More '98 Zins - and a few Syrahs
Notes and impressions from a Zin tasting - Saturday, May 13, 2000,at the Wine Exchange in Orange, CA. Sixteen Zins and three Syrahs were poured for a tasting fee of $18.
The wines, in the order tasted:
1997 Tobin James Zinfandel Primo - Paso Robles. $11.99. Medium
garnet ruby color. Stemmy nose of sweet tomato, raspberry, and cardboard.
Sweet, but slightly coarse mouthfeel. Fruit falls off on medium finish.
1998 Easton Zinfandel - Amador County. $8.99. Light medium ruby
garnet color. Nose of stemmy blackberry, with sweet rose floral note.
Light mouthfeel, with off-sweet slightly bitter fruit, and coarseness
on the palate that leads to slightly fruity finish. Quite a lightweight.
1998 Young's Zinfandel - Shenandoah Valley, Amador County.
$17.99. Dark ruby color. Nose of blackberry, shoe polish, and burnished
wood, and is faintly Port-like on the nose as well. Puckery mouthfeel,
with moderately full body, but surprisingly little fruit. Oaky toasty
finish reveals a bit of coarseness. This is certainly more Amador-like
than the Easton, but it's still a shadow of previous vintages. 14.7%
1998 Joel Gott Zinfandel - Dillian Ranch, Amador County.$17.99.
Medium dark ruby garnet color. Nose of sweet raspberry and strawberry
fruit. Nice mouthfeel, with a touch of astringency and coarseness the
1998 August Briggs Zinfandel - Napa Valley. $26.99. Medium
garnet color. Sweet, succulent and dense raspberry nose. Sweet toasty
mouthfeel, with off-sweet moderate finish. 13.7%.
1998 Biale Zinfandel - Robert Biale Vnyd, Napa Valley.$23.99.
Medium ruby color. Nose of blueberry, blackberry, and sweet oak. Slightly
coarse sweet/sour mouthfeel. Tasty, if somewhat brief finish. 14.9%.
1998 Biale Zinfandel - Old Crane Vnyd, Napa Valley.$27.99.
Medium ruby rose color. Nose of smoky, lush, sweet raspberry. Smooth mouthfeel,
sweet/sour fruit with a smooth medium-long finish. 14.7%.
1998 Favorito Zinfandel - Sonoma County. $14.99. Light-medium
ruby garnet color. Nose of smoky burnished oak, and stemmy raspberry vine.
Somewhat thin and sour mouthfeel, briefly fruity finish.
1998 Everett Ridge Old Vines/Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel- Sonoma
County. $13.99. Light medium ruby color. Nose of chocolate, blueberry,
raspberry and ink. Burnished redwood/raspberry taste, slightly sour and
short on fruit, but with a toasty long finish. 14.7%.
1998 Forchini Papa Nono/Old Vine Clone Zinfandel -Sonoma County.
$14.99. Light medium ruby color. Stemmy, alcoholic nose, with light
raspberry fruit and hint of volatile acidity. Light mouthfeel of off-sweet
fruit. Seems a bit thin and watery.
1998 Scherrer Zinfandel Old and Mature Vines - Alexander Valley.
$21.99. Medium ruby garnet color. Somewhat floral and stemmy nose,
very Zin-like fruit, and sweet spiced tomato. Slightly tart and light
mouthfeel, nice toasty, if brief finish. 14.5%.
1997 Hartford Zinfandel - Highwire Vnyd, Russian River Valley.
$21.99. Light medium ruby rose color. Nose of candied raspberry, shoe
polish, and pomegranate. Quite sour and acidic in the mouth, long acidic
1998 Carlisle Zinfandel - Sonoma County. $19.99. Light medium
ruby color. Bright blueberry and vanilla nose. Slightly tart, yet smooth
mouthfeel, soft blueberry/raspberry fruit, brief finish. 14.7%
1998 Carlisle Zinfandel - Dry Creek Valley. $25.99. Medium ruby
color. Stemmy. floral, blueberry/raspberry nose. Semi-sweet fruit, slightly
coarse on the palate. Finishes with some acids and astringency, along
with a touch of toast and vanilla. 15.8%
1998 Carlisle Zinfandel - Russian River Valley. $25.99. Medium
dark ruby color. Sweet blueberry/blackberry nose, with a slight burnished
quality. Somewhat tart and bitter mouthfeel, with a fruity and acidic
1997 Saxon-Brown Zinfandel - Casa Santinamaria Vnyd, Sonoma County.
$29.99. Dark ruby purple color. Concentrated nose of blueberry/raspberry,
and shoe polish; also smells a little Port-like. Blueberry, raspberry,
and pomegranate, with a hint of spritz on the palate, and a tart, long
acid-induced finish. 14.4%. I'd heard good things about this wine. And,
based on the color and nose, I thought I was in for a treat. However,
the tart fruit and high acidity level was a real letdown.
1998 Ojai Syrah - California. $19.99. Dark purple ruby color.
In the nose, there is a hint of herbaceous, even vegetal quality to the
blackberry fruit, along with a fleshy/stemmy quality. Slightly thin, toasty
blackberry fruit, with a medium-long toasty finish.
1997 Selby Syrah - Sonoma County. $15.99. Medium-dark ruby color.
Nose of stemmy blackberry fruit, and an herbaceous quality that approaches
Ovaltine. Astringent and slightly bitter initial taste, which smooths
out to a toasty oak finish.
1997 Lewis Cellars Alec's Blend - Napa Valley.$39.99. Very
dark purple ruby color. Jammy nose of blackberry, blueberry, and shoe
polish. Big blueberry fruit on the palate, slightly tart and quite astringent
mouthfeel, with a long astringent finish.
Overall impressions: well, any question I had about the '98 Zins has been put to rest. I'm sure they made the most with what they had to work with. But thus far, that the '98s as a group are generally under extracted, only somewhat fruity, and significantly more acidic when compared to previous vintages. I'm sure that many people are going to like the fact that these wines are in many ways more balanced for food. But, I'm not one of them. There are a few winners in the bunch. But given the prices of these wines, we're essentially being asked to pay more -- for less.
Carlisle, Scherrer, and Biale came across well in this tasting, but were far from spectacular (nothing over a B+, or 89 pts.). The star of this tasting for me was the Carlisle Dry Creek. Actually, all of the Carlisle's were very good, and this was quite an impressive start, especially considering the difficult vintage. Also, the Biale Old Crane was nice, as was the Scherrer.
Among the disappointments were the Saxon-Brown and the Hartford.
Neither of these wine's shortcomings could be blamed on the vintage however
-- they're '97s. I've heard lots of good things about the Saxon-Brown,
but it just wasn't there in the glass. So, for me, it's bring on the '99s!
Here is my relative ranking, by tier and in order of preference, of the wines tasted.
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