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Flat front label of wine

Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel 2010

Zinfandel from California
  • TP88
14.5% ABV
  • WW88
  • WE89
  • WE90
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4.0 11 Ratings
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4.0 11 Ratings
14.5% ABV

Winemaker Notes

Gnarly Head 2010 Old Vine Zinfandel is made from gnarled 35 to 80 year-old head trained vines. Fruit from these unruly branches is intense and powerful, and as some of the oldest in California, these brash old vines produce exceptional, full flavored grapes. The intrepid Old Vine Zinfandel has a gnarly core of rich, dark raspberry and black cherry flavors with layers of spice and chocolate balanced by complex French and American oak toast. Try pairing this wine with braised short ribs, chicken enchiladas, or dark chocolate.

Critical Acclaim

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TP 88
Tasting Panel
Ripe and sweet with wild spice and rich fruit; intense and a bit coarse - but a style that people like.
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Gnarly Head

Gnarly Head

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Gnarly Head, California
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My first impression, as the truck pulled up to the eighty year old Zinfandel vineyards, was, "Wow, those vines sure have some gnarly heads!" Thus began a fifteen year love affair with the Old Vine Zinfandel.

The older Zin vineyards in California were planted before the use of modern trellising techniques and were "head pruned", meaning the shoots that eventually produce the grapes grow directly out of the head of the trunk. The resulting vines look more like a bush than the normally well-manicured rows of neatly trained along posts and wires – and they do have "Gnarly Heads".

California

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Responsible for the vast majority of American wine production, if California were a country, it would be the world’s fourth largest wine-producing nation. The state’s diverse terrain and microclimates allow for an incredibly wide-ranging selection of wine styles, and unlike tradition-bound Europe, experimentation is more than welcome here. Wineries range from boutique to massive corporations, and price and quality are equally varied—plenty of inexpensive bulk wine is made in the Central Coast area, while Napa is responsible for some of the world’s most prestigious and expensive “cult” wines.

Just about every style of wine you can imagine is made in California, from bone dry to unctuously sweet, still to sparkling, light and fresh to rich and full-bodied. Each AVA and sub-AVA has its own distinct personality. In the Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and other Bordeaux varieties dominate, as well as Sauvignon Blanc. Sonoma County is best known for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel. The Central Coast has carved out a niche with Rhône blends based on Grenache and Syrah, while Mendocino has found success with Alsatian varieties such as Riesling and Gewürztraminer. With all the diversity that California has to offer, it is certain that any wine lover will find something to get excited about.

Zinfandel

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Unapologetically powerful, heady, and fruit-forward, Zinfandel is often thought of as a truly Californian grape, though in fact it is anything but. This variety has followed an intriguing trajectory to reach its adoptive home, beginning, surprisingly, in Croatia. Originally known as Tribidrag, it first made its way to southern Italy where it became known as Primitivo. From there it eventually migrated to what is now unarguably its most successful outpost, in California, and has thrived throughout the state. Of course, this is also the grape of White Zinfandel, a sweet pink wine that enjoyed great popularity in the 1980s and 90s. Though White Zin still has a significant following, today the variety is increasingly associated with the red version.

In the Glass

Zinfandel commonly features a bold, plush texture and notes of dark plum, blackberry, sweet spice, black pepper, dark chocolate, leather, and licorice, and can often be described as “jammy” and a little bit sweet. Very ripe examples may express a hint of dried fruit like raisin, fig, or prune. Despite its significant alcohol and weight, Zinfandel has very smooth, gentle tannins.

Perfect Pairings

Zinfandel is a powerfully flavored wine, mingling happily with bold food like brisket, lamb shanks, pork ribs, or anything barbecued. If care is taken with regards to alcohol levels, Zinfandel’s hint of sweetness can work well with milder Indian-spiced dishes like lamb curry.

Sommelier Secret

Thanks to its popularity both for home winemaking and as communion wine, many Zinfandel vines were able to survive prohibition, leading to the abundance of "old vine" Zinfandels. These low-yielding vines tend to produce wine that is concentrated, complex, and elegant.

WAL405200_2010 Item# 113627