Please don’t order a “red zin,” which is like ordering a white pinot grigio. There’s confusion because of the white zin that moved so many of us (myself included) from Bartels & Jaymes to wine. Zinfandel is robust, rich, and spicy. It was the most widely planted red grape in California for decades, surpassed recently by cabernet sauvignon. For years, it was thought to be indigenous to the Golden State, but DNA testing and a lot of research at the University of California, Davis, determined that it originated in Croatia and is closely related to primitivo from Italy. Zin comes in many styles and at many prices, and it’s one of the few wines for which price is often a misleading indicator of quality.
This month’s selections are available at Yarmo Liquors, 2489 W. 7th St., St. Paul, 651-698-0707
Peachy Canyon Incredible Red 2005 (Paso Robles, California) $10.69
This one is light for zinfandel, with bright raspberry fruit and a hint of spice. It’s made to be enjoyed today, not savored throughout the week. Try it with pizza on a cool September night.
Opolo Summit Creek 2005 (Paso Robles, California) $17.39
Rich with strawberry fruit, this wine is delicious. It surprised me with its long finish and complexity, a rarity at this price. There is a taste of white pepper on your tongue and the high alcohol content creeps up on you, so be warned. Try it with sausage lasagna.
Abundance Mencarini 2004 (Lodi, California) $20.39
This wine is balanced, with softer tannins than the rest, but boasting complex spices with nutmeg and clove flavors. The blueberry notes reminded me of blueberry pie in a glass—it would go great with taco night.
Bourassa Odyssey 3 2003 (Napa, California) $31.99
This one’s a wow! But you pay for it. A zinfandel lover’s zin! It’s full-bodied, peppery, and more. Yummy is my official wine term for it. Try it with a rare beef filet rubbed with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Bill Coy runs Vintage U, which organizes wine tastings, classes, and events for corporate groups, wine enthusiasts, and the general public. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.