Lifestyle

The Best Zinfandels from a Bad Year


The 2005 zinfandel vintage in California may have been the worst in years but there are still some wines worth discovering

2005 may be the worst vintage for Northern California's zinfandels in more than a decade. However, even in the worst vintages, some fine wines are produced by the most serious estates that work their vineyards and are patient at harvest time. The following wines are the stars from this disappointing year.

88 points

Carlisle 2005 Zinfandel (Dry Creek)

Displaying a deep ruby/purple color and a nice raspberry/kirsch/peppery nose, with some steely earthiness in the excellent texture, this wine is an undeniable success in this challenging vintage. $33

89 points

Di Arie Vineyard 2005 Zinfandel (Amador)

A blend of 10.4% petite sirah, 10% mixed blacks, and 79.6% zinfandel, this excellent wine is offered at a bargain price. Ripe berry fruit intermixed with loamy soil, pepper, and garrigue scents are followed by a medium- to full-bodied wine with no hard edges, good purity, and an attractive finish. Consume it over the next 2-3 years. $18

89 points

Di Arie Vineyard 2005 Zinfandel Southern Exposure (Shenandoah)

The dense, elegant 2005 Zinfandel Southern Exposure is a blend of 89.8% zinfandel and the rest petite sirah. Its deep ruby color is accompanied by a finesse-styled nose of cherry and raspberry fruit interwoven with notions of incense, roasted herbs, new saddle leather, and licorice. Medium-bodied with excellent to outstanding concentration, and a dry, reasonably good finish, it will drink well for 3-4 years. $35

89 points

Edmeades 2005 Zinfandel Chase Vineyard (Redwood Valley)

The 2005 Zinfandel Chase Vineyard has an intense black cherry and raspberry nose, a dark ruby/purple-tinged color, surprisingly full body and depth, and is quite a complete wine, even in such a difficult vintage. $29

89 points

Edmeades 2005 Zinfandel Ciapusci Vineyard (Mendocino Ridge)

The dark ruby-colored 2005 Zinfandel Ciapusci Vineyard has nice briary, mountain berry fruit with some pepper and herbs. It is elegant, medium-bodied, and best drunk over the next two years. $29

89 points

Robert Biale Vineyards 2005 Zinfandel Grande Vineyard (Napa)

Elegant, with blueberries, raspberries, and almost pinot noir-like characteristics is the 2005 Zinfandel Grande Vineyard. An atypically finesse-styled zin, it exhibits good acidity and medium body. It should be drunk over the next 2-3 years. $40

89 points

Robert Biale Vineyards 2005 Zinfandel Napa Ranches (Napa)

The 2005 Zinfandel Napa Ranches possesses a dense ruby/purple color in addition to loads of blue and red fruits, earth, pepper, and spice. This medium-bodied, fruit-forward effort is best drunk over the next 2-3 years. $35

90 points

Robert Biale Vineyards 2005 Zinfandel Monte Rosso (Sonoma)

One of the few outstanding zinfandels of the vintage is Biale's 2005 Zinfandel Monte Rosso, which demonstrates the terrific terroir of this superb site in Sonoma. Deep ruby to the rim with pure notes of black raspberries, cherries, garrigue, and pepper, it is a complex, medium-bodied, rich, spicy, flavorful zin to enjoy over the next 2-3 years. $50

90 points

Robert Biale Vineyards 2005 Zinfandel Zappa (Napa)

A blend of 76% zinfandel and the rest equal parts syrah and petite sirah, the 2005 Zinfandel Zappa reveals a dense ruby/purple color along with a sweet bouquet of black currants, licorice, incense, and blueberry jam. It is a medium- to full-bodied, surprisingly powerful 2005 that should drink nicely for 3-4 years. $45

90 points

Rosenblum Cellars 2005 Zinfandel Annette's Reserve (Mendocino)

The outstanding 2005 Zinfandel Annette's Reserve (80% zinfandel, 15% petite sirah, and 5% carignan) exhibits a deep ruby/purple color in addition to notes of licorice, black cherries, currants, earth, and spice box. Richly fruity and medium- to full-bodied with good acidity and light to moderate tannin, it, too, should drink nicely over the next 5-7 years. $35

90 points

Rosenblum Cellars 2005 Zinfandel Harris-Kratka Vineyard (Alexander Valley)

This broodingly backward, dense ruby/purple-colored offering is a tannic blend of 75% zinfandel, 15% petite sirah, and 10% carignan. It exhibits notes of seaweed, garrigue, pepper, kirsch, darker fruits, spice box, and earth. Abundant acidity and tannin suggest another year of bottle age will be beneficial. It should keep for 5-7 years. $35

90 points

Rosenblum Cellars 2005 Zinfandel Hendry Vineyard (Napa)

This outstanding effort reveals plenty of black raspberry and cherry fruit intermixed with roasted Provençal herbs, pepper, and loamy soil notes. Full-bodied and rich, it is best drunk over the next 3-4 years. $45

91 points

Carlisle 2005 Zinfandel Carlo's Ranch (Russian River)

A blend of 98% zinfandel (planted in 1934) and the 2% balance consisting of petite sirah and carignan, this cuvée boasts a deep ruby/purple color, a sweet nose of raspberries and red fruits, some spicy, earthy notes, a floral character as well as good acidity, yet full-bodied power and richness. Drink it over the next 3-4 years. $40

91 points

Carlisle 2005 Zinfandel Gold Mine Ranch (Dry Creek)

From a vineyard planted in 1914, this is a full-bodied, dark ruby-colored wine with tremendous spice, loads of earth, raspberry, and sweet cherry notes intermixed with some background underbrush. The wine is loaded with fruit and is just amazing for the vintage. Drink it over the next 4-5 years. $40

91 points

JC Cellars 2005 Zinfandel Arrowhead Mountain (Sonoma)

This 2005's deep ruby/purple color is accompanied by loads of briary, peppery, spicy fruit, good acidity, medium to full body, and a substantial mouth-feel. $38

91 points

Rosenblum Cellars 2005 Zinfandel House Family Vineyard (Sonoma)

The dense ruby/purple-tinged 2005 Zinfandel House Family Vineyard possesses a sweet perfume of black raspberries, blueberries, and pepper. This spicy, medium- to full-bodied 2005 reveals zesty acidity as well as a moderate structure. Consume it over the next 5-6 years. $25

91 points

Rosenblum Cellars 2005 Zinfandel Snows Lake (Lake County)

An impressive effort, the 2005 Zinfandel Snows Lake is a blend of 87% zinfandel, 9% petite sirah, and 4% syrah from, of all places, Lake County. It boasts a dark ruby/purple hue along with floral, blueberry, and boysenberry characteristics interwoven with black currant, camphor, earth, and oak notes. With crisp acidity, sweet tannin, and a long, heady finish, this elegant beauty is filled with substance. Drink it over the next 5-7 years. $35

92 points

Rosenblum Cellars 2005 Zinfandel Rockpile Road Vineyard (Dry Creek)

A blend of 93% zinfandel and 7% petite sirah, the outstanding 2005 Rockpile Road cuvée boasts an opaque dark ruby/purple color followed by aromas of crushed rocks, spring flowers, blueberries, black raspberries, and kirsch. This complex, dense, full-bodied zin possesses good underlying minerality as well as beautifully integrated acidity and tannin. It is a superb offering that should drink nicely for 7-8 years. $35

93 points

Carlisle 2005 Zinfandel Bacchi Ranch (Dry Creek)

The 2005 Zinfandel Bacchi Ranch (from a vineyard planted in 1909) is a blend of 77% zinfandel and 23% petite sirah. A brilliant wine in this difficult year for zinfandel, it has wonderful sweet black cherry, blueberry, and raspberry notes that smell like a terrific grenache. Dark ruby/purple-tinged with notes of crushed rock, some lavender, and a hint of licorice, this is a full-bodied, absolutely amazing wine for the vintage that should drink nicely for another 5-6 years. $40


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