A bottle of 78' Lytton Springs Zinfandel back in 1983 was the wine that opened my eyes to the world of wine. I remember it like it was yesterday. A huge peppery, plumb bomb, inky black in color and like nothing else I had ever tasted. At the time I think it was around $10. A decent bite out of a college students beer budget but worth every penny. Ever since, I have had a special appreciation for this most versatile grape.

Zinfandel production began in California in the early 1800’s, and has been cultivated and produced continuously ever since. It has survived the Phylloxera epidemics in the mid 1850’s  and 1970’s, both of which nearly wiped out California winemaking. It has survived times of cult popularity and complete disregard. It’s used as a blending grape and as a standalone varietal. It can be made sweet and succulent or dark, dense and brooding and everything in between and has a price point from $5.00-$55.00. Zinfandel is the quintessential team player, the O Positive of grapes and is one of my all-time favorite mid-winter sippers.

Below are a few to try;

Grgich Hills 2009 Zinfandel

If you have never enjoyed a piece of Boysenberry pie this  Zin will make a really good substitute. It is packed with Boysenberry compote flavor with a slight hint of Cardamom in a toasted crust. It has a beautiful smooth texture, a delicate but short finish of hazelnut and a mysterious not really sure where it hits your palette feel. It is not up front by your teeth, not really an in the middle and nowhere near dancing with your uvula. Odd but delicious; should set you back about $30.00.

EarthQuake 2009 Zinfandel

Appropriately named, this powerhouse of a Zin is about as big as you can get without becoming a fortified wine. It is nearly onyx in color, has a huge nose of vanilla and plum, which teeters on the edge of prune. There is a slight alcohol burn to it as it has a minimum of 16% by volume and feels as viscous  a quart of Mobil 10w30. Not my cup of tea truly but exhibits one extreme of what Zinfandel can deliver. About $18.00 a bottle.

Ridge 2009 Lytton Springs Zinfandel

Ridge bought the Lytton Springs vineyard and winery back in the early nineties. Although I do not have the same fond memory and appreciation for Ridge that I have for Lytton Springs , they have refined the wine and taken it to another level. The 2009 is supple and delicious. It has a distinct nose of blackberries and pepper with just a hint of vanilla. It is not overpoweringly extracted, has a great back palate mouth-feel and is quite simply delicious. Of the three it is my favorite and lands in the middle of the pack price wise at about $24.00

White Zinfandel...any year, any winery.

I had a whiff of it back in the late 80's. Thats as far as it ever got.

Life is short, enjoy the wine!