Today, Zinfandel and Primativo are recognized as siblings and the children of Crljenak Kastelanski. What's even more fascinating, is that all of the information was derived from nine Crljenak vines discovered among thousands in a Croatian vineyard just off of the Dalmatian coastal strip. Talk about a family reunion! I'm sure the grapes were thrilled to have found their long-lost family.
Unfortunately, the history of the Zinfandel isn't as illustrious as it is fascinating. Though this robust, red grape can produce a variety of wine styles, many wine drinkers still confuse it with its sweet, pink and more popular counter-part: White Zinfandel. To "real" wine lovers, this is an affront to serious red wines everywhere, and the mention of White Zin tends to cause eye rolling and stomach curdling responses. But those who produce it, politely laugh all the way to the bank. In the U.S., White Zin sales are six times greater than that of this noble red.
But regardless of where it came from or what you call it; Red Zins are proudly produced throughout California, with some growing on vines that are more than 100 years old. Zinfandel was introduced to Paso Robles in the late 1800's and is known as Paso Robles' heritage varietal. The grape's large clusters are packed tight with plump berries filled with sugar levels, which allow them to be fermented into alcohol levels greater than 15%. Paso is somewhat known for soft, bold Zins; however, our unique climate, varying soils and winemaking styles allows Paso winemakers to produce a variety of Zins. From light and fruity to big and bold ports, Zinfandel can show up at all kinds of parties and please the novice and the aficionado.
So hopefully my Zin-ful tale has whet your whistle and left you longing for more. I intentionally left out a lot of fun facts and juicy tidbits to give you a taste of what's in store at our Paso Seven Deadly...I mean Heavenly Zins class to be held March 16 and 18, 2012. If any of this sounds remotely interesting, or you'd simply like to taste a variety of Zins, side-by-side, then you don't want to miss it.
As you might know, this weekend is also Paso's 20th annual Zinfandel Festival – a party the town throws for the grape that put it on the winemaking map. So join First Crush and Paso Robles in a toast to Zin!
The featured 7 Heavenly Paso Zins include at my class will include:
- Adelaida 2009 Michael's Vineyard Zinfandel (made from dry-farmed and head pruned heritage Zin clones)
- Croad 2008 Zinfandel Pure (recent Gold Medal winner and new release)
- Oso Libre 2009 Primativo – Pre-release, Estate Westside young vines
- Ranchita Canyon 2007 Old Vine Zinfandel – Estate grown on sunny eastside Paso slopes
- Rotta 2007 Zinfandel Port – award-winning, old vine fortified Zinfandel
- Silver Horse 2009 Zinfandel – limited production, big, soft and well-rounded
- Tobin James 2009 Dusi Vineyards Zinfandel – Head-trained, old vine grapes from the Dusi's – one of Paso's oldest, well-known Zinfandel producers