30 Second Wine Advisor: An organic Zinfandel

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In This Issue

 An organic Zinfandel
Our Wine Focus discussions about Zinfandel this month underscore the popularity of this Croatian-immigrant grape. Today we taste a fine organic example.
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 Bonterra Vineyards 2006 Mendocino County Zinfandel ($14.99) Very appetizing aromas of mixed berries - traditional Zin "bramble fruit" - in a strong, hearty but well balanced organic wine.
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An organic Zinfandel

Our Wine Focus discussions on the various styles of Zinfandel (plus Italian Primitivo) have been unusually active this month, underscoring the popularity of this Croatian-immigrant grape variety that was once considered uniquely American but that's gaining attention around the world.

As a wine enthusiast who's okay with Zin but not really a huge fan, it's been an educational month for me. Given the opportunity to shop and taste more Zinfandel than I usually do, I'm developing a growing affection for this grape, with the caveat that I'm still not warming up much to the high-octane "grape cocktail" approach that we see from some wineries.

Still, in today's tasting report, I'm forced to admit that I enjoyed a Zin built at a potent 14.5% alcohol, but made with the texture and balance to carry that strength. It's the 2006 Mendocino Zinfandel from Bonterra Vineyards, a producer of whom I'm becoming increasingly fond, not only because of its significant commitment to organic and sustainable agriculture but because its wines generaly provide good value in a style that I enjoy.

I praised the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon in the July 7, 2008 Wine Advisor. I'm happy to report that the 2006 Zinfandel was a pleasure, too.

Typical of Bonterra's product line, this zin is made from certified organically grown grapes with select lots of certified biodynamic grapes.

Although I'm not convinced that "organic" and "biodynamic" show up in the bottle in a way that can be detected in a blind tasting, I do harbor respect for producers - not only artisanal but also larger companies like Bonterra and its parent Brown-Forman Corp. - willing to undertake the additional effort necessary to practice sustainable agriculture and tread lightly on the earth.

If you, like me, didn't realize that Bonterra made a Zinfandel, there's an interesting side story on Bonterra Zinfandel, passed along by Brown-Forman wine educator Hoke Harden in our WineLovers Discussion Group.

Because there's only a limited supply of organic Mendocino Zinfandel grapes, the company originally decided not to market it in the United States but to export the entire production to Europe and the United Kingdom. So, for years, Europeans had access to this tasty Zin, but it wasn't sold in the U.S.

It was only in recent years, Harden said, with more organic Mendocino fruit available, that company officials "sat up and said, 'Hey, Zinfandel is the heritage grape for Mendocino, and we're in Mendocino. Maybe we should be selling Bonterra Zinfandel here in the U.S.'"

So, recent vintages are now available here, and I'm glad. You'll find my tasting report on the 2006 below.

Remember, you're warmly welcome to participate in our Wine Focus discussions with your questions, comments or tasting notes about Zinfandel or Primitivo this month. Simply click to
The discussions are open for public viewing, but you must register to post. Registration is free and easy; we ask only that you join following our Real Names Real Format system, using your real name in the format "John Doe" or "John D".

Bonterra Vineyards 2006 Mendocino County Zinfandel ($14.99)


Very appetizing aromas of mixed berries - I persuade myself that I can make out blackberry, black raspberry and blueberry all three, plus maybe a hint of raspberry liqueur. Similar flavors fill the palate with juicy but reasonably restrained bramble fruit, well balanced with appropriate acidity. The 14.5% alcohol really doesn't show in any objectionable way; it fits the structure of this hearty but balanced wine. (Aug. 8, 2008)

FOOD MATCH: As is typical of Bonterra's portfolio in my experience, it's a food-friendly Zin. Zinfandel just about always sings with grilled red meat or poultry, but it was fine, too, with spaghetti with a summer garden sauce of fresh tomatoes and summer squash, made into an Italian-American style "gravy" with local natural ground beef.

VALUE: The middle teens are more than fair for Zin of this quality, and for those who prefer to go "green," you're paying no apparent premium for the organic certification.

WHEN TO DRINK: As always, we return to the debate over whether Zin benefits from aging. There's no rush here, but I'd drink this one during the next few years rather than aging it as a cellar keeper.

Here's a winery fact sheet on the Bonterra Zinfandel:
For a more detailed winery tasting report, see this PDF file:

Find vendors and compare prices for Bonterra Zinfandel on Wine-Searcher.com:

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