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Characteristics of Zinfandel from Various California Regions

We will be producing an estate Zinfandel from a Russian River Valley vineyard that we have recently leased.  Although our winemaker Joe Freeman has plenty of experience making zinfandel, this will be the first made for Ancient Oak Cellars.  So – we’re thinking a lot about zinfandel these days.  One topic that I’ve been wondering about is what characteristics are predominant in zinfandels from some of the premiere zinfandel regions of California.  Here’s a summary of what I’ve learned:

Sierra Foothills:  Wines are deeply colored, with bright forward fruit, jammy, ripe black raspberry flavors, and a strong black cherry, verging on cola, character.  Aromas are often described as cocoa, briary spice, licorice, mint, chocolate, cedar and tobacco.
○    Amador County Zins are big, full-bodied, jammy/briary/brambly, having aromas of sweet berries, black cherry, black pepper and anise, and a rich, round, full mouth

Central Valley:  Aromas of spicy cherry liqueur, pie cherries, clove and nutmeg, with flavors of  ripe blueberries, cranberry, dried plum, toasted almond and pepper. Central Valley wines tend toward soft, low tannins.
○    Lodi has some of the oldest Zinfandel vines in California.; Lodi Zinfandels have a reputation for being juicy and approachable.

Sonoma County:  Zinfandel from Sonoma County have full, intense blackberry fruit aromas that mingle with spicy black pepper, anise and allspice scents. In general, Northern Sonoma produces “classic Zinfandel”, with some cherry and briar character.
○    Russian River Valley:  The extended growing season intensifies the flavors in the fruit, producing very lush dark fruit flavors (plums and boysenberries).
○    Dry Creek:   Have a distinct core of black cherry and vanilla flavor and aroma,
○    Alexander Valley:  Described as “supple” with plump blackberry and black cherry flavors.
○    Sonoma Valley:  From a slightly cooler region, these wines are lush, with plenty of black pepper and spice. The coolest areas of Southern Sonoma show brighter, rounder berry fruit and an intensely spicy flavor.

So, from the 2010 Ancient Oak Cellars Pagnano Vineyard Russian River Valley Zinfandel, expect a classic zinfandel with intense blackberry and spicy aromas and lush dark fruit flavors.  My mouth is watering and recipe thoughts are flowing already!

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