Review: 2013 Zenaida Cellars Zephyr

We came across Zenaida Cellars towards the end of a recent Paso Robles trip. It was supposed to be our last winery of the stay as we made our way out of town, but upon the recommendation of the woman serving us 10:30 a.m., we headed up the road to Ecluse. We are now members at Ecluse and I am always so grateful for the recommendation.

In addition to the wonderful recommendation, Zenaida had solid wines of its own. The 2013 Zephyr, especially. This blend is 55% Syrah, 40% Zin, 5% Viognier (!!!, more on the !!! later).

It’s smooth, velvety and just lovely. The meaty red blend has notes of cherry (it’s fruit-forward no doubt), too. Now you may ask, what’s with all those exclamation points? Well I was surprised to see Viognier, a white varietal, mixed in with the predominantly Syrah/Zin blend. Not only was this a yummy wine, but it provided a teaching moment. File under: TIL!

The white grape once was commonly blended with Syrah in France as the varietals grow alongside each other in a region in the northern Rhone Valley. The practice still occurs in France, but not as often as back in the day. You will also see it done in Australia.

As an aside, Zenaida also has a cute little loft on the property where you can stay. The room was out of our budget, but if you’ve got the dough, it’s a good location.

Nuts & Bolts:

Winery: Zenaida Cellars
Type: Syrah (55%), Zin (40%), Viognier (5%)
Origin: Paso Robles
Vintage: 2013
Price: $42
Alcohol content: 15.8%
When to drink: With a juicy, rear steak.

Review: 2012 Criss Cross Old Vine Zinfandel

This warm, chocolatey wine has a full-mouth feel. It’s pert, it’s spicy and it’s jammy.

Because this wine comes from Lodi, it makes sense that it would have that mocha taste. Zinfandels from Lodi tend to have rich flavors and smoky finishes. 

A friend brought this over to watch a TV show at my place. I did see it at her house party the day before though, so it must have been a leftover. Everyone was drinking Maker’s Mark and Golden Road Wold Among Weeds IPAs at that party anyhow, and I’m glad this Zin got recycled and laid to rest at my place. It’s a better fit for slow sipping on a couch than crowding in the kitchen drinking whiskey on ice in mismatched mason jars, any how.

The only downside: I felt like all the full flavors I tasted when the wine slipped between my lips swiftly dissipated as it slid down my tongue. That was disappointing.


Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Criss Cross
  • Type: Old Vine Zinfandel
  • Origin: Lodi
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Price: $19.95
  • Alcohol content: I forgot to write it down before tossing the bottle! But I would assume its on the higher end of the scale, as richer Zins have higher alcohol content and lighter Zins, vice versa. Fact of the day!
  • When to drink: This Zin would would do well when you’re glamping/ staying in a boutiquey cottage fit with fire place. Those chocolate notes mixed with roasted marshmallows, yum!

Review: 2011 Challis Lane Old Vine Zinfandel

This Old Vine Zinfandel won’t blow your socks off, but it’s a smooth, very gulp-able wine with just a bit of zest at the end.


This fruity wine smells like berries and tastes like them, too. This plum-purple drink will make your teeth just as mauve, so be careful not to pose for any pictures after taking a sip. My other half said he could see my once pearly whites coated in purple from the couch when I was in the kitchen, and that’s a good 5-foot distance.


Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Challis Lane
  • Type: Old Vine Zinfandel
  • Origin: Manteca
  • Vintage: 2011
  • Price: Gifted
  • Alcohol content: 13.5%
  • When to drink: I could see this pleasing a varied crowd. Bring this over to your gal pal’s place next time you have a “Girls” or “Parks & Recreation” viewing party. If you can’t tell, on the TV, in the background, is the latter.

Review: 2011 Sincera Zinfandel



Berries! Berries! Berries! If the 2011 Sincera Zinfandel could talk, it’s first word would be berries. If you’re a fan of earthy, spicy zinfandel’s, this isn’t for you. But if you like fruity reds, give this one a try. But for the price, $16.95, there are better zins out there. Wilfred Wong from BevMo gave it 91 points, but I think he was being way too generous.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Sincera
  • Type: Zinfandel
  • Origin: California
  • Vintage: 2011
  • Price: $16.95
  • Alcohol content: I didn’t write it down! Whoops!
  • When to drink: When you’re trying to please a big, fruity red wine lover, whip a bottle of Sincera Zinfandel out onto the table.

Review: 2010 Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel

Crowded around a six-person table at one of our favorite Italian joints in Santa Monica last week, the Zinfandel kept pouring. Partially because that favorite Italian joint, Fritto Misto, only charges $2 a person for corkage, and partially because a friend who loves Zinfandel and brought several bottles to dinner, is also a generous pour. He’s the guy at the table that wants to make sure everyone’s glass is full and smiles abound–you know the type.


First up was a 2010 Ravenwood Old Vine Zinfandel. And lo and behold, what came up in dinner conversation: the difference between Old Vine Zinfandel and Zinfandel. I had the chance to speak to a few Zin experts about this very topic a few months ago and could break it down for the curious drinkers.

The Ravenswood emitted one of the classic tenets of Old Vine Zinfandel: intense flavor. A rule of thumb with Old Vine Zinfandel: the older the vines, the fewer the grapes, the more intense the flavor.

The wine was spicy–another typical Zinfandel quality– bold–Ravenswood’s tagline is “No wimpy wines”– fruity–think cherry–and truly a stand-up Zinfandel. It’s flavors stick with you for a long finish. It’s a wine I’d definitely recommend purchasing.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Ravenswood
  • Type: Old Vine Zinfandel
  • Origin: Lodi
  • Vintage: 2010
  • Price: $11-$13
  • Alcohol content: 14.5%
  • When to drink: Pour a hefty glass of this Zinfandel as you sit down to a dinner of pizza or roasted foods.

Review: 2009 Sebastiani Zinfandel

Remember how I cracked the code behind old vine zinfandel and zinfandel? Well, since then I haven’t had much of America’s sweetheart wine and since it’s one of my favorite varietals, I had to break the dry streak.

I brought over a bottle of the 2009 Sebastiani Zinfandel to a friend’s house earlier this week and it didn’t disappoint. There’s a lightness to the juice, but a strong peppery flavor anchors down the wine and gives it a lingering aftertaste. It’s another easy-drinker that won’t knock your socks off, but you’ll have a good time drinking it up and smelling the dark cherry aroma. At least I did.


If you are a faithful reader of wineforthewin.com and you’re thinking, “Hey, Haven’t I seen that wine label to the right of the Zin before?” You’re right. You have.

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Sebastiani
  • Type: Zinfandel
  • Origin: Sonoma County
  • Vintage: 2009
  • Price: $17.99 (I got a second one for 5 cents at the BevMo 5 cent wine sale)
  • Alcohol content: Unknown (I brought this to a party and forgot to look at the label for the Alcohol content. mea culpa!)
  • When to drink: With a hunk of meat, preferably steak, preferably tri-tip and preferably grilled.


Old Vine Zinfandel vs. Zinfandel

If I was blindfolded and you put an Old Vine Zinfandel in front of me and a non-Old Vine Zinfandel, I probably couldn’t tell the difference.

So I started asking around: what separates the two, flavor-wise?


I had this Zin in my wine collection

Ondine Chattan, winemaker at XYZin Wines told me Old Vine Zinfandels tend to brighten the characteristics of the Zinfandel grape: producing a jammy and spicy wine. They’re “typically full-bodied, spicy, fruit-driven and accented by oak with robust alcohol,” she said.

Chris Smith, winemaking director of Bogle Winery, said Old Vine Zinfandels can have a superior quality of taste because the older grapevines are, the less vigor they have, which means they produce fewer grapes. Fewer grapes=more flavor.

“The Sex Appeal of Old Vine Zinfandel can be distilled down to smaller yields and more intensity of flavor. In general but not always true,” he pointed out.

There are different types of Zinfandel grapes and some old vines can’t be duplicated elsewhere, Chris said, leading to a unique wine taste.

So that’s that on the flavor profiles, but how old is old?

It depends who you ask. There’s no regulatory definition of “old vine.”

A winemaker can slap an old vine label on their bottles, even if their vines are only five years old and be “breaking no laws,” Chris said. Conversely, a winemaker with 100-year-old vines doesn’t have to define her Zinfandel as old vine on the bottle.

“So a consumer may frequently be drinking wines from Old Vines without any indication or may enjoy a wine from a blend of younger and older vines,” Ondine remarked adding that some consider 25-year-old vines old.

Ondine Chattan; credit xyzin.com

Ondine Chattan; credit xyzin.com

Not Chris. For him, more than 40 is old.

While other grape vines make it to around 25 years old with quality reducing as they age, Zinfandels have longer lifespans and increasing quality. One hundred year old Zinfandel vines are few and far between, but 60 to 70-year-old ones are common, Chris said.

Chris Smith; credit boglewinery.com

Chris Smith; credit boglewinery.com

If you want to get overwhelmed by Zinfandel info, check out this resource guide by Zinfandel Advocates & Producers.

Review: Peachy Canyon Zinfandel

When Peachy Canyon Winery gave me a hat tip on Twitter for my handle, which is the same as my blog name,  I knew we’d get along. Then when they told me they they made luscious reds, I really knew we’d get along.

I picked up a bottle of their 2008 “Incredible Red” Zinfandel recently and it was the last in stock! It had a different label than the more recent vintages, so I assume the winery went through some sort of rebranding. Sometimes it pays off to pick one of the things that’s not like the others.


I poured my boyfriend and I each a glass as we were cooking dinner last week. I almost always start sipping while stirring and chopping, well before dinner is actually served. A deep ruby, the wine envelops your tongue with its peppery, but fruity flavor. This is an easy drinking wine and great to have around for a mid-week sip.

It got along swimmingly with the chimichurri chicken and paprika brussel sprouts we had for dinner. According to foodandwinepairing.org, it’s not ideal to mix chicken with Zinfandel, but it tasted fine to me!

Sometimes I pay attention to food pairings, but usually by the rule of thumb: whites with fish, reds with meat. I usually drink what I want to drink and eat what I want to eat. If someone wants to make me a delicious six course meal paired with matching wines and blow me away with the pairings, maybe I’ll change my tune.

So who’s ready to cook me dinner?

Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Peachy Canyon
  • Type: “Incredible Red” Zinfandel
  • Origin: Paso Robles, Calif.
  • Vintage: 2008
  • Price: $13.99
  • Alcohol content: 13.9%
  • When to drink: Mid-week, relaxing on the couch with your iPad, Yo La Tengo playing on Pandora