Zinfandel has been on a rollercoaster of popularity for nearly 150 years – today’s
mad passion is only the latest peak for the bold-flavored red. Throughout
most of that time, Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma has been a bastion of Zinfandel
quality and tradition. A quarter of the valley’s vineyard acreage
is planted to Zin, yielding up an abundance of Zinfandels with “Dry
Creek Valley” on the label every year.
While it’s hard to go too far wrong with Dry Creek Zin, prices have
crept up steadily during the grape’s latest burst of popularity. There’s
also been a major move toward higher alcohol and more saturated color and
flavor. So there’s more reason than ever to choose carefully in order
to find a Dry Creek Zin with a style and price you like.
Wine Editor Thom Elkjer recently tasted through 30 Dry Creek Zinfandels
that are generally available in the marketplace. His recommendations
focus on wines that deliver the enduring character of Dry Creek Zinfandel,
along with a unique signature arising from a particular site or style of
farming. Here’s to another 150 years!
Forchini Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley “Proprietor's Reserve” 2002 ($24):
an appealingly grapey, jammy mix of aromas is fair warning for the flood of warm
fruit flavors and toothsome tannins that dance a tango in your mouth. Best in
Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 2002 ($24): offers great concentration and
vividness in the fruit, plus the kind of layered complexity
and lively texture you would expect from a wine sourced from
seven different vineyards. Drink now.
Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley "Old Vine" 2002 ($29): highly distinct
Zin, with cinnamony peach and blueberry flavors along with
the traditional red plums and berries; it all stays sweet through
to the balanced finish. Drink with dinner.
Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley Pedroni-Bushnell Vineyard 2001 ($16): classic
Dry Creek Zin, with intense, well-structured red fruit aromas
and flavors, good weight and texture on the palate, and enough
acid to keep things juicy. Drink now.
Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley “Old Vines/Old Clones” 2003 ($25):
showcases the serious, intense side of Zinfandel, with enough
red and black berry fruit to stand up to minty oak flavors,
abundant tannins, and incisive acidity. Best in 2-3 years.
Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 2003 ($20): lures you closer with sweet red
fruit aromas, then embraces you with a mouthful of juicy cherries,
a cushy texture, and supple follow-through that stays sweet
without going syrupy. A can’t-miss food wine.
Vineyards Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley “Lytton Springs” 2003 ($30): almost a quarter Carignane, this winner from Ridge is
distinctly flavored, admirably complex, and subtly sweet – structured
for savoring yet warm and juicy enough for happy quaffing.
Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley “Cortina” 2003 ($33): Another
exemplary Zin from Seghesio – plush body and texture,
expansive red and black fruit flavors with earthy undertones,
tremendous concentration, and a cool, sweet finish. Drink or