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A Wine Lover's Weekly Guide To $10 Wines - A California Zinfandel


Zinfandel is perhaps America's only indigenous European-style grape variety. It makes fruity, powerful red wines. And yet about 85% of the time this red, red grape is vinified into a very popular rose wine known as White Zinfandel, one of which we reviewed quite recently. Don't get confused with the colors; the present review is a red, red Zinfandel wine. You won't mistake it for a rose.

California has been producing Zinfandel wine since the 1850s. Believe it or not, some century-old Zinfandel grapevines are still producing wine grapes. Now the wine reviewed below comes from Sonoma County. Given its price range we are not surprised that it comes from much younger vines. As you may guess, bargain wines don't come from old vines that produce relatively few, albeit flavorful grapes. You may want to compare this inexpensive Zinfandel with an old-vine Zin that may well cost over twice as much. In the meantime, you might well enjoy this wine produced under the Gallo Winery label by Rancho Zabaco, which is itself a century-old resident of Sonoma County. By the way, Sonoma County is the largest volume wine producer in California.

OUR WINE REVIEW POLICY All wines that we taste and review were purchased at the full retail price.
Wine Reviewed Dancing Bull Zinfandel 2007 14.2% alcohol about $10

Let's start by quoting the marketing materials. Tasting Note: Deep ruby with purple hues; aromas of toasty vanilla spice and blueberry compote; full-bodied, spicy, along with flavors of blueberry preserve. Serving suggestion: An excellent match with barbecue ribs. And now for my reactions.

At the first sips the wine was very powerful, both in alcohol and taste. It was quite fruity. The first pairing was with a grilled boneless rib steak that spent several days in a marinade consisting of ketchup, cumin, onion powder, black pepper, and some Middle Eastern spices. The side dishes were potato patties and a generous portion of tomato, lime, green pepper, and garlic salsa that was fairly spicy. With the steak the wine tasted of blueberries and jam with vanilla in the background. Of course, this Zinfandel wasn't subtle or multi-layered but it was definitely present. I went to the salsa as a palate cleanser. This Zinfandel took on a background role. Even when muted it did retain a lot of strength.

The next meal consisted of a grilled spicy, North African lamb sausage known as merguez accompanied by home-grilled eggplant. The meat was greasy and the eggplant somewhat oily. The wine tasted of plums and cut the grease. The eggplant bought out the oak. This Zinfandel was balanced in the sense that it was slightly too tannic and overly acidic but by no means unpleasant.

My final meal centered slow-cooked beef stew and potatoes. The wine was mouth-filling with a lot of extract. I tasted dark fruit and round tannins. It was almost chewy. Then I added a green jalapeno pepper mix to the meat. The wine was somewhat muted but by no means gutted.

I finished the bottle with two local cheeses. When it was paired with a Marbled Cheddar not a lot of the fruit came through. Things worked better with a Havarti. The wine was more powerful than before and once again I tasted the oak.

Final verdict. I would buy this wine again. Zinfandel is a barbecue wine. I'm sure that this offering can compete successfully with many in the $15 range.

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Over the years Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten computer and Internet books, but really prefers drinking fine German wine, along with friends and the right foods. He teaches sundry computer classes at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his global wine website http://www.theworldwidewine.com with a weekly column reviewing $10 wines and new sections writing about (theory) and tasting (practice) organic and kosher wines.