The Artezin Mendocino County Zinfandel 2016 is 84% Zinfandel, 14% Petite Sirah, and 2% Carignan sourced from well-respected old vine family owned vineyards in the warmer Ukiah Valley section of Mendocino County. Mendocino is north of Sonoma and much of the growing area is under the cooling influence of the Pacific Ocean which is great for a grape like Pinot Noir, the Ukiah Valley is warmer and better suited for Mediterranean grape varietals. Primitivo from Italy and Zinfandel from California share the same DNA, but don’t grow exactly the same way. Artezin is one of Hess Family Vineyards, Hess Collection wines and is the baby of Hess wine maker Randal Johnson. Much care went into the selection of the vineyards used for this Zinfandel. This Zin was aged in mostly French oak barrels, mostly means that a few American oak or Hungarian oak barrels were used. The alcohol content is 14.5%.
Here is something I learned while looking up information about the Artezin Zinfandel: Primitivo and Zinfandel are 2 clones of a grape from Croatia, of all places. The Primitivo wines from Italy that I have sampled never tasted like Zinfandel, if I hadn’t known the connection I would never have guessed they were strongly related. What I found out is that the Primitivo grape ripens little earlier and all the grape bunches ripen at the same time, so choosing the right time to pick the Primitivo grape is relatively straight forward. Zinfandel is different. Zinfandel grapes do not ripen at the same time, it is not uncommon to have not yet ripe green grapes, grapes beginning to rot, ripe purple grapes and grapes turning into raisins all on the same cluster. They try to remove the less than ideal grapes before they are crushed, but when you are dealing with tons of grapes that must be processed in a short period of time not all the less than ripe or too ripe grapes are removed. So, while Primitivo is a rich, smooth wine, Zinfandel because of the variance in grapes is spicy and complex.
The color is a barely see thru ruby slippers red with black highlights. The nose is pretty cool, a little smokey, a little spicy, ripe blackberry, raspberry, cherry, and toasty vanilla. This is a sleek, fruit driven, balanced Zinfandel, there is a lot going on in your glass, but it is subtle. It tastes of blackberry, Snickers chocolate, black pepper, vanilla, and light herbs. The mid-palate offers ripe blueberry, tart cranberry, orange zest, and spice. The tannins stay out-of-the-way and the balanced acidity allows this wine to be an excellent sipping wine (it will also work well as a food wine, but it really drinks nicely). The finish is subdued, but lengthy.
The Artezin Mendocino County Zinfandel 2016 is a delicious, elegant Red wine. It was not that long ago that under $20 Zinfandel was mainly a classic BBQ wine, the caramelized sauce on the baby back ribs matched perfectly with the fruit and spice of the wine. But in the last few years there has been a shift, while the Artezin will still match up with the best ribs in town, the ZIns have become subtle, complex and refined. The best valued price Zinfandel is still a little wild around the edges, there is no reason to turn Zinfandel into Merlot, they are no longer “party wines”, they are wines you can spend some time with and concentrate on what exactly is happening inside your glass. The Artezin Mendocino County Zinfandel 2016 is a very good effort.