Pity Zinfandel, woefully Dangerfield–esque: “I don’t get no respect.”

Part of that critical disdain lies in Zin’s roots — or definitive lack of rock–solid lineage. It certainly has no genetic link to the great grapes of France, hence its shunning by the world’s most prominent oenology.

There is speculation that it derives from a Croatian variety, and some DNA studies suggest relationship to Italy’s Primitivo — a prominent grape originating in the boot heel of that famous wine nation.

Need more reasons to ignore Zin? Consider the pop wine White Zinfandel, please. White Zin comes form the same grape as luscious red Zin, but gets its blank color from having the black skins withheld during fermentation. Typically, it was cloyingly sweet. New releases are less so, but still, alas, white Zin languishes when the topic of “real wine” is bandied about.

I will however, advocate a sampling of Zinfandel (red), which can proof as interesting and varied as a tasting of varied terroir Pinot Noir, Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon.

Zinfandel pours a range of shades, from deep garnet red to a nearly inky black. At its best, Zin also varies across the palate, ranging from clean and juicy fruity to full–bodied, peppery and downright smoky. As a truly “American” wine, pair it successfully with our popular foods — pizza, burgers and red meat.

When chilled slightly cooler than the recommended 65 degrees, is as refreshing as a Rose on a hot summer day When chilling Zin, look for choices with alcohol levels under 14 percent — otherwise, you’ll get nothing but an alcohol influence in the nose — and on the palate.

What pushed my Zin button was the opening of Quivera 2008 Dry Creek Zinfandel on New Year’s Eve. I wanted something spicier to accompany a grilled porterhouse being served by the firepit. And I got it.

This Zin is peppery and dark. The relatively warmer climate of Quivira’s vineyard yields notes of blackberry, anise and pepper. Its big body stood up to my porterhouse – and served to soothe my New Year’s evening as I finished the bottle by the fire.

Vineyard owners Pete and Terri Kight hail from Atlanta, where they still have business interests. I met Terri at a trade tasting last year, and had my first taste of their bio–dynamically farmed wine grapes. The Healdsburg, Calif., vineyard is stunning property and continues to mature with each passing year.

The same can be said of the wines. You’ll have to kick over rocks to find Quivira; it’s worth the effort. The wines are handled in Savannah by Empire Distributing. Dry Creek Zin is about $20.

More recommendations you say? Consider  Joel Gott Zin from Sonoma Valley or the budget friendly Michael David Seven Deadly Zins.


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About The Author

Tim Rutherford

Tim Rutherford

Tim Rutherford grew up in rural Kentucky – then left home to pursue more than three decades as a photojournalist and newsman. A ground-breaking meal in New Orleans in 1979 set him on a path exploring food and wine. Six years ago he changed career paths – now spending his time writing about the people and places... more

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