HOME > Chowhound > Wine >


Need help (Red Zinfandel)

  • c

Unfortunately I don't know as much about wine yet as I would like. I need some help. I have someone who I know really likes Red Zinfandel wine and was hoping you gus/girls could help me in choosing a bottel or more for a Christmas gift. Anything $100 or under per bottle.

Thanks so much in advance. Any help I can get is greatly appreciated.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. You need not spend anywhere near that much to buy a truly EXCELLENT bottle of Zinfandel.

    Check out

    -- Ridge Vineyards http://www.ridgewine.com/
    -- Storybrook Mountain http://www.storybookwines.com/
    -- Storrs Winery http://www.storrswine.com/
    -- Dashe Vineyards http://www.dashecellars.com/
    -- Carol Shelton Wines http://www.carolshelton.com/
    -- Robert Biale http://www.robertbialevineyards/
    -- A.Rafanelli http://www.arafanelliwinery.com/

    . . . among many, many others.

    3 Replies
    1. re: zin1953

      you could stick with the 3 r's of zin(ravenswood, rosenblum & ridge) and get a bottle of all three for $100. if he really collects zin, he may be happy to get a bottle of turley that could set you back $100.

      1. re: TBird

        Ever since Ravenswood was acquired by Constellation, I think their quality has fallen off. Rather substantially.

        Rosenblum is quite good . . . if you like their style.

        1. re: zin1953

          I tend to agree, especially the single vineyard wines. The low-end Zins still seem to pack a fair value, but I find myself reaching for Rosenblum at about the same price-point.

          I talked to Joel Petterson some time back, just after the release of the buyout news, and he indicated that they were not going to source from some old-time suppliers, but were working on deals with some new ones.

          I still miss the Beloni-Woodroad and the Dickerson (may he RIP), and have not been bowled over with some of these new properties. I think that Joel is still the winemaker, but I'd also guess that things are much, much different now.

          We normally pick up a case of the VB, and use it for cooking, and drinking, while cooking. I'm still working on my last case, so have not tried the recent release, but hope that it is still a serviceable red.

          For my $, I'd go with the Ridge, Biale, and Rafanelli, but your list looks quite good to me. Also, as you might recall, I'm a Turley fan too. However, I had an '05 Dusi Ranch last night with Kona espresso-rubbed tenderloin, and it seemed top-heavy on the alcohol front. I had it poured at the table,, early on, and it did come around. At home, I'd have decanted this puppy for maybe an hour. I've had the '03 & '04 Dusi recently, and none showed quite like this '05. Still lucious, but a bit out-of-balance, even for me.


    2. For one of the best Zins for the money go with Klinker Brick Old Ghost. It is at the Wine House for around $34. It is an old vine zin with limited production and has a lot more character than the Ridge or ravenswoods that I have had.

      1. Turley Dusi Ranch (if you can locate it at retail) is outstanding.


        1. Hi CJL...

          Here's what you do, since you're looking for a really fine gift for a zin lover. Go to your best wine vendor(s) and ask for the following only:

          RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY of Sonoma County: 2001, 2002, or especially the incredible 2004's. In fact, if you can only pick one zin, you can't do better than the '04 RRV's.

          DRY CREEK: Ditto, the 2004's are incredible

          PASO ROBLES: 2002, 2003, and especially the 2004's

          NAPA: 2002, 2003, 2004

          Note these are regions, not specific wineries. Take the list to your vendor(s) and ask them what the best they have in your price range from these vintage years.

          These giffts will be very much appreciated :)

          1. I love Ravenswood Zinfandel - have not found any decrese in quality lately.

            2 Replies
            1. re: emilief

              Really? I don't buy it any more. But just goes to show, tastes differ.

              1. re: cmkdvs

                I also used to drink Ravenswood a lot, but don't buy it anymore. I'm not sure whether it changed or I did (likely both).

            2. Martinelli
              Robert Biale
              Carol Shelton
              Rosenblum Rockpile or Monte Rosso

              1. M.Cosentino Cigar Zin. To die for!!! :)
                Pietra Santa is also a good one.

                4 Replies
                1. re: mmuch

                  I'm not sure where you are, but if you can get them

                  2005 Martinelli Giuseppe & Luisa
                  2005 JC Cellars The Imposter
                  2005 Radio-Coteau Zinfandel RRV Von Weidlich (one of my absolute favorites)
                  2005 Rosenblum Zinfandel Rockpile Rockpile Road Vineyard

                  You could buy two of any of these for your $100 at release prices. I'm not sure what they are going for on the open market.

                  1. re: dinwiddie

                    Thanks so much for the help. Will definitely go and try to hunt some of these down.

                    1. re: dinwiddie


                      What's the Radio-Coteau like and is it drinking well right now? I have some sitting in cellar and might break one open over the holiday...

                      1. re: vinosnob

                        Vino -

                        FWIW, here's my note on the 04 Radio-Coteau Von Weidlich from about 6 months ago ->
                        Classic zin nose, with rich blackberry and briery, peppery notes. Quite ripe, but much more structured and elegant than many zins, with layers of dark fruits, spice box and a firm, peppery finish.

                        I'm also still holding my 05 for now.

                  2. If you can find it, Sineann Old Vine Zin. It should set you back about $40.

                    1. General question: Which do we find more interesting, blended or 100% Zinfandel wine? I adored Ridge Geyserville (versus other "straight" Zins) while in college. Found blends to be more complex.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Chinon00

                        both can be super nice. If I can only choose one, probably vineyard blends.

                        1. re: Chinon00

                          Keep in mind that, under US Federal regulations (CFR 27), a varietal wine (i.e.: a wine named for a single grape variety) need contain a minimum of 75 percent of that one variety . . . If the grape involved is of the genus and species Vitis vinifera. (V. labrusca need contain only 51 percent.) So -- UNLESS the label gives specific percentages of grapes used in producing the wine -- the label can simply state "ZINFANDEL" and you will have no way of knowing for sure (from the label) whether the wine is a "straight' Zin or not.

                          Ridge Geyserville is no longer labeled as a Zinfandel, but rather as a Red Table Wine (RTW, for short), and has been labeled this way for many years. The percentage of Zinfandel is sometimes more than 75 percent, sometimes less; labeling it as RTW prevents confusion among the public and maintains consistency in terms of Geyserville's label.

                          Most of Ridge's Zinfandels are indeed blends. Lytton Springs, arguably as famous as their Geyserville, has always been a blend of Zinfandel and other grapes -- and is still labeled as "Zinfandel," rather than an RTW.

                          * * * * *

                          Historically, if the winegrower wanted his wine to contain more than one grape, the vineyard was planted with more than one grape. So if a château in Bordeaux wanted their blend to be (e.g.) 50 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 30 percent Merlot, 20 percent Cab Franc and 10 percent Petit Verdot, when you walk down the row of vines in the vineyard, you'd see five vines of CS, three of Merlot, two CF, and one PV. These were Field Blends.

                          It wasn't really until the 20th Century, and specifically (in the US) until AFTER Prohibition, that grapes were planted in "blocks" -- with this block planted exclusively to Cabernet Sauvignon, and that block solely planted with Merlot, etc., etc., etc. In other words, the "norm" were field blends (or, as Mike calls them, "vineyard blends.")

                          * * * * *

                          SOME grape varieties are BETTER when blended with one or more other grape varieties; others are best when bottled alone. (Yes, this is a broad generalization, and one can always find specific exceptions, but there is a reason generalizations exist: by and large, they're true.) Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are two examples of grapes that are often improved by being blended with one or more other varieties. Pinot Noir is a grape that is generally best when made by itself. Marsanne is a grape that is generally better when blended with another grape variety; Riesling is an example of a grape best bottled by itself.

                          Zinfandel is, IMHO, better when small percentages of other varieties are blended into it.

                        2. CJL....lots of good suggestions so far , but I think you are looking for a special Christmas bottle , so I'm very surprised that no one has mentioned Woodenhead.
                          Either the 05 Braccialini or the 04 Martinelli Road bottlings will knock your friend's socks off . Good luck .

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: pinotho

                            Pinotho -
                            I'm not surprised - seems to be a largely under the radar winery. On my last visit to RRV I drove by Woodenhead, said "Looks interesting, ought to stop in", but failed to do so and then was kicking myself. I've been trying to get more info from folks who have tried their wines, but without any success - witness the resounding response to this post ->

                            So tell me about them?

                            1. re: Frodnesor

                              Frodnesor : Nick worked at the "original" Williams-Selyem....I guess he was sort of an apprentice , and it was for a number of years . When John Dyson bought W-S , Nick ventured on his own and has never looked back....the wines are truly outstanding, even tho that term is overused . Naturally , anyone who worked for Burt and Ed would be expected to have a way with pinot , and Nick does. The Buena Tierra pinot is good and I think you can order it from the website . All the pinots are good . A couple of weeks ago I treated myself to a 2000 where the grapes were sourced from Humbolt County ! Nick is quite careful about the grapes he buys ....he's been around Sonoma County a long time and understands grape sources . Either of the zins mentioned are great.....we forget that Burt Williams was the winemaker that showed the outstanding potential of the Martinelli zins. Anyone remember the "Leno Martinelli" zins that Williams-Selyem bottled before Leno stopped selling grapes to people other than the family . Anyway , next time you are in RRV , don't hesitate to stop at Woodenhead....you can thank me later . Regards.

                              1. re: pinotho

                                just got aboolt of the '04 quivira dry creek at $18. Any thoughts on this wine?

                          2. If you want to spend $100, how about buying one each of the Ridge Lytton Springs, Geyserville, and Ponzo from the same vintage? The contrasts should be interesting. You should be able to find them for around $30.

                            1. oh man this thread makes me pine for my all time FAVE zin...have any of you ever tried Scheutz-Oles? Unfortunately they packed up their tent to sail around the world a few years back but i am a huge zin fan and it's my fave ever. I don't even know the last year they made it but i have about 6 bottles of the 99 left and i horde it like it was a '97 brunello. It is like drinking liquid red velvet. They were located in St Helena and didn't have an actual winery or anything; just sold thru a few high end wine stores. i discovered it on a "leftovers" table at Whole Foods one year; the regular price was $21 a bottle and i got it for $13. Needless to say, i bought it by the case on my next trip to Yountville, CA and the big wine store there. Anyone else a fan?

                              1. Probably too late, but you can get a magnum of the 40th anniversary bottling of Ridge Geyserville for less than $100.
                                Ridge. Ridge. Ridge.