Zinfandel is an all-American grape. Its wines are brassy and intense, usually uncomplicated, and always good with barbecue and lingering summer days. The last decade, when bigger was always better, was made for Zinfandel—big fruit, big oak, obscene alcohol percentages, and just-in-time drinkability. But that model may have been fad, and now buyers are looking for more. Restraint, complexity, and ageability make sense, and wines are changing.
Nowhere is this more obvious than with California Zinfandel producers. Frog’s Leap Zinfandel, an eternal bestseller at the store I work at, is an enigma with 13.5% alcohol by volume, and Hawley’s Ponzo Vineyard Zinfandel is structured, complex, and as interesting as it is delicious. Mauritson’s Rockpile Zins are bold, but ageable, with intense, gritty tannins and layers of engaging flavors. It was at this last tasting of Mauritson’s wines that I started thinking about the Zinfandels that I’d gathered over the years, some of which were now over a decade old. Maybe age-worthy Zinfandels have been here all along, but were never given the chance.
The 2002 Sonoma Zinfandel from Seghesio may be such a wine. Number 11 on Wine Spectator’s top 100 list of 2004. Here’s what they had to say:
“Wonderful balance and sense of elegance, offering ripe, complex fruit flavors, with spicy black cherry, blackberry, pomegranate, herb and sage notes that add flavor dimensions and complexity. Firm but ripe tannins add structure, allowing the fruit to push through. Drink now through 2009.”
Oops, its 2012.
No matter, this wine is still young. It’s grown up though, and seasoned in its old age; it shrugs off its former excessiveness in a dismissive “what was I thinking?” moment. The fruit is rounded at this point, both lengthy and cool. This was an $18 wine when it was first sold, and a decade later, it’s wholly satisfying and so much more. I wish I had more.