We make no bones about it - Zinfandel is just not our thing. It has neither the breeding of Cabernet nor the potential to soar like Pinot when that grape is at its best. It's just ordinary.
Before we dismiss ordinary though, we should acknowledge ordinary as California's historic claim to fame. When we first got into this business California's three liter jugs were the key to success. They were what the overwhelming majority of wine lovers bought. Whatever came later was built on the success of the industry's ordinary jug wine.
But were such wines actually good? Nah. They were flabby, muddy, off-dry plonk. Nasty stuff. On that scale of production though, they were fine. And better than what a lot of other countries were doing.
Those three liter red jugs were largely Zinfandel-based but, of course, weren't sourced from the better regions of northern Cal. This was Central Valley stuff we're talking about. A qualitatively better ordinary was coming out of Amador, Mendocino, Sonoma and other northern appellations. There the early zin-based field blends effused a charm that us ordinary wine lovers, self-conscious lot that we are, could really get into. If you could imagine your briars and brambles blended with your dark berries, replete with your violets and tar, then you have an idea of what us ordinary wine lovers consider the epitome of our craft. Rough. Crude. Red wine suitable for watching football. That's what I'm talkin' 'bout.
Zinfandel has always been California's pet grape even now that we know its origins lie elsewhere. Always the mercenary, the wine industry took full advantage of this prolific vine's potential and promoted it as a noble variety worthy of being priced with the great types. Which largely hasn't worked. But its utilitarian value has not gone unnoticed. Zinfandel is now the foundation of pricy ever-so-cutely named manipulated blends with outlandish labels that the public adores. Guess right on your packaging and promotion and proceed to the counter to collect your winnings!
So where are we going with this diatribe? In our own way we're trying to keep it real. Zinfandel may be the workhorse grape of the California wine industry and deserves the respect any workhorse is due. Speaking of workhorses, lest we forget, if it wasn't for intrepid 1850's Italian immigrants carrying their vines on their backs we wouldn't be having this discussion today.
By the way - We just got in four new zins. Say you read this here blogpost and we'll discount them down for you!