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Drink Crush:

June 27, 2012

Red, White and Zin for 4th of July

What to break out for the 4th of July BBQ? A glass of spicy, wild Zinfandel that stands up to bold flavors

By Katie Kelly Bell for, reprinted with permission

Wine expert and “Adventures in Taste” blogger Katie Kelly Bell has a sweet spot for this distinctly American grape and wine wimps need not apply for these “full-throttle” pours. Consider it “fireworks in a glass.”

Zinfandel has a special and unique claim to America’s July Fourth festivities. It’s spicy wild edges pair beautifully with the smoky sweetness in barbecue. More importantly, Zinfandel is our nation’s noble grape; if America has a wine grape, Zinfandel is it. Most grape varieties have origins in Europe, but the only other Zinfandel vines (officially documented with DNA fingerprinting) with the same structure as American vines were found on Croatia’s Dalmation coast. Records show Zinfandel plantings in the U.S. dating back to the 1820’s. Some of our oldest grape vines are Zinfandel vines, indeed, before Prohibition it was the most widely planted grape in California.

Joel Peterson, winemaker for Ravenswood winery, has been one of the varietal’s most ardent advocates. His “No Wimpy Wines” motto reflects his self-proclaimed “no-holds-barred pursuit of full-throttle, full-flavored wine.”

For years Zinfandel was considered to be a rogue wine, racy and unpolished, with a Wild West swagger, certainly not anything one would pour at a fine meal of roasted lamb and foie gras.

But Zinfandel’s brambly, ripe berry charms have been artfully tamed by devoted winemakers and visionaries such as Peterson, Ted Seghesio of Seghesio Family Wines, and Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards.

Today Peterson crafts everything from a value-driven (read: under $15) Sonoma blend to exquisite single-estate heritage wines made from 100 year-old vines. His Zinfandel’s are some of California’s most extraordinary wines, powerful, bold, and spicy with wild, individualistic edges to them, which just makes things interesting. This is America’s red wine—unapologetic, bold and individual—and it belongs on your table this Fourth of July.


What to Look For:

Ridge Geyserville Zinfandel, 2010

Blended with 20% Carignan, this is one of the many quality Zinfandels produced by Ridge. This particular wine pops with spice and plum.  Layers of concentration and some nice mineral backbone make it perfect with grilled meats.


Ravenswood Teldeschi 2008 Ravenswood Teldeschi 2008

Ravenswood Teldeschi, 2008.

This wine is a fine expression of what single-vineyard Zinfandel can be: bold and concentrated with deep purple color and dense jammy-ness. Waves of warm spice (cinnamon) crest on the palate followed by chocolate, leather and dried herbs…the single estate wines were built to cellar (20 years if you do it correctly) so it’s a bit untamed at the moment, but if you’re looking for fireworks in a glass, this is surely it.


Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel, 2010

Black cherry jumps from the glass, raspberry and some smoke too. Silky and fun now, serve it with a heaping plate of baby back ribs. If you care about numbers, it did get 93pts from Wine Enthusiast.


Clif Gary's Improv Zinfandel 2009 Clif Gary's Improv Zinfandel 2009

Clif Gary’s Improv Zinfandel, 2009

From the folks that brought us Clif Bars, we get this powerhouse of blackberry and blueberry fruits. Softer tannins make this a “drink now” wine, perfect with pulled pork sandwiches smothered in Kansas City-style barbecue sauce. For the scorekeepers: 91 Points: Wine Enthusiast Magazine


C. G. di Arie Sierra foothills Zinfandel, 2008

This wine (from the Sierra Foothills, another interesting place for Zinfandel) has plums and berries, with some light black pepper and of course luscious chocolate.


As reprinted with permission from Katie Kelly Bell’s “Adventures in Taste” blog, covering epicurean wine, food and travel finds at


Joel Peterson of Ravenswood Joel Peterson of Ravenswood