Explore the Golden state through its iconic grape
If you’ve been wine tasting in California, there’s no doubt you’ve come across some Zinfandels. That’s because this little black skinned grape is grown in over 10 percent of California Vineyards. It’s also why planning a wine tasting trip with this varietal in mind is one of the best ways to experience the Golden state. So with that said, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite spots. Hopefully they get your mouth watering and ready for your next Zinfandel wine tasting journey.
Alexander Valley Vineyards
Located in Healdsburg, Alexander Valley Vineyards is a family run property that has some pretty fabulous wines. They also have free daily cave tours when you make a reservation. We love this place particularly for their zinfandel wine tasting though. They are easy drinking and easy on the wallet since they are all under $25. Trust us that they are among the best at this price point!
This next winery produces 3 knockout Zins. They have an Estate, Old Vine, and a Reserve Zin. We were torn about which we loved more, so all I can say is you gotta taste all 3 and choose for yourself. Something else we loved about this winery was their back story.
The founder Koener Rombauer recommended that Charlie and Michael Havill quit their corporate jobs and find a vineyard in Amador County. So that’s exactly what they did. In 2005 they purchased 50 acres (20 acres of which were planted) and the rest is history. Through dedication, love and hard work they have grown a property today that is sustainable and thriving. They have two tasting rooms in both Plymouth and Amador. Beyond their Zin’s and other fabulous wines they also have a variety of olive oils and balsamic vinegars that are a must try.
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If you like history, great wine, and supporting a family operation then Saini is the place to visit. The vineyard dates back over 100 years and 4 generations. Their family started as farmers growing apples, pears, prunes, and wine grapes. Fast forward to the present they began their own wine label in 2008. They focus on quality and familiarity with the land. They are easily one of our favorites to visit and taste with in the Dry Creek/Alexander Valley area. They have some eloquent old vine zinfandels that have a bit of spice but smooth texture. I recommend you take some home since they would pair perfectly with a pork dish.
If you’re up in Amador County, Vino Noceto is a winery to put on the list. They are primarily known for their Sangiovese since they have 8-10 different ones available. However their Old Vine Zin is one not to miss. Having started in 1987 they have a close knit ties with their community. They are known to donate their time, money, and wine to their community. They’re also a family run operation. They are full of positive and high-energy folks that all contribute to a memorable experience.
Located in Templeton just outside of Paso Robles, this mediterrean style vineyard is another one of our favorites. You’re able to taste 7 wines for only $10 (or free with the Priority wine pass). On top of this, their grounds are stunning. Here you can find 3 amazing Zins. They have an unusual Zin called Zinfusion, a regular Zin, and a late Harvest Zinfandel. For those of you who have a sweet tooth we recommend the latter of the three!
If you live in the Bay Area and love Zinfandels Dashe is going to be your new local hot spot. They have 5-7 single vineyard Zinfandels available to taste/purchase that will blow your taste buds away. Located in a warehouse in Jack London Square they’re known for some great gatherings with live music and big Paella vats. We love this spot as it is in many of our members’ backyards. It’s so easy to get to and they produce some great wines.
Unfortunately, this winery is not a part of the Priority Wine Pass program, but we were so blown away by their wine at the ZAP festival that we had to share. Located in Lodi they too were farmers in the area over 100 years ago. Then a decade ago they began creating their own side label. They have 3-4 Zinfandels available and the three we tried were incredible!
Located up in the Dry Creek region of Sonoma County Quivira Vineyards is 100% organic and sustainable. They have a variety of Zins that are all delicious (especially their Pillsbury which scored 93 points) as well as a wide variety of Sauvignon Blancs and other red varietals. Their property has a lovely calm feel to it and it’s perfect to visit on a spring, summer, or any day really.
Rock Wall Wine Company
Located in Alameda right off the water, Rock Wall is a must visit. They have over half a dozen Zinfandels- 3 of which have been scored over 90 points. In addition to their great Zin, they also have some lovely sparkling wines. Their tasting room offers a fun and lively space to enjoy a glass and a meal (And we stress the last part since we loved their food).
Rodney Strong Vineyards
Established over 55 years ago, Rodney Strong has become a household name since you can find their wine at most wine shops across the nation. We highly recommend stopping into their tasting room if you’re in the Healdsburg region of Sonoma County. That’s because you can taste about a half dozen estate Zinfandels that they do not distribute. These are truly a delight to experience. In addition, they have a lovely outdoor picnic space where you can enjoy wine and lunch after the tasting.
St. Francis Winery & Vineyards
Located just south of Santa Rosa, St. Francis is another great spot to consider for a Zinfandel wine tasting. They have over half a dozen zinfandels that range in price from $22-$48. Several of these are Old Vine Zins that you won’t want to miss. In addition to their fantastic wine they also have a fabulous food and wine pairing experience. We recommend visiting during the summers since they offer live music, movies under the stars, and more fun events!
Most people know William Selyem for their Pinot Noir, but trust us when we say their Zinfandel is out-of-this-world. They only make a very limited quantities and you may need to specially ask for it, but it’s worth the effort. It’s one of our favorite places in Sonoma. Tthey aren’t open to the general public (and thus aren’t a pwp partner), but we can sometimes can get you in. Contact us if you want to learn more.
It’s said that Scott Harvey is one of the wineries that really put Amador county on the map. The founder Scott started in the late 70’s and continues to grow and blow people’s taste buds to this day. They have expanded over time and have 3 tasting rooms where you can experience their wines. This includes a tasting room in Plymouth, one in the old Sugar Mill in Clarksburg, and their estate in Shenandoah. We recommend you check out their wine called the inzinerator. It retails for $20 and is unbeatable at that price point.
Having driven by this property many times in Paso Robles, we never took the opportunity to stop in and taste the wines. It wasn’t until the most recent Zap festival that we ran into Jake Beckett, the owner and manager of the property. His parents originally founded it back in the 1980s and he grew up watching the winery and the brand grow.
Meeting Jake is reason enough to want to visit his winery, but tasting his wine is what’ll make you want to revisit over and over again. His Zinfandels are incredible and we’re not the only ones who agree. Even though the $85 price may be high for some, Peach Canyon Zins are in high demand and continually sell out. Even though they have several others that are also lovely and more price sensitive, we say this is a place to splurge. It’s hands down one of our favorite Zins we’ve ever tried.
This Italian inspired tasting room in downtown Healdsburg is a pure delight. They have some pretty unique wines and put a fun twist on how to taste. When you visit you can purchase wine in an old fashioned milk jug or stop in for a cheeto-wine pairing. It’s kitschy-cool meets italian chic. They also have some fabulous Old Vine Zins starting at $38-$90 per bottle. If you’re in the area and are up for some unique Zins and Italian styles wines they are a must visit.
What first caught our attention of this place was a sign in front of their tasting room that said “Come in for our Zin”. Let’s just say we’re glad we did! Since then, we’ve happily come back many times to visit their fantastic cave. All of their tastings take place deep inside the cave and in order to get to it you must walk through a portion of their production facility. This means that during harvest you get to see it all!
They have about 3-5 Zins available to taste, but our hands down favorite is their Zinfandel from the Ivy Glen Vineyard. Planted prior to Prohibition, these old vines don’t produce much fruit but when they do they really pack a punch. This and all their wines really reflect the unique terroir of the Sonoma Mountains. Do yourself a favor and go in for the Zin!
ZapFest: The Zinfandel wine tasting festival
If you love Zins, we highly recommend putting the Zap Festival on your calendars. It typically happens in January of every year and it’s one of our favorite festivals to attend. Not only do you get to try all these great zins in one spot, you often get to meet the winemakers. This means you can speak one on one with those who run the property and learn about their wines. We think it’s easily the best Zinfandel wine tasting experience out there. Check them out at https://zinfandel.org/
Let’s hear from you!
We want to hear from you! Is there a Zinfandel that you love? Did we miss something you think we should add? Let us know in the comments below.