Living in Sonoma for a couple of years made me a Zinfandel fan.
Somehow this grape sums up the non-Napa attitude, the personality of soulful Sonoma as opposed to the ascot-wearing Old World affectations of some California wine country.
Zin has its subtleties, but it tends to be robust, famously high in sugar and therefore alcohol. Although they have traced the vine's genetic origins to Croatia, Zin is at heart a melting pot grape–it's been grown in California since the 1850s or so and the thick-branched, gnarled black vines against a field of yellow mustard flowers or lavender is one of the iconic views in Sonoma.
At least, that's what I taste, admittedly through a mist of nostalgia. And like I say, Zin tends to be "hot."
A friend of mine, David Darlington, wrote a book about Zinfandel, first published in 1991 as Angel's Visits: An Inquiry into the Mystery of Zinfandel, then re-issued a few years ago with the better title Zin: The History and Mystery of Zinfandel. It's a fun read if you want to delve further into the background of this grape.
But if you want to taste it, and talk to one of the definitive figures in Zinfandel's story, go up to Hearth on 25th in Ogden on March 19 at 6:30 for a winemaker's social with Kent Rosenblum, who helped popularize Zinfandel via his own Rosenblum Cellars. (They dubbed the latter one of the "3 R's of Zinfandel, the others being Ridge and Ravenswood.)
Rosenblum sold his eponymous winery in 2008 but he stuck with his letter and he'll be at Hearth with his daughter Shauna, showing off the wines from their current label, Rock Wall Wine Company.
Rock Wall makes lots of wines besides Zinfandel; you'll get to sample those, too.
And hey–if you're in SLC, why not ride FrontRunner from here to Ogden for the evening? That's what I'm going to do.