The Old Moon Old Vine Zinfandel 2016 is a $5.99 Trader Joe’s exclusive, part of the Trader Moon series of wines produced for TJ’s by a family owned vineyards and winery located in the Lodi AVA, the gnarled vine on the bottom of the front label is a clue to the producer. As with most Trader Joe’s contract wines there isn’t any information, other than whatever is written on the back label, about the production of this Zinfandel, but that is to be expected since they are trying to keep costs down. So, we will talk about what we do know and that is what’s up with the Old Vines thing? Good grapes struggle…that is a wine law, grapes that have fertile soil, plenty of water, lot’s of sun make boring wine, it’s something about the struggle that causes the grapes to produce complex, interesting wine, the best vineyards in the world are located on rock strewn, poor soil. Old vines (that isn’t a legal definition, anything above 35 years old is accepted as being old) because they are old struggle to get nutrients to the grapes, even if they are on fairly good ground (not so good for grapevines). It may be an over simplification but old vines = good grapes. And here is the irony of the whole situation, when the White Zinfandel craze hit (if you don’t remember it ask your Aunt) there was a rush to plant Zinfandel vineyards to meet the demand. The qualifications for a White Zinfandel vineyard weren’t all that high, so back in the day many of these vineyards didn’t command much regard. But everything changes with time and these formerly modest vineyards are now highly sought after Old Vine vineyards. The Lodi AVA is loaded with old vine vineyards (only some are ex-White Zin vineyards) and Lodi went from being something of a backwater to a happening AVA with exciting wines. The label of the Old Moon Zin says California as place of origin, but you have to figure a good portion of the grapes came from Lodi. The alcohol content is a modest for a Zin, 13.5%.
The color is a dark, but see-thru raspberry jam red. The nose is a good mix of ripe fruit and oak aromas, brown sugar, pepper, blackberry, blueberry, black cherry, a little spice and the faint scent of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven. This is a soft, juicy, Zinfandel with a nice contact of baking spices. It tastes of soft, rounded blackberry, plum, toasty vanilla, and black pepper. The mid-palate adds tart cherry, cinnamon, a hint of milk chocolate, and a touch of cream. The tannins do not get in the way and acidity is soft, this is more of a sipping wine, but will do fine with burgers, pizza, and such. The finish mirrors the body of the wine and does last awhile.
The Old Moon Old Vine Zinfandel 2016 does fine for a $5.99 Zin. Actually don’t let the low price put you off, because TJ’s cuts out the middleman and any unnecessary cost, this wine would sell closer to 10 bucks if it were a regular commercial wine. I actually prefer my Zinfandel to be on the bold, juicy, spicy side and the Old Moon Zinfandel goes for soft and smooth, but I can’t complain because it does soft and smooth well. If you are in the mood for a smooth, easy drinking Zinfandel that is ridiculously cheap, then Trader Joe’s has you covered.