Zinfandel is a varietal that has been a mystery grape for many years given the confusion surrounding its history and lineage. Originally, Zinfandel was thought to have originated in Southern Italy with genetic similarity to Primitivo (di Goia). Recent research in Croatia and at UC Davis, using DNA profiling, has proven that Zinfandel is actually a clone of the Croatian variety Crljenak Kastelanski (also Pribidrag or Tribidrag). Even further research has shown that the original cuttings may have migrated from Albania or Greece. While Primitivo and Zinfandel share genetic similarities, they are classified as different varietals given their vine and wine characteristics.
The name Zinfandel came to the United States in 1820, when New York nurseryman George Gibbs carried back various cuttings from the Imperial Austrian plant collection. For the next twenty years, Zinfandel became a popular table grape in the Northeast United States. Eventually, a Massachusetts nurseryman introduced Zinfandel to California. Since the 1850’s, Zinfandel and Chardonnay have become indigenous plants to California. Massive plantings throughout California allowed Zinfandel to be produced in several different styles. Everything from light, fruity, Beaujolais style, to lively, complex, age-worthy, Cabernet style “Zin” can take on many forms. Zinfandel can be made into big, ripe, fruit bomb, Ports or even the famed high-alcohol, California “jug wines” such as Boone’s farm, Almaden, Ingelnook, and Ernest & Julio Gallo. Some people still even think that there is such a thing as “White Zinfandel.”
Zinfandel is proliferative due to its hardy nature. It adapts well to various climates and soils. Several vineyards are upwards of 75-100 years old. These “old vines” produce smaller, more concentrated berries and clusters that ripen evenly on the vine. At its best, Zinfandel has a fruity, raspberry –like aroma and flavor, and a “jammy” quality. Zinfandel wines are meant to be consumed early (within 3-5 years). As time passes, the luscious fruit characteristics can give way to the hotter, alcohol taste, creating an imbalance. Zin’s are meant to be paired with steaks or chops or any meat that has been stewed or stuffed with fruit. Zinfandel has become the trendy, second fiddle to Cabernet. Plantings have now spread out to Oregon, Washington, South America, Australia, Mexico, and South Africa.
Oswego Hills Zinfandel
We were fortunate enough to source our Zinfandel from our friends at Portteus Vineyards in the famed Rattlesnake Hills of Zillah, Washington. Our Zinfandel is bold and zesty with red-berry fruits and integrated with soft, spicy tannins. Blackberry and raspberry overwhelm the front palette while the jammy fruit lingers with the long, smooth finish. Primary fermentation lasts 21 days to gain maximum extraction and the wine is then aged for 16 months in a combination of 1-3 year old French oak barrels. Zinfandel is a wonderful stand alone wine or pairs nicely with any red meat, strong cheeses, tomato based pastas, and even left-over pizza.