Tag Archive for zinfandel

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.

Marisa Sergi: the 20-year-old vintner

When I first came across Marisa Sergi on Twitter (@MarisaSergi), I was shocked to see that at 20, she had already bottled her own wine! I had to get to know this girl!


Marisa is a third-generation winemaker. Her grandfather, who immigrated to the U.S. from Italy when he was 24, brought the family tradition of winemaking with him. Her grandfather and father would make wine together in their basement and in 2006, her father opened L’uva Bella Winery in 2006 in Ohio, as an homage to her grandfather.

When the winery opened, Marisa helped with the grape crushing, fermentation and gave a hand in the lab. But even before that, she has fond memories of walking in circles with her sister in her family’s garage to crank a hand-operated basket to help make wine.

“Coming from a wine family has allowed for my true passion and destiny of having a career in winemaking to merge,” said the Cornell University Enology student. “I cannot picture my life any other way, or having another career choice.”
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Marisa’s brainchild: Redhead Wine is a blend of California Zinfandel and Chilean Carmenere grapes with one sexy label. While I haven’t tasted it myself (editor’s note: this is a feature on an interesting young winemaker and not a review), Marisa said the red table wine, which has been sold since Fall 2013, “offers notes of sweet plums, black cherries and blackberries with a fiery kick at the finish.” The wine has been one of the top 10 sold at L’uva Bella since October 2013, she said. As of now, there are 220 cases available.
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WFTW: What’s your favorite part about making your own wine?

MS: My favorite part about making my own wine is that I am able to combine the knowledge and family tradition I grew up with into such a large accomplishment.  Not many people can say they have made their own wine at my age.  I did this to make my family proud and do whatever I can to make my mark on the wine industry.

WFTW: What was the greatest challenge you faced when making it?

MS: The greatest challenge was definitely getting the label approved by the [Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau].  There are many specific laws you need to meet to be able to get a label approved.  If you do not get TTB approval, you cannot legally sell a wine.  It took me three submissions to get it through.  But, the hard work was worthwhile and I felt a great sense of accomplishment when I found out on my birthday that it was approved!

WFTW: Who is your audience? Are they college students like you, people just getting into wine, ladies who lunch, wine aficionados, blend lovers, etc?

MS: My audience varies; I designed my wine for a large group of consumers to like it.  It is a sweet and spicy red wine; a California Zinfandel and Chilean Carmenere blend; I brought my favorite two wine regions together in one bottle.  Right now, sweet reds are very popular and I decided to create a wine that was already popular in the market but was also unique.  The spice from the Zinfandel, my label and having two renown wine regions in one bottle makes my wine a little different than a typical sweet red.  I feel anyone could like my wine!

WFTW: What are your friends’ thoughts on wine?

MS: My best girl friends tend to enjoy a sweet red, but my enology friends tend to enjoy dry and fruity California wines.

Redhead Wine is sold at L’uva Bella Winery for $15 a bottle, but Marisa is working to get it sold nationwide. She has partnered with Superior Beverage Group in Ohio, which will begin distributing her wine at the end of the year. You can follow @Redheadwine on Twitter and Instagram.

Review: 2012 Apothic Red Winemaker’s Blend

After a day full of skiing in Big Bear, your body craves Alleve and warmth. Apothic Red is the next best thing.

The sweet, vanilla-y red blend will soothe what ails you and warm you right up, especially if you have a glass or three.


The mixture of Zinfandel, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon is an easy-drinker, minus the alcohol tinge at the end. But the major fruitiness of the blend makes up for that negative. If you like your fruity reds bold and smoky though, I’d stay away from this saccharine libation.

Making the drinking experience all the better, I got to hang out with this fine Australian Shepherd.


Nuts and Bolts

  • Winery: Apothic Red
  • Type: Winemaker’s blend (Zinfandel, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • Origin: Modesto
  • Vintage: 2012
  • Price: $7
  • Alcohol content: 13.5%
  • When to drink: After a day of skiing the slopes!

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.

Paso Robles Man: The most interesting man in the world?

I know I’m late to the gushfest, but I can’t help but share this amazing video of the Paso Wine Man. He gives us the lowdown on vino variety, and let me tell you: it’s amazing. Come on, he compares shitty Chardonnay to a bleached out blonde beauty queens and the real deal to a true California beauty, stripped of the fake tan. What about Pinot Noir? It’s “earthy” and “ephemeral,” just like him. And real men? They’re not afraid of a pink rose. They’re afraid of the road not taken. And clowns. He even looks kind of like a blonde Kevin Spacey and he has the “House of Cards” narrator style down. In my book, he definitely beats Mr. Dos Equis. My favorite part: when he jumps out of an explosion, describing Cabernet Sauvignon as “brooding” and a “summer blockbuster.” What’s your favorite?

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.


Recipe: Steak wine marinade

I was running home late after a busy day at work and had planned to throw together a steak marinade recipe using the leftover Barbera d’Asti I reviewed earlier this month, but my boyfriend beat me to it.

In fact, he’s the one who first introduced me to using wine as a marinade for steak, a hand-me-down trick from his mom. We’ve used different kinds of wines since for varying recipes. The time prior to this, I believe I mixed some Torrontes, olive oil and zahatar I bought at Spice Station, a perfect little spice shop in my neighborhood. We’ve also tried Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Malbec and other reds and have largely had successful outcomes.

We typically let the steak soak and then grill to medium-rear, but this time around the steak was coated in a spice rub, heated in a frying pan and then braised in the leftover Barbera.

Here are the steaks cooking in the wine:


And the finished product (swoon):



The recipe is a variation on this one from allrecipes.com and includes:

  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine


Rub the spice mixture and two tablespoons of olive oil into the steaks–we used tri-tip, but the recipe calls for flatiron–and then add the remaining oil to the frying pan. Sear both sides of the steak for two to three minutes, making sure the inside is still rear. Remove steaks with tongs and add the wine to the pan, scraping up the goodies that have burned to the bottom. Replace the steaks in the mixture and cook on low for about five minutes. Check steaks with a thermometer to get your desired level of tenderness.

The steaks were delicious, spicy and juicy.

We enjoyed them with a nice Potuguese red blend I bought at a wine store in Berkeley when I visited a friend. I plan to review it soon, promise! Check out my Facebook page for a sneak peak of my thoughts.

To read my blog post about the Barbera d’Asti, click here. 


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