Today’s the day. National Zinfandel Day. #ZinDay takes place every year on the third Wednesday in November and we are happy to celebrate Zinfandel today with two wines we received as tasting samples. Both wines are made from very old vine Zinfandel in the Mokelumne River sub-AVA of the Lodi AVA. The wines are made in two very different styles, and demonstrate the versatility of this tasty variety. Age is also an important part of the story of these wines. You will be amazed to when you learn the age of these two vineyards.
2013 McCay Cellars Faith Lot 13 Zinfandel — translucent ruby-garnet in the glass. Generous aromas of red berries and hints of cedar are followed by red raspberry and tart blackberry flavors. Hints of cedar and black pepper wind through the flavor profile in the background. The wine has a light to medium body with drying tannins and juicy acidity that lingers on the finish with flavor and tannins. 13.8% abv.
This elegant Zinfandel is one of my favorites made in the Lodi wine region. The Lot 13 Vineyard is located on Lodi’s east side in what is informally called the Victor Triangle. It is harvested on the early side, made in a lighter style using native yeast fermentation and a high proportion of neutral oak (only 20% new French oak is used.) This bottling is 100% Zinfandel. Winemaker Mike McCay refuses to add other varieties to darken the delicate color of the Zinfandel from this gorgeous 102-year old vineyard.
One other note: this wine ages beautifully. I recently tasted the 2012 vintage, in the vineyard, and it is still very youthful and complex.
This Zinfandel pairs beautifully with pork, pasta and even grilled chicken. We recently enjoyed it with split pea soup too.
2013 Jessie’s Grove Royal Tee Ancient Vine Zinfandel — dark ruby-garnet in the glass. Generous aromas of ripe blackberries, maple syrup, vanilla and toast are followed by ripe blackberry flavors, dusty earth, vanilla and drying tannins. Concentrated flavors finish with a bit of heat and sweetness and last a very long time. 15.5% abv.
The Royal Tee Vineyard was planted by Joseph Spenker in 1889, making the 128-year old vineyard the oldest Zinfandel vineyard in the Lodi AVA. The vineyard is part of the original Spenker property that remains under the stewardship of Joseph Spenker’s descendants. It sits adjacent to Jessie’s Grove. The grove is a 32-acre stand of oak trees that was not cleared when Spenker began farming his acreage 18 years before planting the Royal Tee Vineyard. It was named for Joseph and Anna Spenker’s daughter, Jessie, who preserved the stand of native oaks during her time as caretaker of the property. Jessie’s Grove winery takes its name from this historic oak tree forest.
The Jessie’s Grove Royal Tee Zinfandel is rich and concentrated with ample flavor contributed by wood aging. This is a Zinfandel for those who enjoy a riper style of Zinfandel with a heavier body. Pair this Zinfandel with smoked ribs or grilled steak with Bourbon sauce. This wine will stand up to bold flavors and and sauces with a bit of sweetness. Barbecue beans would be nice as well.
So, regardless of the style of Zinfandel you prefer, Lodi has you covered. If you prefer light and complex Zinfandel, choose the McCay Cellars Faith Lot 13 Zinfandel. If you prefer a riper, richer style of Zinfandel, the Jesse’s Grove Royal Tee Zinfandel will please you. Beyond that, let your menu guide your choice of Zinfandels and, above all, do not think of Lodi as producing just one style of Zinfandel. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Whatever style of Zinfandel you prefer, I hope your National Zinfandel Day celebration will be a delicious one.