Zinfandel is thought to be one of the oldest grape varietals and has seemingly been around for almost as long as anyone can document—some think as early as 6000 BC. Zinfandel is of the lighter hue in color compared to both Cabernet and Merlot. However, although a light-bodied red wine like Pinot Noir, Red Zinfandel’s average tannin and high acidity make it taste bold and somewhat potent. Which makes sense because red Zinfandel wine generally has a higher alcohol content comparative to other wines. But which are worth trying and which should you stay away from? This is a valid question especially because wine can get “up there” in price and still be somewhat mediocre.
Here are my 12 favorite Red Zinfandel bottles that are both delicious and won’t break the bank in any way shape or form:
1. Big Six Bourbon Barrel – It’s quite hard not to get excited about the sweet, sweet combination of bourbon and wine coming together to form one holistic beautiful mash of liquid goodness. Hailing from beautiful California, Big Six is described as “The Newest Way to Experience Wine” as it is barrel aged for three months adding notes of vanilla, caramel and oak to the already existing raspberry and spice flavors of Zinfandel. Pair with various types of barbequed meats or an after-dinner cigar. Have it your way!
2. OZV Zinfandel – Also hailing from CA (Lodi to be specific) this medium-bodied wine gets its zest and zap from somewhat ancient vines were succulent grapes grow. Here you’ll notice flavors of sweet cherries, blackberries and earthy spice while being jammy, complex and robust through a nice and long finish.
3. Sextant Zinfandel – Well, what do you know? Another beautiful Zin from another part of California. I swear I’m not doing this on purpose, it just so happens that some of the best Red Zin’s hail from the Golden State. This happens to come from the Central Coast and provides notes of black currant, raspberries, blueberries, and dark plums setting froth an intense, fruity and velvety swoosh of flavors that hit the tongue instantly. Also present are hints of cedar and black pepper that coincide with a persistent and obscure finish.
4. Chronic Cellars Purple Paradise – I won’t even say it this time, but… yes. California. Let’s just move on here. Purple Paradise costs less than $15 a bottle in most all liquor stores and puts forth vibrant fruit tones of strawberry, cranberry, black raspberries and mulberry with Madagascar vanilla and clove on the nose. The finish is juicy and fresh with flavors of pine-soaked blackberries that give it almost a peaty taste like Islay Scotch.
5. Montoya Zinfandel – This one is somewhat of a classic and deliver mouth-filling flavors of ripe berry and plum. Montoya is full-bodied with peppery overtones and is superb with dishes that are full in flavor and generally spicy. From the California Central Coast.
6. Kunde Zinfandel – When you hear of a wine being from the Sonoma region of California, you can almost bet yourself that it will be delicious and exciting. This spicy, fruit-soaked red brings together rich layers of bright raspberry, fennel and vanilla with lingering fruit notes on the palate. Kunde pairs exceptionally well with grilled chicken or hamburgers.
7. Cline Zinfandel – Described as full-bodied and luxurious brimming with flavors of blackberries, spices, black pepper and cedar, Cline is richly textured with well-integrated, chewy tannins and a bold and strong finish.
8. Campus Oaks Zinfandel Old Vines – Sourced from four blocks of vineyards averaging 90 years of age, this Red Zin delivers a great nose and wonderful mouth-feel that shows good legs and silky-smooth finish leaving you wanting more.
9. Kirkland Signature Sonoma County Old Vine Zinfandel – This Zin begins with aromas of black cherry, a bit of coffee, spice and vanilla. It’s medium body reveals an insanely smooth and easy to drink Zin with subtle complexity hailing from older vines. The notes of ripe black cherry, blackberry, blueberry and cranberry are right in your face after the first sip and you’ll also find a bit of leathery spice and vanilla in this robustly flavored wine. The ending notes are more ripe fruit, leather, spice and coffee again that lingers for a while. Great for BBQ or just or get together. Kirkland’s always got you covered!
10. Artezin Mendocino Zinfandel – This one is a bit of cheating because it’s actually 85% Zinfandel and 15% Petite Sirah but I absolutely must include it on this list. This Vin comes from family-owned vineyards in the Ukiah Valley, Mendocino County, California and is aged completely in 2-year-old French oak barrels. Artezin begins with an amicable aroma of cherry, cranberry, raspberry, strawberry, vanilla and cinnamon giving a smooth and rich taste that integrates well with the notes of spice, pepper and vanilla under the abundance of ripe and juicy fruit. Soft tannins, dried herbal notes and even a bit of licorice as well as cola all lead into the long, dry finish of lingering vanilla and spice. Another great wine for BBQ’s and other grilled foods.
11. Member’s Mark Old Vine Zinfandel – This Zin starts off with nice aroma of jammy blackberry, plum, licorice, and vanilla. Mark Old Vine Zin tastes nicely rich and spicy with a subtle sweetness that creeps up every so slowly but remains mostly smooth and with a nice depth of flavor all the way through. This Zin is quite easy to drink and ends dry and long.
12. Trinitas Old Vine Zinfandel – 100% Zinfandel straight from El Dorado, California, this wine spends 12 solid months in American oak barrels before it is bottled and distributed. Trinitas begins with an intriguing and intoxicating nose of smoky fruit and spice as well as some mint, leather and other complexities you’ll find as you drink more and more of this Zin. The full-bodied wine tastes smooth and is full of peppery spice with more smoky dark fruit and is a prime example of a robust and flavorful Zin that doesn’t quite go over the top, so to speak. The finish is very long, a bit dry and keeps you there in a grip for quite a while.