There are so many tales of noble grapes whose reputations have been ruined by bulk producers. Consider Chianti, an elegant and legendary Italian red whose image is now relegated to bitter swill found in cheap straw-covered bottles, of which millions were sold. Chianti is not that.
The image of Riesling has likewise suffered, by being mass-produced with lots of residual sugar and very little character. True Riesling is not that, either, and the same goes for Zinfandel.
True Zinfandel is red, well-crafted, oak aged, robust and spicy, and often comes from Napa or Sonoma. If you have never treated yourself to a well-made California Zinfandel, let me introduce you to Frei Brothers Sonoma Reserve. Year after year, this wine rates 90 points or higher by Robert Parker, Wine Advocate, and Wine Enthusiast. The Frei’s know how to make a sinfully good Zin, and best of all, the end result is affordable. So what makes it good?
First, the grapes, which come from Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley. If you want good Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley is the place to find it, with more than 9,000 vineyard acres and 60 wineries, one deli, no traffic lights, and an absolutely ideal climate. The Frei family left Sweden to make quality wines here since 1890, and from those 9,000 acres, they pick only the best, “reserve” grapes for this wine.
The 2016 Frei Brothers Sonoma Reserve Zinfandel is absolutely luscious with juicy black cherry and raspberry fruit, balanced with firm tannins, black pepper, cinnamon and clove and a long finish with a hint of plum at the end. Simply put, this wine made me happy, and at $16.99 locally, is an incredible bargain.
On my five-cork scale based on taste and value, The 2016 Frei Brothers Sonoma Reserve Zinfandel gets 4.25 corks. It’s an excellent wine at an excellent price, and it’s also the last vintage before the October 2017 wildfires destroyed vast acres of Sonoma wine country. Picking up a bottle is one more step to helping struggling wine families get back on their feet, especially now with many wineries in quarantine.
If you’d like to try interesting wines like this, please join me at our next private wine party coming soon! Usually, I host a wine dinner every month, and we feature several interesting wines, each paired with a delicious course. There are always cool prizes to win, too, so listen Wednesday at 4:15 to win your spot on the guest list, or click here for a chance to win!