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Favorite Sonoma Zinfandels?

We just moved to the Sonoma Valley. I'd like to drink local-- and try as many Sonoma wines as I can while I'm here. I'd love any recommendations from good value to once in a lifetime. Let's start with Zin.

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  1. In Sonoma the best area for Zins is Dry Creek. Ridge Lytton Creek would
    be the first winery I would recommend. They have 3 or 4 different types of zins,
    all excellent. The second, Unti, is nearby in Dry Crek. It has a reasonably
    good zin, but it is great for all Italian and Souther France varieties: barbera,
    sangiovese, montepulciano, syrah, grenache, and various Cote-du rhone
    and Chateauneuf du pape blends. The founding family is Italian-American,
    but the winemaker, Sebastien Pochan is French. An appointment is
    needed but most of the time you can get one with 15 minutes notice.
    They are extremely friendly, and their wines are excellent at a good QPR.

    1. I agree about Ridge, both the Geyserville and Lytton Springs bottlings. Carlisle is another favorite of mine but they can be hard to find.
      Joseph Swan makes some tasty zn. So does Unti.
      A hot new winemaker is Morgan Twain-Peterson and his Bedrock wine. He's the son of Ravenswood winemaker Joel Peterson. Great wine and good value.

      1. I love Sonoma zins. I wish I still lived up that way, but only make it up twice a year now. Current favorites are Mauritson, Wilson and Passalaqua. Love Dry Creek!

        3 Replies
        1. re: ChrisG

          More recs here:
          "Need help (Red Zinfandel)"
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/468196

          Also, Mazzocco, any Rockpile region Zin (another great region like Dry Creek), Carol Shelton, Ridge, Rosenblum. Disappointed lately in Ravenswood except for a couple of their vineyard-designated Zins.

          Good buys: SinZin (Alexander Valley Vineyards), Francis Old Vines Zinfandel (make sure label says exactly that).

          1. re: maria lorraine

            +1 for Rosenblum. i also like The Zin from Cosentino.

          2. re: ChrisG

            +1 for Mauritson family wines- they are the largest landowners in the Rockpile region (having owned the land for 6 generations as sheep farmers) and therefore have some of the best prices b/c their (quite expensive) land has been long paid off.

          3. i pretty much gave up on zins as they got bigger and bigger no thanks to RMP.

            my favorite was rafanelli. are they still around? ridge and swan were the next best especially in the 70s and early 80s.

            12 Replies
            1. re: jock

              Nalle does a good job at restraining alcohol levels. Their zins hover around 13-13.5.

              1. re: ernie in berkeley

                forgot about doug nalle. his are frequently very good

                1. re: jock

                  Third for Nalle, def. my favorite!

              2. re: jock

                Also, a couple of Ridge Jimsomare zins from the early 1970s were around 16.7 percent. So it's not like high alcohol zins are new.
                This is back when about the only people looking at the alcohol percentage were the tax collectors.

                1. re: SteveTimko

                  believe it or not i had the 1970. at the time i thought it was wonderful. do not know what i would think of it now.

                  again, not sure what i would say if i had it today but my all time favorite ridge was the 1973 geyserville. do not recall the alcohol but suspect it was pretty high. as in many things, wine in particular, balance is the key. i recall paul telling me on more than one occasion in the 1980s the the 1973 geyserville was his favorite also.

                  1. re: SteveTimko

                    Hmmmm . . . I don't recall any Ridge Jimsomare (which is in the Santa Cruz Mtns., not Sonoma, for anyone who doesn't know) being over 16, but I'm looking at the label of the 1970 Jimsomare (Jim, Sophie, Mary) and it *was* 15.8% abv. In my memory, that was one of the highest levels for a Ridge Zin, exceeded only by the 1973 Occidental bottlings. But that's only my memory, and it's admittedly hazy when it comes to alcohol levels of 30-40 year old Zins . . .

                    This, by the way, is in contrast to the 1970 Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet, which IIRC came in between 12.5-13.0 . . .

                  2. re: jock

                    Rafanelli are definitely still around, and among the few Zinfandels that I'm familiar with (Ridge being another that I think is just great). I still have 4 bottles of the 2007 Raf Zin, and it just keeps getting better.

                    And I love the drive on Dry Creek/West Dry Creek Rd. Among the loveliest spots in all of North America.

                    1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                      Love that drive, you can hit all the great Zin wineries in a day and finish up with a snack and glass of wine at Dry Creek General Store!

                      1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                        The Rafanelli's are, indeed, still around along with their rather startling attitude about the mailing list they use. I don't know if there's still a waiting list for it but a few years ago we had been buying at the winery once or twice a year so didn't pay much attention to the mailing when it came. When we stopped receiving it I called and was rather curtly informed that we must have forgotten to return it with a checked box saying we wanted to keep receiving it. So........... To the back of the line for us!!!! I really like their wine but decided I'd had enough at that point.

                        Actually their daughter makes a really good Merlot for them. And that's saying something given my normal aversion to Merlot.

                        1. re: Midlife

                          I sent Rafanelli an order once, which was promptly returned to me without any note or comment of any kind. So I called and actually got Patty Rafanelli on the phone. She said my order was returned because I had missed the deadline. When I pointed out that there were still 10 more days until the deadline, she just hung up on me. But, their wines are really good.

                          1. re: pinotho

                            Ah yes! I intentionally didn't include the name of the person I spoke with, but you've nailed it. Lovely lady! I wonder if their business is still good enough for that attitude. So many wineries are being a lot more 'liberal' these days that you've got to wonder a bit. We've been to the winery maybe 10 or 12 times (until that episode in our 'relationship') and Dave was usually the family member there. Never met his wife in person.

                            1. re: Midlife

                              I think Dave Rafanelli is a nice guy and a really talented winemaker. The feedback I receive is that, currently, many of the premium wineries have managed to loose that annoying "attitude".

                    2. Woodenhead and Radio Coteau.....both are outstanding, with Woodenhead being marginally better. Enjoy.