Paso Robles has the best Zinfandel. Period. Everybody else is fine, but for a full appreciation of this singularly American-style grape, Paso Robles has everyone beat. By a mile. (yes, yes, I know. Primitivo. I got it.)
Rather than waiting until I had a least a few months on a new bottle of 2010 Villicana Zinfandel, I decided to enjoy a bottle now just because. Fragrant, beautiful, and luscious, it absolutely lit up my evening and inspired me to write this post.
My first experience with Paso Robles Zinfandels happened years ago, and this reminded me why I had become such a fan of the varietal and why Paso Robles Zinfandels in particular had had such an impact on me.
Now don’t get me wrong. I like many Zinfandels from other areas. Napa and Sonoma have several excellent Zinfandel producers. Buehler, Frogs Leap, Seghesio, and Hendry Zinfandels are undeniably world-class wines. I’d be an idiot if I indicated that they weren’t! Some wineries, such as Ridge, have different sources for their Zinfandel, including Paso Robles – Dusi vineyards to be exact! Kenwood, Cline, Dancing Bull and Ravenswood have budget-friendly Zinfandels that anyone can enjoy. Lodi has wines that are in many ways similar to the wines of Paso Robles. Klinker Brick comes to mind as one that I really enjoy.
And then there’s Paso Robles. My my my.
Whether it’s the fun of Tobin James Ballistic, the subtle austerity of J. Dusi food-friendly Zins, or the rich luxury of the Zinfandel blends of Linne Calodo, Paso Robles simply has everybody else running in second. This is the grape that put Paso Robles on the storied California wine map.
When I first went to Paso Robles many years ago, the wines were big, red, alcoholic, and almost overbearing. There were, of course, a few memorable exceptions. Villicana, Turley, and Hug Cellars Zinfandels were more nuanced, and I learned to enjoy Zinfandel. However, even the overbearing Zins were delicious. The first wine club I joined was Opolo, thanks in large part to their legendary Mountain Zin.
The 2010 Villicana Zinfandel is a delicious, rich, and highly satisfying Zin. Because of its youth, it’s a deep purpley-red, and its 16.4% alcohol content has legs dancing along the wine glass. Plums, raspberries, pepper, and spice round out the flavor profile, along with a fleeting touch of vanilla. The tannins are well-integrated, and this wine screams for Spice-Rubbed Grilled Leg of Lamb (recipe coming later this summer on MirePoix Vegas where I’ll check my theory!)
For more information about Zinfandel, visit the Paso Robles Zin Festival site and plan to attend next year. If you want to know even more about Zinfandels, go to ZAP! That’s short for Zinfandel Advocates & Producers. They have a Zin festival, too.
My advice? Don’t bother with “White” “Zinfandel” and go get yourself a bottle of Paso Robles Zin. Chill it ever so slightly. Slap something big, juicy, and red on the grill, and enjoy!