Tasting No. 198 – April 30, 2018 – Zinfandel

Club del Vino


Capri Ristorante, McLean VA

Zinfandel Grapes

 1. Presenters and Participants

Wines presenters: Mario Aguilar, Alfonso Sanchez

Participants: Mario Aguilar, Marcello Averbug, Emilio Bernal Labrada, Jorge Claro, Ruth Connolly, Clara Estrada, Jorge Garcia-Garcia, Jaime Jaramillo, Peter Lapera, Orlando Mason, Italo Mirkow, John Redwood, Lucía Redwood, Jorge Requena, Alfonso Sanchez, Cristian Santelices, Ginger Smart, German Zincke.

Type of Tasting: Open

2. Tasting Overview

Zinfandel wines are produced in various styles from light and medium-bodied to full-bodied, bold and fruit forward with grapes from very old vines that give low volumes and concentrated flavors. The character of the Zinfandels depends not only on the quality of the fruit  and age and care of the vines but very importantly on the elaboration techniques set by the winemaker. The objective of this tasting is to compare three styles of Zinfandel from California and assess their differences and similarities. There is also a Sauvignon Blanc from Chile that combines features from the new and old world relatives. These are the wines:

  1. 2016 Errazuriz Max Reserva, Sauvignon Blanc, Aconcagua Costa, Chile 
  2. 2014 Mount Peak Rattle Snake Zinfandel, Sonoma, California
  3. 2014 Carlisle Du Pratt Zinfandel, Mendocino Ridge, Mendocino, California
  4. 2015 Black Chicken Zinfandel, Robert Biale, Napa, California

3. The Menu

  1. Asparagus and goat cheese salad
  2. Eggplant parmigiana
  3. Pasta with bolognese sauce
  4. Grilled lamb with roasted vegetables
  5. Dessert/Coffee

4. Information on the Wines

(The information below has been compiled from varios internet sources) .

2016 Errazuriz Max Reserva, Sauvignon Blanc, Aconcagua Costa, Chile

The Wine: Wine Enthusiast: Pungent stony citrus aromas include a distinct whiff of passion fruit. This feels tight, crisp and elegant on the palate, while slightly salty citrus flavors suggest grapefruit and sea brine. A briny finish retains snap and freshness.

The Winery: Don Maximiano Errazuriz founded Viña Errazuriz in 1870 in the Aconcagua Valley, north of Santiago. This valley has cool, rainy winters, hot, dry summers and moist Pacific Ocean breezes–ideal for growing grapes. Don Maximiano sent for the finest clones from France and with tenacity and perseverance transformed this barren land into a world-class vineyard. Today, the tradition of quality lives on with Don Maximiano’s descendant, Eduardo Chadwick–the fifth generation of his family to be involved in the wine business. Eduardo has overseen the modernization of the winemaking technology at this historic estate while maintaining a distinct identity for its wines, dedicated to producing estate grown wines of superior quality.

Read more at: http://www.errazuriz.com/en/who-we-are/history/

 2014 Mount Peak Rattle Snake Zinfandel, Sonoma, California

The Wine: Winemaker Notes: Rattlesnake Zinfandel is tribute to the crest called Rattlesnake Hill, the highest point of the Monte Rosso Vineyard and a site famous rattlesnakes living among the vines. During the day, the snakes seek the abundant sunshine and in the evening, they coil inside and around the vines. This Zinfandel is filled with an alluring mouthwatering quality with robust flavors that includes ripe blueberries, blackberries, cherry jam and fig all tied together by a brambly undertone. Accents of white pepper, licorice and smoke weave through wine, deepening throughout the luscious finish.

Robert Parker: Take, for example, the 2014 Zinfandel Rattlesnake, a blend of 96% Zinfandel and 4% Petite Sirah with 85% from the Monte Rosso Vineyard and the balance from other Gallo vineyards. It is aged in all French oak, of which 23% is new. A whopper at 16% natural alcohol, the wine has classic Zinfandel characteristics of Provençal spices, roasted herbs, pepper and oodles of briary black raspberry and black cherry fruit. It cuts a big swath across the palate with loads of glycerin and an unctuous, thick, juicy quality that is provocative. The wine is rich, ripe and ideal for drinking over the next 7-8 years. 5,000+ cases were produced.

The Winery:  Built in 1886, Mount Peak was a marvel of innovation. The three-story, gravity-flow winery was built from the rocks pulled from the dry-farmed Monte Rosso Vineyard. It quickly emerged as one of California’s top ten producers, but the start of Prohibition in 1920 forced the winery to shutter its doors. Like many of California’s pioneering wineries, Mount Peak was abandoned to the elements, a true ghost winery never to reopen. For decades the winery lays silent, as wild vines and towering fig trees seek to reclaim it stone by stone. Over 130 years later only the ruins of the winery remain, yet the vineyard’s still-thriving vines have persisted—standing silent above the fog line, occupying the space between earth and sky. The ghost winery and the world-class Monte Rosso Vineyard are perched at nearly 1,300 feet along the spine of the Mayacamas Mountains, just straddling Napa and Sonoma valleys.

Read more at: http://www.mountpeakwinery.com/home.php

 2014 Carlisle Du Pratt Zinfandel, Mendocino Ridge, Mendocino, California

The Wine: Winemaker Notes: Medium-dark to dark garnet-ruby. A fascinating, complex nose of red cherry, cranberry, pine forest, and orange rind. On the palate, an explosion of red cherry liqueur, briar, and cracked black pepper. Classic DuPratt Finishes very clean and long with plenty of verve and snap. For a Zinfandel, this will have a long life. Drink anytime from 2019 through 2030.

Vinous: One of the most distinctive wines in this range, the 2014 Zinfandel DuPratt Vineyard, from a site in Mendocino Ridge, is wonderfully aromatic, nuanced and lifted. Bright red and bluish-hued fruits, violet, lavender and sage are some of the signatures in this beautifully delineated, vibrant, mid-weight Zinfandel. The gorgeous, restrained Zinfandel is showing very well today.

Wine Enthusisast: An amazing amalgam of berry flavors fills this full-bodied and intensely fruity wine. It gushes with blackberry, raspberry and strawberry in the aromas and on the palate, supported by good acidity and moderate tannins. It may be high in alcohol but it’s so jam-packed with red and black fruit that it tastes balanced and appetizing.

The Winery: Carlisle Winery & Vineyards is a small Sonoma County winery best known for its single-vineyard, old-vine Zinfandel, while also specializing in reds from the Rhône varieties. More recently the estate has added two vineyard-blend white wines, and a varietal Grüner Veltliner – the first made in Sonoma County. Many of the wines are produced in limited quantities and are initially only available via the twice-yearly mailing list – for which there is a waiting list.The company was founded in 1998, although owners Mike and Kendall Officer had been making “garagiste” wines for several years before that. Carlisle works with a select band of vineyard owners to source fruit, including multiple old-vine Zinfandel vineyards.

Read more at: http://www.carlislewinery.com/index.html

 2015 Black Chicken Zinfandel, Robert Biale, Napa, California


The Wine: Winemaker Notes Dark color, ripe aromatics and juicy acidity. The nose is full of vibrant black cherry, strawberries, crème fresh, dried flowers, brown and black spices and bread pudding. The entry is soft and weighty and gives way to supple round tannins.

Wine Spectator: Zesty and tightly focused, with cherry, licorice and cedar aromas opening to plum and pepper flavors, finishing with dusty tannins.

Wine Enthusiast:  This perennial favorite lives up to its word-of-mouth goodness, offering fistfuls of blueberry and huckleberry with a juicy length and throughput of acidity. Soft and strong, it’s supple, floral and memorable in its deliciousness.

The Winery: It all started in the 1940’s when 14 year-old Aldo Biale helped his mother to make ends meet by selling to insider Napans – along with eggs and produce -some of the family’s homemade Zinfandel. Over the old “party line” phone system, the code words “a Black Chicken” signified a jug of bootleg wine… and kept nosy neighbors and the authorities from finding out about Aldo’s underground Zinfandel operation!

(Taken from wine-searcher.comRobert Biale Vineyards is a Californian wine producer with vineyards located in Napa Valley and Sonoma County. The majority of the portfolio is dedicated to California’s iconic red wine grape variety, Zinfandel – the original grape variety planted by founder Pietro Biale in 1937.

Aldo Biale took on the management of these Zinfandel vines after his father’s death in 1942. Due to strict government regulations on the sale of alcohol at that time, Aldo was not able to legally sell his “homemade” wine. To get around this issue he sold his wine under the code name “Gallina Nera”, or Black Chicken, a name he adapted from Chianti’s symbolic Gallo Nero rooster. In this way, customers were able to ring up and order jugs of Gallina Nera, along with other produce from Aldo’s ranch, right under the noses of the authorities.

In 1991, Robert Biale carried on his family’s winemaking history with the establishment of Robert Biale Vineyards. To this day the estate still produces its flagship Black Chicken Zinfandel wine primarily from the Biale Winery vineyard in the heart of Oak Knoll District. Robert Biale Vineyards also sources Oak Knoll District-grown Zinfandel grapes from its Aldo’s and Black Chicken vineyards and works with established winegrowers and producers across Napa Valley and Sonoma County to supplement its own vineyard yields.

A small selection of varietal Petite Sirah and Sangiovese wines complement the estate’s extensive Zinfandel portfolio, along with red blends of grape varieties including Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Grenache and Syrah grown on estate-partnered vineyards in California.

Read more at: http://biale.com/

4.  CV Members Rating

View full evaluation here: 198 summary of scores

Best Rated Wine: 2016 Errazuriz Max Reserva, Sauvignon Blanc, Aconcagua Costa, Chile 

Best Buy: 2016 Errazuriz Max Reserva, Sauvignon Blanc, Aconcagua Costa, Chile


5. Technical Notes 

The Zinfandel grape is the quintessential California grape where it has beautifully adapted.  Genetic studies identify it as a mutation of the Crijenak originally from Croatia.  Some say they are descended from the Primitivo Italian grape, but the evidence gives that the Zinfandel and the Primitivo are both mutations of the first although there is still some discussion.

Zinfandel is an extremely versatile grape that can produce from low quality sweet wines to outstanding quality wines.  For example, in the 1980s, white Zinfandel began to show up in California, and many believed that there was a white grape variety, but it was not.  This wine was produced by minimizing the contact of the juice with the skin of the grape resulting a light rosé wine.  The high-quality reds of the Zinfandel are produced with the best techniques and result in intense flavors of red and black fruits, spices and large body.  Wines made of the Zinfandel grape can range in style from those like Beaujolais to strong high alcohol wines reminiscent of Oporto passing through styles similar to Cabernet that age well.  The versatility of the grape therefore gives the winemaker much flexibility in its handling and therefore the quality depends on his/her expertise and tastes.

The grape is resistant, high production and vigorous and likes warm climates, so it reaches high levels of sugar and therefore alcohol.  Its management in the vineyard is difficult because the bunches are very tight and can get sick with fungi.  In addition, the grapes tend to ripen unevenly in the same cluster.  This trend can be aggravated by poor water management.  The harvest must be done frequently in several passes through the vineyard for quality wines adding to cost.

Because of its resilience, there are vineyards over 100 years old in various parts of the world.  Its cultivation has spread to South Africa, South America and Australia mainly.

The wines tend to lose their fruit from three or four years and spices and alcohol tends to become more pronounced.  It is therefore recommended to drink them between the three and five years of ageing in the bottle.  They are excellent for accompanying strong roasts and avocado like lamb stew.



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