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Always Fascinating: Zinfandel

Zinfandel has always been a favorite of mine. My first experiences with this grape were almost port-like wines full of overripe fruit and cocoa, with a velvety texture that called for a rich chocolate decadence to match. In more recent years, I have come to find that there are a number of producers making a more elegant style of Zinfandel that pairs wonderfully with foods without overpowering. The characteristics that first caught my attention are still there, just a bit more refined.

Amador Foothill 2001 Zinfandel from the Clockspring Vineyards ($12.00 @ Coit Liquor, 585 Columbus) is very approachable with aromas and flavors of prunes, raspberries, and black pepper. It was a bit lighter on the palette than I expected, but still with a good balance of acid and tannins. Gamey meat such as lamb or even duck in a plum sauce would make a perfect companion.

Asti Winery's Cellar No. 8 2001 Zinfandel ($10.00 @Coit Liquor, 585 Columbus) shocks your nose with a burst of clove. Richer than the Amador Foothill version with a candied cherry and cassis flavor, Cellar No. 8 opens up with cedar and a light dusting of cocoa on the finish. A nice match for grilled steak or chocolate covered shortbread, your choice.

But what really caught my attention was Blockheadia Ringnosii 2001 Lodi Zinfandel ($13.00 @ Amphora, 384 Hayes). It was as playful as the brightly colored blockhead logo on the label suggested. Rich and juicy like mixed berry jelly, but with a finish of tobacco and coffee to give it a compelling edge. Friendly and appealing, but with enough layers to keep me interested through a couple of glasses, Blockheadia won me over.

While any of these wines would have accompanied dessert with ease, they'd also add a bit of decadence to dinner.

Vineyards Genevieve Robertson can be reached at [email protected]