Zinfandel is a red wine unlike most other reds on the market. It has roots that can be traced back to 6000 B.C in Croatia. While most grapes are thought to be of French, Italian, or Spanish heritage, the Zinfandel grape has been shown to be one of the originals. Having been grown around much of the Mediterranean area, including Italy, these grapes were cultivated into many different, yet related varieties. Despite its history, however, Zinfandel had become a somewhat forgotten varietal and had nearly been destroyed completely, several times over the years. An insect epidemic in the late 1800’s almost eliminated the vines completely. At the same time as its European epidemic and decline, Zinfandel was being discovered and grown by American winemakers. Its versatility made it a great success — until 1920, when almost all of its American vines were pulled from the ground during the Prohibition years.
Surviving near extinction and being an afterthought of vintners for years, Zinfandel was rediscovered and rescued from obscurity. After decades of being used primarily for blending and fortified wines, a few winemakers became fascinated by this resilient grape. In the 1970’s there was a large demand for white wine, but not enough grapes. So winemakers began using red grapes to make white wine to fill the gap. This was accomplished by skinning or at least minimizing the red grape skins’ contact with the wine. The resulting product from this process became known as the enormously successful, sweet blush wine, White Zinfandel. The success of White Zinfandel allowed the underdog Zinfandel grape to flourish, and for plantings to increase. Zinfandel now represents approximately 10% of the grapes grown in California vineyards. The same grape is used to make Zinfandel and White Zinfandel wines, just using a different process.
Sonoma County, California is a great growing place for the Zinfandel grape. A few vineyards have old vines, from its pre -Prophibition era popularity, that impart much character into their wines. Thin-skinned, they thrive in the warm, not too hot, climate of coastal Northern California. The ideal geography and geology has allowed vineyards to concentrate on turning out a finer product by improving production methods and producing a high quality wine, instead of dealing with growth problems.
Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel is made at a family-run winery that has been growing Zinfandel grapes at their ranch since 1895. Big and bold, this deep purple, almost black wine has aromas of dark berries. Balanced with acidity and firm medium tannins, Seghesio is a fruity wine, tasting of raspberries and blackberries. Hints of spiciness are also evident as you can get flavors of cracked pepper and oak.
Zinfandel is a powerful wine, flavor wise and alcohol wise. Some find it a little on the strong side. However, its bold characteristics have allowed it to survive the ages and make it a great companion for many foods. It pairs well with most meat dishes, pizza, spicy cuisine or pasta with red sauce. Seghesio Zinfandel (found online between $17.99-$24.99) is a great wine to accompany a hearty winter night’s meal.