Here's the roundup.
Accademia Dei Racemi, poured 2003 Zinfandel. Very surprising. Delicious and round. The Italians had really nice suits on too. Could the price really be $5?
Top 7 Acorn Winery/Alegria Vineyards 2003 Heritage Vines, Russian River Valley was finely structured and very complex. Pretty tight. The 2004 was not showing very well yet, but has potential.
Surprise: Adelaida Cellars 2002 Reserve, Paso Robles -pretty yummy
Alex Sotelo Cellars: 2002 Dalraddy Vineyard, Napa soft and sweet. Not as nice as the Tin Barn Dalraddy treatment, but they are new.
Benesssere Vineyards, St. Helena, Napa 2004 Black Glass was really promising. 2003 is drinking well, but 2004 looks like a more complex year. Black Glass is named for the obsidian in the soil -it's true. I've see it first hand...shards of obsidian all over the place.
Top 7 Robert Biale Vineyards, Napa Valley 2004 Black Chicken. Smaller and slightly less extracted than some years, this one promises balance and length. A must buy.
Surprise: Bluenose Wines, Healdsburg Sonoma (no site yet) Small (500 cases) output. 2003 Dry Creek Valley: Impressive butterscotch, vanilla (read oak-y) Look for this one.
Disappointing: Brown Estate Vineyards, St. Helena Napa Valley 2003 Napa Valley was crazy over-extracted and syrup-y. Didn't try the 2004. Usually this is one of my top picks. If I tasted this blind, I would say it was a mid-90s Sky late pick Zin. I actually liked the Macauley Vineyard treatment of their grapes better. See below.
Calistoga Cellars, Napa Valley the 2003 Napa Valley was very gripping even with the addition of 4% Cab (shows how much extra Napa Cab is around some years -they even dump into the zin tanks!) the wine was strident and not very well balanced.
Disappointing: Carlisle Winery, Santa Rosa, Sonoma This is one I've heard a lot of buzz about over the years, but my notes just say "yuck." For the 2003 Russian River and at $38, run away from this one.
Top Pick of the Show Chase Family Cellars, St. Helena, Napa Valley This was a top pick at the 2004 ZAP for me, and I knew them as the grower of the top Turley Zin, the Hayne Vineyard. The 2003 Hayne (got one of these in my cellar!) was lovely and showed nicely, but really needs a couple of years to mellow out. The 2003 Reserve Hayne was my top pick of the show. Killer Zin. Balanced and complex, meaty and juicy. Also $75! Can't wait to try the 2004 when it's showing next year.
One to check out: Cloud 9 winery, Napa Valley I heard good things about the Seity Harvey Vineyard, Amador County but didn't get a chance to taste it.
Slightly disappointing: Collier Falls Vineyard 2002 Private Reserve, Dry Creek Valley was not holding up very well. Best wait until the 2004s are released.
Shocker: Crushpad, San Francisco was selling their 2004s for $40. This center for City garagistes, had utterly unpalatable wine last time I tried it. I'm not really sure they know how to make wine, let alone act as consultants.
Top 7: D-Cubed Cellars, St. Helena, Napa Valley 2003 Black Sears was very yummy. Best Black Sears fruit treatment I have ever had, I think.
Top 7: Downing Family Vineyards, Napa, The 2003 Fly By Night was lovely. The 2004 will be one to look for.
Easton Wines, Plymouth, Sierra Foothills The 2002 Fiddletown was pretty nice. Not as good as the Sobon.
Eberle Winery, Paso Robles the 2004 Steinbeck was just plain yucky.
Disappointing: Fife Vineyards St. Helena, Napa I poured out the 2003 Redhead without even tasting it. It was off. Moved on.
Frank Family Vineyards, Calistoga, Napa Valley This was a surprise. The 2003 Napa Valley was very promising. One to look out for.
Gnarly Head Cellars, Calistoga, Napa Valley The 2004 Lodi had such an off nose I poured it out without tasting it.
Surprise: Graeser Winery, Calistoga, Napa Valley This is a new booth at ZAP, an organic winery and one to look out for. The 2002 Simba's Sinful Zinfandel, Nova vineyard, Lake County was drinking very nicely. I'll look for more of this one.
Top 7: Hendry, Napa Everything was great, but for me the standout was the 2002 Block 28. The 2004 Block 7 was light in color and body, but lovely and powerful.
Howell Mountain Vineyards, Angwin, Napa Valley This was my brother's favorite pick of last year and it was not quite as impressive as I expected. The 2002 Beatty Ranch was soft and elegant, ready to drink, and my favorite of the 3.
Jus Soli Winery, Kenwood, Sonoma The 2004 Dry Creek Valley was angular and not ready yet, but promising. Not worth $24, but perhaps you can find it cheaper.
Lamborn Family Wine Company, Oakville, Napa Valley The 2003 papa's Vintage Howell Mt. was very pretty but not worth the $36 list price. Yikes.
Limerick Lane Cellars Healdsburg, Sonoma the 2003 Collins Vineyard, Russian River Valley was showing very nicely. Good example of 2003 RR Zin. I think the 2004 will be something special. Usually pretty pricey.
Surprising: Macauley Vineyard, St. Helena, Napa Valley the 2003 Brown/Moss Creek, Napa was better than the 2003 Brown Estate. Better balance and not so overly extracted. I wonder if they bought fruit from an earlier pick than Brown used in their own wine.
Louis M. Martini Winery, St. Helena, Napa Tried both the 2001 Monte Rosso, Sonoma which was slightly over the hill, and the 2002 Gnarly Vines Mone Rosso which was pretty yummy -and $40. Haven't they paid that place off yet? It's been there since 1933...
Napa Cellars Oakville, The 2003 Napa Valley was OK but not really worth seeking out.
Surprise: Papapietro Perry, Healdsburg, Sonoma The 2003 Russian River was very serious and a lovely surprise, the 2004 Pauline's Vineyard Dry Creek is definitely worth seeking out.
Oy! Ridge Vineyards Lytton Springs, Healdsburg, Sonoma Here's a short ZAP rant. This isn't the place to taste Ridge wines. They have too many super-young wines that all show in a similar way and it is hand-to-hand combat to get to one table, let alone to taste at all the different tables. I thought the 2004 Mazzoli was pretty decent, but was disappointed that they had no older vintages to try. It's better to join the ATP program and taste them all when their time has come.
Saucelito Canyon Vineyard, Arroyo Grande, Central Coast My notes just say "yikes. Nope."
Saxon Brown Wines, Sonoma Hmmm. This one has usually been a favorite, and this year I only had the 2002 Casa Santinamaria Sonoma which was "just OK -not worth $35." They were pouring a $100 Old Vine that I didn't taste. Hard to believe that one.
Disappointing: Carol Shelton Wines She came in third in worst of show. Ever heard of the Cucamonga Valley as a hot spot for zin? Didn't think so. For good reason. Skip it. I think she has a good press agent.
Sobon Estate, Plymouth, Sierra Foothills The 2003 Reserve Amador County was definitely the finest Amador wine we had, big but balanced.
Worst of Show: Spenker Winery, Lodi Here's where my theory to check out growers' wineries. I heard they had some big fire and had to replant, but this was really poorly made wine. Still had some fizz to it, too. Yuck. The 2003 Estate was flawed in many ways. My notes say "They Win! Worst of Show!"
Storybook Mountain Vineyards, Calistoga, Napa The 2003 Napa Estate, Mayacamas Range was meaty, big, and bouncy. Get a huge 20 oz. T-Bone to go with this thing, or a bronto-burger.
Surprise: TerraMater, Maipo Valley, Chile Their 2002 Reserve, Millaman Maipo Valley was a really terrific zin, and the guide says it's $15. Hella deal. Already on the hunt for this stuff by the case. Their top reserve, the "Unusual" was good, but not worth the $45 asking price. Seek this out.
Tin Barn Vineyards, Sonoma The 2003 Glisson Russian River Zin was delicious, nice and round, as was their 2004 but more lively. Inside tip from Tin Barn guys: look for the 2002 Sonoma Cab and Syrahs.
Tofanelli Family Vineyards, Calistoga, Napa Valley The 2003 Estate, Napa Valley was delicious but hot on the palate at a whopping 15.8% alcohol. The fall release 2004 in barrel was a bit more fruity, but will have the same high alcohol content. You may know this grower from Turley as well.
Trentadue, Geyserville, Sonoma The 2002 Dry Creek was really poor.
Trinitas Cellars, Sonoma I was turned on to this by Premier Cru last year. Out of the 3 tasted, the 2003 Bigalow Vineyard from Contra Costa grapes was the clear standout.
Top 7 Turley Wine Cellars, Templeton, Central Coast the 2004 Hayne was full of licorice, chocolate, and minty-eucalyptus with a long finish. This is a special zin.
T-Vine Cellars, Calistoga, Napa Valley The 2003 Brown Vineyard, Chiles Valley was really nice. I'll be looking for this.
Van Ruiten Family Winery, Lodi The 2002 Old Vine Lodi was a pretty fine wine and this is someone to look out for.
Zoom Vineyards, Kelseyville, Lake County The 2002 San Francisco Bay, Continette, Contra Costa County was 2nd worst of show. Yuck. And $24.