A few weeks ago, my partner picked up a bottle of 2010 Cline Zinfandel for us to have with our Carne Asada while we were away sailing the San Juan Islands out of Bellingham Bay in Washington. Prior to this sailing trip, actually going out and buying a bottle of Zinfandel was not on the priority list. For the last year or so, I have been focused on buying Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer, and Merlot wines. I have found a wide range of styles with these varietals, and essentially, I have had a lot of fun tasting the spectrums of each.
Cline’s 2010 Zin was interestingly bold with its fruit content. From Sonoma County in California, this product was bottled at 14% abv, with medium tannins, high acid, and was more toward the medium+ body range. It’s beautiful clear medium purple colour was exceptionally gorgeous, and I spent a bit of time examining the rim of this wine. The bouquet was of medium intensity and clean, and the notes of black fruits, namely, black cherry, blackberry, and concord grape were overt and bright. The bonus: the light expressions of mocha and vanilla that were left in the nostrils post-sniff. The palate was also dark fruit based; blackcurrant, cassis, hints of smoked wood, and the most intense blackberry perfume were all present in the glass. The finish was of medium length and really brought out the taste of fresh grape.
Cline created this Zin with a lot of care. Their website describes the production of this wine:
To create this wine, we begin by entirely de-stemming and only lightly crushing the grapes to preserve fruit and limit harsh tannin extraction. Then, a moderately warm fermentation is conducted in closed stainless steel tanks using specific wine yeast. Wine is pressed once desired tannin level is achieved, and then free run and press wine is combined. By racking the wine two or even three times before settling down to wood for eight months, we achieve early elegance without sacrificing bright fruit. Thirty-percent new French oak is used, which contributes a delicate vanilla and nutty character.
I think that their attention to tannin structure in a Zinfandel is of utmost importance. Zinfandels are, more times than not, big hot reds — especially coming out of California. Having a tannin structure that eats your mouth out is not attractive nor pleasant. You folks know what I’m talking about. Try sucking on a black teabag and then you’ll know what I mean. Not pleasant, right? Exaaaactly. They did a great job with creating a little bit of tannin gusto, but it is not overdone.
For those who don’t already know, Zinfandel is also known as Primitivo (from Puglia, Italy) and Crljenak Kaštelanski (from Croatia). Zinfandel was introduced to North America (U.S.A.) in the mid-1900s. How the name “Zinfandel” came about (as opposed to keeping Primitivo, for example) is currently unknown. California is currently a top-producing region in the world for Zinfandel. Certain areas within the state are better at producing Zinfandel, which is to be expected since terroir has a huge influence on how varietals grow and produce flavour profiles. If you’re looking for a good, cheap Zinfandel to go with your Carne Asada or spaghetti and meatballs, try Cline’s. Otherwise, try to look for Zins from Lodi, Mendocino County, or Amador.
Available at BC Liquor Stores for $18.99 or at Trader Joe’s in Washington for $12.99 (dang taxes).