Despite the 100 degree weather and the hazy, smoke-filled skies from local California fires, guests were still in upbeat spirits as they tasted their way through a variety of Zinfandel vintages. Many producers poured current releases of 2013, while others poured vintages as old as 2009. The vintage and style variety was incredibly impressive, but possibly most notable was the overall takeaway that the 2013 vintage, across the board, was lighter in style from former vintages.
In 2013, the growing season saw a warm, dry spring with ample sunshine and heat in the summer. Quality was high, as was the yield, and growers were shocked to see a second abundant vintage after the 2012 season. With that being said, the 2012s are quite distinguishable from the 2013s. Below are just a handful of the 2013s featured at this year’s Simply Summer Celebration, but you’ll notice right away that there are identifying characteristics that mark the vintage from others. The 2013s are simply not over-ripe like in vintages past, but are lighter in body, with more complexity and structure, perhaps even more elegant than their robust former vintage counterparts. It's certainly safe to say that because of this more finessed style across the board, that the 2013 Zinfandels are going to be excellent food pairing wines.
2013 Old Ghost Zinfandel, Klinker Brick Winery
Klinker Brick Winery is based in Lodi, and the 74 year old grapevines that are harvested for this iconic Zinfandel are grown in the region’s Mokelumne River appellation. A lovely floral nose filled with subtle caramel and cherry fruit give way to a lighter-bodied Zinfandel with excellent structure and desirable acidity. Flavors of red cherry, clove and allspice abound—making this Zinfandel less fruit-forward in style and quite balanced.
2013 Reserve Old Vine Zinfandel, Ironstone Vineyards
The 2013 Reserve Old Vine Zinfandel from Ironstone Vineyards, located in the Sierra Foothills but producing this wine from Lodi fruit, showed incredibly well. Made from 60 year old vines that are farmed sustainably by fourth generation viticulturists and winemakers, this wine show candied cherry on the nose with darker fruit on the palate. One of the darker and more robust 2013s of the vintage, this wine's palate brings a medium body with notes of dark black cherry, blackberry, black raspberry and pepper.
2013 Pauline’s Vineyard Zinfandel, Kokomo Winery
From Sonoma County’s very own Kokomo Winery, the 2013 Pauline’s Vineyard Zinfandel boasts aromas of cherry cola and pepper; the palate, which is medium in body with soft texture, possesses flavors of spiced blueberry pie and red cherry cola. This wine is less robust than Kokomo Winery’s 2012 vintage of the same vineyard, though it is equally as impressive with its own unique style.
2013 Estate Home Ranch Zinfandel, Seghesio Family Vineyards
The afternoon certainly wouldn’t have been complete without sipping on the Zinfandel that was made from the exact vineyard in which the Simply Summer Celebration was held. Made from 125 year old vines, Seghesio Family Vineyards' 2012 Estate Home Ranch Zinfandel was by far one of the oldest old vine bottlings showcased that day. The wine boasts concentrated aromas of red cherry and baking spice, while the palate shows excellent fruit flavor complexity—blueberry, black raspberry and cherry cola abound, with additional notes of violets and baking spice. The structure is strong and the body has weight while still tasting delicate and fresh with soft tannins.
Showcasing Older Vintages
In addition to the lovely, lighter-styled 2013s, there were may producers pouring older vintages—giving tasters the opportunity to see how well Zinfandel can age. Again, the below wines are merely a small handful of the older vintages that were available for tasting, but are certainly an excellent representation of the immeasurable quality of the wines shared that day.
2011 Old Vine Zinfandel, Howell Mountain Vineyards
Hailing from Napa Valley, this 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel from Howell Mountain Vineyards shows distinct aromas of cherry cola and strawberry. The light-bodied palate possesses an abundance of baking spice with flavors of gentle strawberry and raspberry, all wrapped up in a silky texture with a round mouthfeel. Though 2011 was a cooler vintage and a tough year for many winemakers, you would never know it by tasting this beautiful wine from Howell Mountain Vineyards.
2009 Black Sears Zinfandel, D-Cubed Cellars
This 2009 vintage from D-Cubed Cellars’ Black Sears Vineyard, located in Napa Valley’s Howell Mountain appellation, was showing fabulously at six years of age. Concentrated blackberry and strong pepper aromas are accented by a touch of baking spice. The palate is full bodied with flavors of serious white pepper and mixed red fruit, such as raspberry, red cherry and red plums, alongside subtle oaky, vanilla notes in the background. The wine is well-structured and round in the mouth with soft tannins—likely, this wine will hold its own for another five years of aging and drink still superbly.
If you missed this year’s Simply Summer Celebration, worry not. Coming up in February of 2016, Zinfandel Advocates and Producers will be hosting its 25th Annual Zinfandel Experience in San Francisco. A Zinfandel-lover’s affair, this 3-day event will showcase Zinfandel with a Tribute Party, Supper Club, Flights Seminar, Winemakers Auction & Dinner, and Grand Tasting. For more information about the upcoming 25th Annual Zinfandel Experience, visit the Zinfandel Experience website.
*Originally published on Examiner.com.