These were a couple of interesting Zinfandels from the California Shenandoah Valley AVA (to distinguish it from the Shenandoah Valley AVA in Virginia and West Virginia) within the larger Sierra Foothills AVA. Both wines are lighter and more elegant than most Zins from coastal CA, and it was interesting to compare and contrast the two vintages.
2011 Vintage; 15% ABV
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 1 September
The bottom of the cork on this wine was covered with crystals of tartaric acid, which I took as a good sign. At first opening, this wine showed only lighter-intensity fruit of darker red raspberry and a gentle but obstructive veil of tannin. As it aired over a couple hours, the fruit filled out some and darkened to include some lighter purple / blue fruit in a structure, dense compared to the fruit, of earth / dried orange peel / grape stem (but not bitter). Its elegant, lighter fruit combined with a thicker, earthy structure somewhat reminded me of Barolo, although clearly not made with Nebbiolo grapes. :) Even at the end of the evening, I wasn’t sure if it had fully aired.
The saved, single-glass screwcap bottle was indeed more fruit-forward, but not by much. Although I found it interesting and tasty now, it would probably develop well with a couple more years of age.
2012 vintage; 14.5% ABV
$6 at the Berkeley, CA, store on 4 September
The 2012 vintage initially struck me as almost completely fruit-forward, with rather candy-like lighter red cherry and almost watermelon, with only a trace of the 2011’s earthy structure evident in the finish. However, after a couple hours of air in a decanter, the fruit filled out a little and darkened nicely to become predominantly blackberry / maybe tar in a thinner (than the 2011) structure of darkly earthy tannin, with only a little of the cherry / watermelon remaining. Even though the wine was lighter in body and flavor, it stood up acceptably to beef stewed in a broth of soy sauce, rice cooking wine, ginger, and a little balsamic vinegar.
Although I enjoyed these wines, I thought they lacked the complexity for me to be highly enthusiastic about them. So, I recommend them for the interesting and tasty experience (and of course more if you like them!), but wouldn’t put them above Drinkable.