Zinfandel has been on a rollercoaster of popularity for nearly 150 years - today's mad passion is only the latest peak for the bold-flavored red. Throughout most of that time, Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma has been a bastion of Zinfandel quality and tradition. A quarter of the valley's vineyard acreage is planted to Zin, yielding up an abundance of Zinfandels with "Dry Creek Valley" on the label every year.
While it's hard to go too far wrong with Dry Creek Zin, prices have crept up steadily during the grape's latest burst of popularity. There's also been a major move toward higher alcohol and more saturated color and flavor. So there's more reason than ever to choose carefully in order to find a Dry Creek Zin with a style and price you like.
Forchini Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley "Proprietor's Reserve" 2002: an appealingly grapey, jammy mix of aromas is fair warning for the flood of warm fruit flavors and toothsome tannins that dance a tango in your mouth. Best in 2-3 years.
Mauritson Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 2002: offers great concentration and vividness in the fruit, plus the kind of layered complexity and lively texture you would expect from a wine sourced from seven different vineyards. Drink now.
Passalacqua Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley "Old Vine" 2002: highly distinct Zin, with cinnamony peach and blueberry flavors along with the traditional red plums and berries; it all stays sweet through to the balanced finish. Drink with dinner.
Pedroncelli Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley Pedroni-Bushnell Vineyard 2001: classic Dry Creek Zin, with intense, well-structured red fruit aromas and flavors, good weight and texture on the palate, and enough acid to keep things juicy. Drink now.
Preston Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley "Old Vines/Old Clones" 2003: showcases the serious, intense side of Zinfandel, with enough red and black berry fruit to stand up to minty oak flavors, abundant tannins, and incisive acidity. Best in 2-3 years.
Quivira Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 2003: lures you closer with sweet red fruit aromas, then embraces you with a mouthful of juicy cherries, a cushy texture, and supple follow-through that stays sweet without going syrupy. A can't-miss food wine.
Ridge Vineyards Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley "Lytton Springs" 2003: almost a quarter Carignane, this winner from Ridge is distinctly flavored, admirably complex, and subtly sweet - structured for savoring yet warm and juicy enough for happy quaffing.
Seghesio Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley "Cortina" 2003: Another exemplary Zin from Seghesio - plush body and texture, expansive red and black fruit flavors with earthy undertones, tremendous concentration, and a cool, sweet finish. Drink or hold.