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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Russian River Valley Zinfandel

If you drink Zinfandel you are likely familiar with a few regions of California that specialize in this luscious varietal. Lodi, Dry Creek Valley, Paso Robles and Amador County may be names you recognize from wine labels. BTW if you're not a Zinfandel fan you are missing out!

The Russian River Valley appellation in Sonoma County sits in an area that gets cooling afternoon breezes off the Pacific. This area is known mostly for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, two cool climate grapes. But Zinfandel?

Zinfandel grows in most of the state's climate zones except for the coldest areas along the coast. The Russian River Valley is one of the cooler places for Zin. It stands to reason the wine from here will be different than the wine from the hotter inland areas like Amador County, Lodi, and Paso Robles. These growing regions tend to produce powerful, fruity, and, most likely, high alcohol wines.
Russian River Valley Zinfandel, planted 1880!
Image from

Just north of the Russian River Valley is the slightly warmer Dry Creek Valley. DCV is considered Zinfandel Central. These wines often show concentrated red fruits (raspberry, strawberry) and a peppery-spice. This spiciness is what makes DCV Zins unique.

Because of the cooler growing season climate in the RRV the wines tend to naturally be lower in alcohol and higher in acid. There are likely to be dark fruit flavors (blackberry, boysenberry, blueberry, plums) and maybe black pepper.

Because of the more restrained style from the cooler growing region these Zinfandels can be more food friendly than others. From ravioli to barbecue there's a Zin waiting for you. RRV Zins might appeal to Sangiovese lovers.

Some places in the Russian River Valley for Zinfandel are:
Deloach, Hartford, Harvest Moon, Hook & Ladder, Limerick Lane, Martinelli, Matrix.
Another, Carlisle Winery, is highly-rated for their RRV Zins, but these wines are hard to find.

Not all of the Zins from these wineries listed above will fall into the "higher acid, restrained" style. These wineries will give you a nice variety of what RRV can do with Zinfandel. There are a few dozen more RRV wineries offering Zinfandel from Acorn to Woodenhead. Have fun exploring.