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New Customers Save $30* with code SEPTNEW30
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With a distinctly Mediterranean climate featuring warm days and cool nights, the Lodi AVA in California’s Central Valley provides growers with ideal conditions for grape-growing. As most of the rain falls in winter months while vines are dormant, the risk of disease and pest problems is low and irrigation can make up for the dry conditions during harvest.
By a wide margin, Zinfandel is the most successful and widely planted variety in Lodi. Often made from old vines, these wines are robust and fleshy with ripe, plummy fruit and represent excellent value at the lower end of the price spectrum. Over 100 other varieties are grown here, ranging from the classic (Merlot, Chardonnay) to the obscure and experimental (Portugal’s Touriga Nacional, France's Picqpoul).
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.
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.
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.