/Petite Sirah/Mataro/Alicante Bouschet) — “Nice and big!”

2012 Ravenswood   Dickerson Vineyard • Napa Valley. 15% alcohol. — “SO soft and good!”

2013 Cline Cellars  • Ancient Vine • Contra Costa.  “Full with a pleasing mouth feel... I’ve never had a better Cline wine.”

 Overall thoughts: All of the above wines were TDF!


As many readers may already know, California wineries are my passion and so I was looking to taste only wines from the regions covered in our best-selling book series: The California Directory of Fine Wineries.

After doing some homework and talking with a handful of admired winemakers, I honed in on a handful of wineries with whom I was not already familiar. In addition, I tasted ("revisited") several others whose wine I had not tasted for a very long time. Every so often I like to update my palate to remind myself why I liked a particular label in the first place.

There was a great deal of excellent wine at this year’s Zinfandel Experience. These are a handful that I’m adding to my watch list—

 Napa Valley

-Chase Cellars



 Sonoma County

-Bella (revisited)

-Dry Creek Vineyards (revisited)

-Hart’s Desire

-Limerick Lane (revisited)


-Rosenblum Cellars

-Siduri (revisited - Breaking News: Just bought by K.J.)



Should you have the opportunity to try wines from any of the above list, please let me know if I’ve hit the mark.


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