Karmere Winery, 2004 Empress Haley Zinfandel, Shenandoah Valley. 15.5% alcohol. No price info (it was a gift).
Dark purple-red color. Nose of extremely ripe cherry fruit with slightly baked notes and maybe a little black pepper. Touch of dusty character as well. Initial flavor of cherry and plum overwhelmed by sucrose, like some kind of Kool-aid. No perceptible acidity. Some mid-palate tannins with a hot, alcoholic cherry finish.
OK, I drink a lot of Amador wines, a lot of El Dorado wines, and some Lodi stuff. I have a high tolerance for high alcohol and ripe fruit. But this one was just way over the top. From the flavor and the feeling as it hit my stomach, I'd guess the 15.5% figure is more than a bit conservative. Combined with the hefty dose of RS, this makes for a wine that's just totally out of whack right now. I've had good late harvest zins that may have had similar combinations of sugar and alcohol, but they were well-integrated wines that managed to do it all with some sense of balance. This wine gives one the sense that Empress Haley lives beyond all bounds of common decency. The only thing this wine has going for it is that it's very young. Perhaps it will improve after a few years in the bottle. Doesn't taste like that kind of wine to me, though.
Karmere is a winery in the Shenandoah Valley that's been open for a couple of years now. It's a beautiful place with a striking tasting room (particularly for Amador). I hope this wine is not representative of their style.