Today the 12 Days of Zin is making stops in both Lodi and Sonoma. Lodi California is well known by those who love robust Zinfandel as an appellation that has many true old vine vineyards. Lodi also happens to be an area that produces a lot of wines that often find their way onto best buy lists. Sonoma is an area the 12 Days of Zin has returned to several times as it's the home of an incredible number of great Zins. The producer I'm looking at right now is Gnarly Head. They make wines that are modestly priced and widely available. The question will be what you can get for the money they are charging. The Gnarly Head 2006 Old Vine Zinfandel is sourced from vines with 35-80 years of age on them. The vines are head trained and sustainably farmed. 100,000 cases of this offering were produced and the suggested retail price is $11.99
Plum, vanilla and light cedar notes fill the nose of this wine. Cherry and red raspberry are prominent throughout the palate and underscored by subtler but present spice notes. The finish continues the rich jam-laden berry fruit notes characteristic of Zinfandel from the Lodi appellation. This is a smooth, pretty well balanced Zin with good acidity.
The bottom line for me on the 2006 Gnarly Head Zinfandel is that it retails for $11.99 and is often available for closer to $9. For that price it not only provides bang for the buck, it also features more than sufficient varietal character. Add its wide availability to the equation and it's clear this is exactly the sort of wine you'll feel great about opening on a Tuesday night with pizza.
The second wine from Gnarly Head I'm looking at today is the 2005 Gnarlier Head Zinfandel. Fruit for this selection was sourced from Sommer's Vineyard in the Dry Creek Valley. This wine spent 14 months in a combination of French and American oak barrels. 30% of it being new. 4,200 cases of this Zin were produced and the suggested retail price is $19.99.
Blueberry, raspberry, eucalyptus, cedar, and vanilla notes dominate the nose of this single vineyard offering. The palate is filled with many of the classic elements of Dry Creek Zinfandel. Rich berry fruit, alongside dust and earthy bramble make for a mouth filling wine. Mocha notes emerge on the finish and they become more prominent as the wine has a chance to open up. Spice notes are also prominent from the mid-palate through the finish. This is a terrifically well balanced wine. It'll go best with ribs, wild mushroom based dishes or a Paella.
The Gnarlier Head Zin retails for a few dollars more and is available in the mid-teens. For those extra dollars you get a more refined, complex wine that will also lay down in your cellar, improving for a couple of years and drinking well until at least 2011.
Both of these efforts from Gnarly Head are worth picking up. The Old Vines Zin is a contender for a house wine you can purchases by the case considering its reasonable price and adaptability with food. The Gnarlier Head is a sleeper purchase that you'll be glad you have a couple of bottles of tucked away considering it's also priced pretty modestly.
Up Next: The 12 Days of Zin Continues!
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