After tasting more than 300 affordable American wines, Senior Editor Ray Isle reports on his most exciting Zinfandel finds.
Additional research by Megan Krigbaum
2005 Blackstone California Zinfandel ($12)
Peppery and gamey, with classic Zinfandel berry notes, this full-bodied red provides an appealing example of California’s most famous native grape. A bit of Syrah and Petite Sirah in the final blend help add spiciness.
2004 Echelon Vineyards Driving Range Zinfandel ($9)
A juicy, undemanding but enjoyable wine, sourced from gnarled old vines in a Contra Costa County vineyard planted in 1910, this red offers a lot of sweet blackberry fruit.
2005 Rancho Zabaco Dancing Bull Zinfandel ($13)
This soft, raspberry-inflected Zinfandel is eminently drinkable; a good party wine, essentially. The brand itself is one of many owned by Gallo, and it’s generally a reliable source for affordable Zinfandels.
2005 Kenwood Sonoma County Zinfandel ($14)
Kenwood has been bottling this consistent cuvée since 1970. A percentage of old-vine fruit helps keep it rich but never over-the-top (a risk with Zinfandel); it gets additional zing from a small amount of the Italian variety Barbera.
NV Rosenblum Cellars Vintner’s Cuvée XXX ($12)
Here’s a wine-country success story: Start making wine in a basement back in 1978, and sell your winery 30 years later to drinks conglomerate Diageo, as Kent Rosenblum just did, for a staggering $105 million. Rosenblum makes a wide range of Zinfandels, but one of the most engaging is usually its nonvintage Vintner’s Cuvée. This, the 30th release, is as robust as ever, full of sweet blackberry flavor and an intriguing briary spiciness.