As a wine guy I always feel guilty with these wines...Zinful? After all, serious wine guys aren't supposed to like these, right? But I couldn't go through American Wine Month without a Zin, and I did better than that - I had TWO Zins tonight...
2004 Ravenswood Vintners Blend Zinfandel (California)
2005 Rancho Zabacho Dancing Bull Zinfandel (California)
I chose these in particular as both are widely available, and the Ravenswood Vintners Blend Zinfandel is an all time JoeFavourite. (note-neither were decanted, a deviation from the Joe norm)
The 2004 Ravenswood Vintners Blend Zinfandel is suprisingly reserved for a winery hell-bent on "No Wimpy Wines". Cherry red in the glass, the attractive bouquet started with dark berry fruit, caramel, and cedar, later developing some meat, leather and cloves. On the palate it was medium- to full-bodied with a nice, smooth, supple texture and very well balanced. Juicy and peppery, this was a fantastic match for some cheeseburgers fresh off the grill. Don't cellar this - drink it now, or bring it to parties and win many friends. Could this really be a Zin at 13.5% alcohol? Great Value!
Price: C$19.80 (SAQ)
The 2005 Rancho Zabacho Dancing Bull has to be one of the most widely available, instantly recognized, California Zins. Cherry red in hue, it was very peppery and very juicy at first, but later showed some blueberry, caramel, apple (?) and an unusual cheesy/fast food smell (it was't the cheeseburger). Slightly harsher and less balanced than the Ravenswood, it was also slightly lighter bodied and showing its alcohol a bit more. Interestingly, it started the evening very, very nice, but disintegrated quickly. My advice: don't decant, don't cellar, and drink fast (with burgers).
Price: C$15.95 (SAQ)
While both of these wineries are Sonoma-based, they source the grapes from all over the State leading to somewhat differing outcomes. Regardless, these are both great, inexpensive Zin choices, should pair with a variety of foods, and will please budding enophiles while satifying the snobs. I wouldn't criticize anyone for saving a few bucks and going with the Rancho, but I'd rather pony up for that Wimp-Free stuff...
PS- I originally thought of throwing in a third, single-vineyard Zin for a blind tasting, but it's Thursday....you will have to wait