Far be it from us to hype one winemaker over another. But if you like red Zinfandel, then there's one company that seems to get it right more often than not. And that's Rosenblum Cellars based in Alameda, Calif.
Fortunately for us, various wine stores in town carry Rosenblum, which has made an art out of producing flavorful, fruity and smooth red Zinfandel. Especially now that we're getting into the grilling season, this varietal would likely be a good pairing with barbecued meats, grilled hamburgers and even strong cheeses.
But first, a little background on Rosenblum. This San Francisco Bay area company began in 1978 and produces more than 50 different wines -- not all of them red Zinfandel. While not all of the six Zinfandel we've had from this winery are star wines, they are each distinct enough for us to believe that the others would be as well. And if you're lucky, you'll sometimes find a local wine shop that will have the higher prized Zinfandel on sale (Winetree did for a time, for instance). Wine Styles also sells at least one Rosenblum red Zinfandel.
Here's a little breakdown of each Rosenblum Zinfandel we've had over the years, our thoughts, and the prices at the time we purchased them:
2005 Rosenblum Cellars Maggie's Reserve: Fruity, gentle and soft texture
We've got to hand it to Rob Williamson, Greg's cousin, who introduced us to Rosenblum. This was our first foray into this Glen Ellen, Sonoma Valley creation, which was red fruit-forward but tempered by a soft mouthfeel. This wine was fun to drink, too, and at 14.8 percent alcohol, it was definitely on the higher end of the percentage-of-alcohol spectrum. Wine Spectator gave this wine an 88 out of a 100. $20-$29.99.
2006 Rosenblum Cellars Contra Costa County: Blackberry, also gentle and soft texture
We paired this wine with andouille and green pepper brats from Pearson's Rivertown Butcher Shop in Newburgh, and wow this was a great match! The spicyness of the sausages was a great contrast to the smooth creaminess of this Zinfandel. At 14.4 percent alcohol, this was another higher octane wine with blackberry overtones. Wine Spectator rated this wine an 86 out of 100. $20-$29.99.
2005 Rosenblum Cellars St. Peter's Church Zinfandel: Blackberry and menthol flavors, smooth texture
Missionaries in the late 1800s planted this vineyard behind St. Peter's Church in Sonoma County, and the result was wonderfully decadent. I prepared braised lamb shanks with garlic and rosemary recipe for this Zinfandel. Here's the recipe: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Braised-Lamb-Shanks-with-Garlic-and-Rosemary-100843
Against the gaminess of the lamb, this luscious Sonoma County Zinfandel was round and soft. It's definitely one of the better Zinfandel we've had. This earned an 88 out of 100 from Wine Spectator. $20-$29.99.
2006 Rosenblum Cellars Monte Rosso Vineyard Sonoma Valley: A bit thin
This Zinfandel got an 88 out of 100 from Wine Spectator, but we weren't that impressed. Especially after experiencing the exquisite creation that was the St. Peter's Church, this Monte Rosso may need to be cellared a bit. $20-$29.99.
Rosenblum Cellars Vintner's Cuvee XXXII Zinfandel: Maybe we had a bad bottle
This is a Zinfandel that is billed as one of Rosenblum's lighter fares. That's because the skins, which impart much of the tannins (that drying feeling in your mouth) and the flavors of the wine, spent less time intermingled with the grape juice. Still, we were probably influenced by the higher-priced Rosenblum Zinfandel, which is why we just couldn't get into this Vintner's Cuvee. 13.5 percent alcohol. $10-$19.99.
2006 Rosenblum Cellars Rockpile Road Vineyard Zinfandel: A bit hit
We had a blind wine tasting party at our house, and our neighbors from down the street brought this gem, which was rated 87 out of 100 by Wine Spectator. This Sonoma Valley wine was easily the party favorite, with some saying it was mild with a good finish, berry flavored, smooth but mixed with slight tannins, and slightly sweet. 14.8 percent alcohol.
this column runs as "bottle by bottle" in the evansville courier and press twice or so a month. the focus is on wines, food and how they intersect. if i receive gifts, i'll tell you. photo credits are noted. i buy most of my wines from winetree, varsity liquors, schnucks, the fresh market, kwik liquor and winestyles (in evansville, ind.); big red liquors and sahara mart (in bloomington, ind.); vecchio's italian market (in newburgh, ind.); whole foods (in st. louis); and binny's (in chicago.) also, i do try a number of wines that i don't necessarily mention in the column, through travels to france and other markets (germany, hungary, italy, etc.) that don't sell wines i can find here. those experiences factor into my tasting descriptions, even if i don't mention them in the column, so keep all that in mind. i write the column to tell my readers in the evansville, ind., area what i consider to be flavorful, balanced and good-value wines for sale in this area.