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Tag Archive | "zinfandel"

Lynfred Winery 2007 Zinfandel

By Darin Pemberton

It’s been said the only constant in our lives is change.  Not the kind you find under your couch cushions – the kind that takes us from one state of being; one point of view; one condition to the next.   Last week my wife celebrated her 32nd birthday.  Folks have asked me what I got for her – what present did I buy.  I gave her the gift of change.   Up until last week one of my wife’s favourite wines was made by the late Colvin Vineyards of Walla Walla – their Allegresse.  Not a lot of folk I’ve met realize how good that juice was; it’s a shame the winery is no longer around.  The Colvin Allegresse is a wine my wife and i use as a measuring stick.  It’s generally asked like this:

“…did you like it better than the ‘gresse?”

I believe our new question may be more like “…how does that compare to the Lynfred Zin?”

The three-decades-old Lynfred Winery is located in Roselle, Illinois – just about 45 minutes west of Chicago – and is the creation based on “the love and ingenuity” of Fred and Lynn Koehler.   Starting with a turn-of-the-last-century home, the Koehlers created and organized a cellar during the house renovations.  Securely encased in 18″-thick walls, the cellar provides ideal conditions.   I can attest to that – based on the bottle I sampled for this review.

Thoughtfully included with the wine for this review was an information sheet which contained background information about the wine, as well as a suggested recipe – Savory Beef Stroganoff.  Thus, armed with an open bottle, a plate of Stroganoff, my wife and I sat to enjoy her Birthday dinner.

Technical Notes:

  • Aged: American and French oak
  • Residual sugar: 0.1%
  • Alcohol percentage: 14
  • Titratable Acid: 6.67 g/L
  • pH: 3.67
  • MSRP: $25.25


  • Beverage Tasting Institute: Gold – 91 points
  • Finger Lakes International: Silver
  • San Diego International: Silver

Smells like: Strong notes of pepper, leather, a little musk and earthiness, sweet/fruity

Taste: When sipped my first thought was “Now that’s a zin!”  The wine seemed to jump out of my glass and breakdance on my tongue.  The taste invoked images of smoking a pipe while walking along a path in an evergreen forest after a spring rain.  I could ‘taste the smell’ of wildflowers, maybe a little nuttiness and butter – very aggressive yet non-offensive taste.  Very smooth across the tongue.    After about 15 minutes of smelling and tasting the wine I realized I’d forgotten about my dinner.  The Stroganoff was a spot-on match for this wine. The flavors of the dinner blended and complimented what I was drinking.   Within 30 minutes my wife and I had polished off all but about half-glass worth of the Zin.  I re-corked the wine and placed the bottle in the refrigerator.  Before dinner the next day I poured what was left into a glass and let it sit for about 15 minutes.   Swirl, snif, drink – again, the Zin was fantastic.  I was shocked, really, as I’ve had many wines lose half their moxie after an over-night in the chill box.

Don’t wait for your, or your mate’s birthday to crack open a bottle of this Zin – even if you have to rummage through your couch cushions, or under your car seats – dig up enough change to pick up a bottle of this wine.  Don’t wait for your birthday…go now.

WEP Rating:  115%

Posted in Illinois Wines, ReviewsComments (1)

Review: Hard Row to How – Round-up

When Don and Judy Phelps started this winery a few years ago they drew inspiration from the old brothel that once “served” the local mining community of the greater Lake Chelan area. For those not familiar with the landscape of this beautiful region in Washington State, it is indeed a bit different than Columbia Valley. Lake Chelen itself is one of the deepest lakes in the world and is has plenty of high hills in its general area – cooler climate grapes do very well in this region and Judy has the winemaking prowess to know what works there and what doesn’t.


2008 Pinot Noir Rose’ – W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Technical Data:

Cases Produced
Columbia Valley – Lake Chelan
Harvest Date
October 25 , 2008
Brix at Harvest
Barrel Regime
Final Analysis
Alcohol 13.8% • TA 0.7 g/100ml
pH 3.4 • R.S 1.1 %
Release Date
June 2009
Retail Price
Wine maker
Judy Phelps
Rated “Excellent” by Wine Press NW
Silver Medal – Washington Wine Competition
  • Cases Produced: 100
  • Appellation: Columbia Valley – Lake Chelan
  • Vineyard: Cortelli
  • Harvest Date: October 25 , 2008
  • Brix at Harvest: 24˚
  • Blend: n/a
  • Barrel Regime: none
  • Alcohol 13.8% • TA 0.7 g/100ml
  • pH 3.4 • R.S 1.1 %
  • Release Date: June 2009
  • Retail Price: $15.00

Nose: Cherries, white pepper, strawberries, ripe kiwi and a touch of fabreeze

Taste: Refreshing fruit attack on the front palate with a solid transition into the mid-region that starts layering those good cherry and strawberry components. I get a nice white pepper action on the finish which I feel compliments the strawberry flavor rather nicely.

I went 90% on this wine because at the $15 mark there are whites from other regions like Spain and Argentina which offer a bit more complexity at the same price-point.

2008 Shameless Hussy Roussanne – W.E.P. Rating: 85%

Technical Data

  • Cases Produced75
  • AppellationColumbia Valley
  • VineyardWhite Heron- Mariposa
  • Harvest DateSeptember 25 , 2008
  • Brix at Harvest24˚
  • Blendn/a
  • Barrel Regimenone
  • Final Analysis Alcohol 13.8%
  • TA  0.8 g/100ml
  • pH 3.5  • R.S 0.7%
  • Release DateJune 2009
  • Price: $15

Nose: Apricots, sea water, coral, peach skin and pears.

Taste:A spritzy tongue-bath of apricots, peaches, pears and a hint of carmel. I get an rather interesting vanilla-like mid-palate transition that hits me pretty good. Decent finish on this wine – a bit too hot for me, however. Would be an easy pick for shellfish, sea-bass or just to enjoy on the patio with the sun out.

2006 Cabernet Franc – W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Technical Data:

  • Cases Produced: 180
  • Appellation: Wahluke Slope
  • Vineyard: Riverbend
  • Harvest Date: October 20, 2006
  • Brix at Harvest: 24.8˚
  • Blend: 100% Cabernet Franc
  • Barrel Regime: 50% American 50% French : 30% new
  • Alcohol 14.1%
  • TA 0.53 g/100ml
  • pH 3.8
  • Release Date: September 2008
  • Price: $25

Nose: Candied rose petals, cherries, vanilla, creme brulle.

Taste: Good balance of black licorice, roses, carmel and black cherries on the intitial taste. I like the mid palate transition which gives way to notes of leather, dark chocolate, tobacco and tar. A nice finish that lingers on for hours and makes you want more.

2006 Syrah – W.E.P. Rating: 75%

Technical Data:

  • Cases Produced: 400
  • Appellation: Wahluke Slope
  • Vineyard: Riverbend
  • Harvest Date: October 2, 2006
  • Brix at Harvest: 24.5˚
  • Blend: 100% Syrah
  • Barrel Regime: 25% new French, 25% new American; 50% Neutral
  • Final Analysis: Alcohol 13.5% • TA 0.55 g/100ml
  • pH 3.6
  • Release Date: January 2009
  • Retail Price: $28.00
Nose: Inky plums with cocoa, raisins, black cherries and a bit of the typical syrah gaminess. leather and some pomegranate.

Good plum action with anise, chocolate, nice acidity across the mid palate but gets a bit disjointed for me on the back-end. Not a bad effort, but it’s not my fav.

2006 Zinfandel – W.E.P. Rating: 90%

Technical Data:
  • Cases Produced: 237
  • Appellation: Wahluke Slope
  • Vineyard: Pheasant
  • Harvest Date: October 24, 2006
  • Brix at Harvest: 25.8˚
  • Blend: 75% Zinfandel; 25% Merlot
  • Barrel Regime: 60% Neutral, 40% new oak
  • Alcohol 15.5% •
  • TA 0.65 g/100ml
  • pH 3.9 •
  • RS= .6 g/100ml
  • Release Date: September 2008
  • Price: $35
Nose: Shoe polish, leather, black tar, blackberries, cherries and raspberries.
Taste: Black pepper covered charred bell peppers with raspberry jam, blackberries, tar bubble and a nice hint of jalepeno-raspberry and blueberry finish on the end. Superb mouthfeel, good balance of the fruit, acid and alcohol make this a very food-friendly wine that really does kick ass.
This is a great Zinfandel, no doubt, and would easily stand up to a lot I’ve had from California, however, at $35 dollars it starts to out-price itself a bit – in my opinion – because in that price-range it starts to go with the better Zins from the likes of Ridge etc and could get lost int he shuffle.
Winery website:

Posted in Cabernet Franc, Reviews, Rosé, Syrah, Washington Wines, ZinfandelComments (0)

Winemaker interview – Christian Tietje of Four Vines

Christian Tietje is all about taking the snob out of wines and we’re huge fans of that – we recently had the chance to catch up with him at the Seattle ZAP event:

Posted in Interviews, VideosComments (0)

Winemaker Interview – Joel Peterson of Ravenswood

We had the rare opportunity to sit with Mr. Zinfandel himself – Joel Peterson – of Ravenswood Winery:

Posted in Interviews, VideosComments (0)

Review: XYZin 10 and 50

XYZin is an arm of Ascentia wine estates in California and as its name implies, it aims to be the final word in Zinfandel. Its  winemaker, Ondine Chattan, grew-up in Marin country so she’s been around the wine regions of that area most of her life. As one can tell from the way XYZin names its Zinfandels, one of the things it does is to showcase a span of history of what young-to-old vines can do in the bottle and ultimately, your glass.

In this review, we take a look at their 2007 “10” and 2006 “50” – made with 10yr old vines and 50yr old vines respectively.

2007 10 – W.E.P. Rating: 60%

Technical Data:

  • Wine Type:Red Wine
  • Varietal:Zinfandel
  • Appellation:California
  • Harvest Date:September 4th – October 15th, 2007
  • Acid:5.8g/L
  • PH:3.70
  • Alcohol %:14.2
  • Price: $16

Nose: bright cherries like cherry-flavored kool-aid action as well on the nose – a little fake-smelling. I also get subtlties of rose petal.

Taste: Tightly-woven, young tannins give way to a fruit-bomb with some bits of cherry/raspberry jam and white pepper. A finish that’s too short with tannins that are completely out of control and fruit that tastes too fake. Quite frankly, at $16, there are far better zins out there but I do appreciate the relatively low alcohol for a Zin as it helps to create a more balanced finish.

2006 50 – W.E.P. Rating: 70%

Technical Data:

  • Wine Type:Red Wine
  • Varietal:Zinfandel
  • Appellation:Russian River Valley
  • Acid:5.9 g/L
  • PH:3.7
  • Aging:Aged 15 months in French Oak
  • Residual Sugar:Dry
  • Alcohol %:14.3%
  • Price: $35

Nose: Bigtime raspberry/blackberry jam with nice hints of plum-sauce,  white pepper and euchaliptus and rhubarb.

Taste: Bright raspberries topped over rhubarb pie – add in hints of pepper and you have the front-end palate of this wine. I’m also getting some fruity-pebbles action along with red vines licorice. A decently long finish resounds with a lace of leather, vanilla, and white pepper, however, it’s doesn’t have near the overall mouthfeel and pizzaz a wine of its price range should have in my opinion. To me, this is a Zin that should be more appropraitely priced at $20-$25 to make it more competitive to what else is out there.

Winey Website:

Posted in California Wines, Reviews, ZinfandelComments (0)

2006 Opolo Summit Creek Zinfandel

Winery Website:

California is no doubt the leader of Zinfandel – it is truly both an icon to that state’s wine industry and to the American wine industry at large. There are few other regions which attempt to produce it as it can be a difficult one to master. 

Click to Enlarge

Opolo Vineyards, located in heart of California’s costal region, has been producing quality wines in a distinctly California fashion since 1996 and have a nice loyal following amonst wine-lovers in that region. 

Its Summit Creek Zinfandel comes from grapes grown in the Santa Lucia Mountain region – a rang of mountains that run from Montery southest for 105 miles to San Luis Obisbo – the highest summit is Junipero Serra Peak at 5,850 feet. This means, that the Zins from this region will be distinctly different than those grown in places like Lodi Valley and other parts of  the greater Napa/Sonoma area.

Technical Data:

  • Appelation: Paso Robles
  • Alcohol: 16.2% pH: 3.87
  • Cases Produced: 14,000
  • Harvest Method: Hand Harvested
  • Varietal Composition: 97% Zinfandel, 3% Petite Sirah TA (g/100ml): .56
  • Brix at Harvest: 26.0
  • Barrel Aging: 10 Months in American Oak
  • Price: $19

Nose: Ripe plums, blackberry and black cherry on the nose with tons of toasted oak on the backend. I get some toasted almonds, a touch of smoked paprika and leather belt.

Taste:  Lots of deep blackberry on the backend stuff with oak chips – this is an overoaked zin which all too many zinfandels fall into the trap of. The finish lingers on good, however, it’s nothing but oak and I’m not at all a huge fan of that. There are other Zinfandel wines in this price range which I feel offer more complexity and better overall experience for the money.

W.E.P. Rating: 80%

Posted in California Wines, Reviews, ZinfandelComments (0)

Meyer’s Family Cellars Port Wine

Winery Website:

I’m sure many of you have heard of the Meyer’s family out of California – if not, you’re almost certain to have heard about their work on making the Silver Oak brand synonymous with best-of-class California Cab. This family has a tradion steeped in wine making and has been involved with producing high quality wines for several decades. 

Matt and Karen Meyer met while working together at an Oregon vineyard, got married and not too long ago launched their own winery. Matt’s experience of growing up in the then-great Silver Oak days proved to be essential to his passion for making the best of what he can – year in and year out.

Karen is from the land down-under and has a similar background in the wine-making business there – both her and Matt share an unadultered passion and zeal for wine making – they both work on the wines they now make.

For those who might be new to – let me get this off my chest – I LOVE ZINFANDEL. There, it’s out in the open – it truely is a grape that America owns – we do it better than anyone else and having it made into a port wine like this one shows how great it is – even in a variety of ways.

Meyer Family Port Facts:
Appellation: California
Grape Varieties: A solera-style blend, primarily old-vine California Zinfandel
Spirit: Pot-Still Alembic Zinfandel Brandy
Residual Sugar: 8%
Alcohol by Volume: 18%
Age at Release: 8 Years
Bottle Size: 500 ml
Price: $35 

Smell: black plums and black cherries coupled with some home-made fruit-cake action and spice. 

Taste: massive blackberry and plums coming thru across the plate which ends very nicely with some sweetened holiday spice action. If you took some black cherries and shoved them inside of a piece of fruit-cake, added in hints of pepper – you’d pretty much have this wine. Excellent finish that simply begs you to take another sip – I’d recommend putting on a seatbelt as this wine will certainly take your tastebuds on a killer journey.

Would pair great with:
– dark chocolate
– stinky cheeses
– BBQ Ribs

W.E.P. Score: 100%

Posted in California Wines, Port, ReviewsComments (0)

2006 Girasole Vineyards “Organic” Zinfandel

Winery Link:
Winery Phone #:(707) 485-0322
MSRP: $13.00

There’s been a pretty big push over the last couple of years by some wineries to go organic – from the grapes to the type of yeast used. It sounds good on the surface, but really, when was the last time you had a stellar organic wine (seriously, email me and let me know) – dp (at)

Girasole Vineyards, based in Redwood Valley California, uses its own vineyards out of the Mendocino AVA and has been producing organic grapes since its founding in 1955. The folks behind the organic movement claim that it best represents the terroir of the region which I wouldn’t argue because certain chemicals and/or yeast products can influence the overall “terroir” profile.

I found this Zinfandel at a local store and thought I’d give it a whirl.

Technical Data;
Appellation: Mendocino
Fruit Composition: 100% Zinfandel
Harvest Brix: 22
Alcohol: 13.5%
Cases Produced: 1,673

Nose: Crimini mushrooms covered in plums and black cherries, bell pepper and white peppper and bacon fat.

Taste: Good fruit-foward action which seems to taper off a bit too quickly on the back-side of the mid palate. I get the pepper, blackberries and plums, however, the mouth-feel is too flimsy for me. The finish is way too short and a bit too hot.

Overall Summary:
There are other Zinfandel wines in this price range which are frankly more appealing to my palate and those would include some of the ones from Montevina and Rosenblum. If you have allergies to wine then this organic kind might be your ticket, however, if you want a better bottle of Zin for the money, it’s not hard to come by.

W.E.P. Rating: 80%

Posted in California Wines, Reviews, ZinfandelComments (0)

Zefina Zinfandel – 2003 and 2005

For those who may be new to Winefoot, there is one thing you’ll come to learn of me and that is I really dig Zinfandel – especially coming into this time of the year. The grills are soaring, the steaks are searing and the overall vibe of summertime grilled foods really do scream out for a Zin. If you have yet to experience a good Zinfandel then stop right now, head to your nearest wine-shop and pick up a few bottles – it may just change your life (okay, at least your palate).

Zefina Cellars, based in Seattle WA, is part of the Corus Estates and Vineyards company and have been producing quality wines for quite a few years now and exclusively use fruit from Horse Heaven Hills – in the case of its Zinfandel, it’s from Alder Ridge.

Zefina recently fired off its 2003 and 2005 bottles of Zinfandel and I had the opportunity to give them a whirl, so here are my thoughts:

2003 Zinfandel Overview:
Vineyard: Alder Ridge, Horse Heaven Hills
Fermentation: Barrel aged in 50% new French oak, 50% 2-3 year-old French oak for 18 months
Blend: 100% Zinfandel
Cases Produced: 475
Release Date: January 2007
Price: $19.99

Statistics: Alcohol: 14.5% TA: .63 PH: 3.55 PH: 0.2%

Nose: Obvious vanilla-covered black cherries, spice, jam, black ash, charred bell pepper, cherry cola, white pepper and tobacco.

Taste: black cherries rolled in tobacco-flavored jam topped with white peppers and fire-roasted bell peppers for days. LONG Finish which lingers black cherry cola and pepper.

This is a very good bottle of wine which brings with it quite a bit of Zinfandel goodness to it, especially for $19. If you like Zins like the Seghesio, MonteVina Terra Doro or even the Maryhill Zinfanel for around the same price than you really, really need to seek this wine out. It’s a good value and makes an excellent Zin for those late spring bbq’s.

W.E.P. Scale Rating: 100%

2005 Zinfandel Overview:
Vineyard: 100% Alder Ridge, Horse Heaven Hills
Fermentation: Aged in 60% seasoned (used) French oak and 40% seasoned American Oak for 18 months
Blend: 100% Zinfandel
Cases Produced: 450
Release Date: April 2008
Price: $19.99

Statistics: Alcohol: 15.2% TA: 0.57 PH: 3.78

Nose: blackberry, black pepper, dark chocolate, slight hint of shoe polish, tight tannins, rose peddle and some elderberry blossom.

Taste - Blackberries with tobacco and coffee and dark choc.. finish is good but not great – not even close to the 2003’s huge finish.

This wine didn’t really do much for me – it does have some good structure to it and may taste much better in a few more years of laying down but for right now I’d get the 2003 Zefina or Maryhill over it any day. I want to revisit this wine in another year or two and see how it has progressed. Until then, I think money will be better spent on other Zins in this price range.

W.E.P. Scale Rating: 60%

As I tell you in every review, these opinions and tasting notes are mine based off of my palate – you should seek out these wines and try them yourself to form your own take on things.

Posted in Reviews, Washington Wines, ZinfandelComments (0)

Zinfandel – WA vs. CA – QPR

One of my favorite food and wine pairings is big, bold, jammy Zinfandel with my home-made fajita’s. The offset flavor components and complimentary ones of both – to me – are one of the best pairings going. Think of grilled peppers and onions with cumin and coriander topped with your favorite meat (we use chicken and skirt steak). Then add in a huge jam-berry-peppercorn flavor from Zinfandel and you’ve got it.

raven_maryhill_back_05_s.jpg raven_maryhill_front_05_s.jpg

There’s no question that Zinfandel is indeed California’s darling grape – even more so to me than Cabernet Sauvignon and here’s why. They’ve been growing it longer than anyone else and by all accounts have almost perfected the process. The vines they have down there are older than sin and quite frankly create some of the most complex new-world wines I’ve ever had. There’s something about Zin that really rocks my boat and more importantly, my palate.

If you’ve been watching my latest interviews with several winemakers from the state of WA, then you’ve probably noticed question to them regarding WA as having the ability to produce Zinfandel on a truly competitive nature. It seems right now the thoughts are about 50/50 – some feel we can do it while others think of areas like Lodi County as being the cornerstone of that grape variety.

Maryhill 2005 Zinfandel – $14-$19
I happened to have snagged a case of Maryhill Zinfandel last year from my local wine shop and had a bottle that’s been laying down since that time – the 2005 Zinfandel which I really didn’t care for much at first in contrast to the 2004’s we’ve had from them.


I reviewed its Proprietors Reserve awhile ago and thought it completely rocked it out of the park – so today, I’m going for a more QPR (Quality – price – ratio) with their “cheaper” Zinfandel which you can easily find for under $20 – I think I paid about $14.

This wine was made using 30% new French Oak and 70% French/American Oak which were 1yr old. It has a rated Alcohol of 15.5% which is very typical for Zinfandel. There were 1900 cases made, so availability should be very good – ask your local wine ship to order it or simply call the winery.

Nose: blackberry jam, peppercorn, baseball mitt leather, black cherry, tar.

Taste: Explosive tar-dipped blackberry jam and spice.. great finish that lingers longer than I thought it would. little bit of heat on the backend but it’s reasonably balanced.

Maryhill Zin Impressions:
I’m really glad I had a bottle of this which had some more age on it as I think it was entirely way too immature last year compared to what I’m feelin’ about it now. This wine is a serious contender and is one you need to really seek out and compare it to the likes of what CA is doing. It has a great finish and I’d hit it all day long with BBQ Ribs, pulled-pork, Fajita’s, and smoked meats.

Ravenswood 2005 “Old Vine” Zinfandel – Lodi County – $15
Ravenswood has been producing wines since the 1970s and has done a remarkable job of kicking out wines which are affordable and tasty while also doing some “higher-end” stuff to boot.

I know there are wine-snobs out there who’d turn their nose at this stuff and in the spirit of full-disclosure, I was one of them. Comon, a “grocery-store” brand? Really? I hadn’t give Ravenswood a good, concerted try for awhile as my last experience with them was less-than-positive. But like wine, people change, our palate’s chagne – the entire wine experience is one that’s chocked full of change – embrace it.


Ravenswood actually does a blending process for this wine which consists of 84% Zinfandel, 14% Petite Sirah and 2% “mixed blacks”. Kind of sneaky, but I think the overall flavor profile is going to appeal to those who are new to Zin and may not appreciate having their palate’s ass kicked quite as hard by something like the Maryhill.Nose: Jammy, Peppercorned cherries on top of shoe leather with hints of tobacco and menthol

Taste: Tastes like it smells – completely… Huge cherry component with peppercorn, chocolate and shoe leather. The tobacco hits on the back-end of the palate. Jammy. Nice finish but it doesn’t seem to hang out quite as long as the Maryhill Zin.

Ravenswood Impressions:
This is a very fruity wine when tasted side-by-side ot the Maryhill – it’s so ripe with cherries and strawberries that it almost reminds me of a Cabernet in that aspect. It does have some of the jamminess I adore in Zin as well as a slight vegitel component. I can see this wine having a broader appeal to the folks who lend a bit more old-world. It’s not near the powerhouse as the Maryhill but a very enjoyable wine nonetheless.

The Final Word:
Each one of these wines brings some great Zinfandel goodness to the able – but for me and where I’m at right now, I’d take the Maryhill. I really appreciate it’s ability to tackle your tastebuds quicker than Michael Jackson does little boys. It can easily power through any hearty southwest-inspired foods, a hearty peppercorn steak or – if you’re up to the challenge – on its own merits.

If you’re new to Zins and want a good first entry into the wonderful world of what they’re all about then I’d easily recommend the Ravenswood Lodi County – it’s super smooth mouth-feel – I know – will cater to a broader audience.

This little test showed to me that Washington can compete when it comes to Zinfandel and do a great job of it. If you have access to both of theses wines, I’d highly encourage you to try them both – then you can go with me on what’s been a fun journey of two excellent wine regions producing a slightly different style of one of my favorite red grapes.

Foods I’d pair with these:
BBQ anything
Steaks with a peppercorn reduction
Smoked meats
Tex-mex foods

Posted in California Wines, Reviews, Washington Wines, Zinfandel, ZinfandelComments (3)