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An off-the-cuff run-through of Zinfandels that had turned up here at the Tasting Room over the past few weeks resulted in a few winners (and a few stinkers, one literally—smelled like someone had jammed a rotten egg in the bottle, which probably means someone went a little haywire on sulfur in the vineyard.) But here are four I enjoyed quite a bit, in the order I preferred them:
2005 Hendry Block 7 Zinfandel ($30) From a vineyard on benchlands west of the town of Napa, this had a scent of raspberry liqueur with some mocha notes; the flavor was of sweet raspberry, lush but focused, with a peppery finish. I could drink this all winter long.
2004 Hendry Block 28 Zinfandel ($30) From the same vineyard, a bit lower in altitude (171 feet vs. 230–300 feet), the Block 28 is bigger, darker and richer than Block 7—which may also be the vintage. Lots of blackberry and black plum but with firm acidity to keep the flavors lifted.
2005 Rodney Strong Knotty Vines Zinfandel ($17) A combination of fruit from very old vines in the Russian River Valley plus younger vines in the Alexander Valley gives this Zin surprising depth despite the bright cherry berry flavors—in essence, a wine that seems light, then deepens as you taste it. A touch too much oak kept me from falling entirely for it, but perhaps in six months that will change.
2004 Falcor Sonoma County Zinfandel ($34) Falcor, a relatively new producer, enlisted Ray Coursen as their consulting winemaker—a good thing in terms of Zin, since Coursen makes a top-notch Morisoli Vineyard Zinfandel (at least, I've never tasted a vintage of it that didn't impress me) at his own winery, Elyse. This wine, which has about 9% Petite Sirah in it, is big and imposing, with wild berry jam notes and a mouthfilling texture. It gets a bit too ripe for me—some dried fruit notes that make it heavier than is ideal—but if that's your style, you'll like this wine.