Wine of the Week: Zinfandels for the 99%
Affordable Zinfandels that can stand up to a slice of pizza
Reviewed by Wes Marshall, Fri., Jan. 20, 2012
I was discussing wines with my friend Doug who loves Zinfandels. He had just discovered the Costco store-brand version ($14) and was giddy over the cost-to-quality ratio. I almost always concur about its wines. I don't often recommend them since you have to have a membership, but they make terrific varietals that you can buy with confidence. Sadly, Zinfandels have become strange beasts. They used to be big, blockbuster, Italian-style wines, primed for an immense bowl of pasta or a slab of lasagna. Then folks with money started bidding them up, and the wines moved either toward over-oaked vanilla bombs or quiet, English-style Clarets. Suddenly, wineries like Biale, Martinelli, Turley, and Carlisle thought $75-100 a bottle seemed fair for Zinfandel. What happened to our $10 treats?
Well, it turns out one maker is still out there taking care of those of us who drink wine nightly. It's a winery that has its share of $75 wines and big awards, but it's also a winery that started with the 99% and is definitely not forgetting its roots, and that's Gallo. It makes three styles of Zinfandel worth searching for: Dancing Bull is the cheapest, the Gallo Family Vineyards Sonoma County label is the most restrained, and the Rancho Zabaco Sonoma Heritage Vines is most reminiscent of the old Cal-Ital powerhouse versions. Gallo and Rancho Zabaco make Zinfandel at multiple price points, but it's these three starter wines that interest me. Just like the old days: Here are lusty food wines that run $8-12 and always deliver the goods. Plus, they're available everywhere.
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