The Sphere Lodi Zinfandel 2012 is a Trader Joe’s $5.99 exclusive. TJ’s says the grapes came “from a premium winemaker’s vineyards in Lodi“, which makes the Sphere an estate grown, single AVA, 6 buck California wine, that is something you do not see very often. There is a top-notch Lodi winery that produces a line of wines for Trader Joe’s, I do not know if the Sphere Zin comes from their grapes, but their own Lodi Zinfandel sells in the $18-$20 range. The 2012 grape vintage produced an abundance of quality grapes, it was the best harvest in several years, so good grapes where available for negociants, like Trader Joe’s. All in all, this is a very promising $5.99 wine. The alcohol content is 13%.
The color is a very dark, but crystal clear black cherry red. The nose is ripe blackberry, strawberry, a little black pepper and chocolate. This is a well-balanced Zinfandel, with good length and interesting sub-flavors. It starts with extracted blackberry and softer plum, curry spice, pepper straight from the mill, licorice, raspberry with baking spices and orange zest. Well, I wasn’t expecting that, this is a long, lean, but still bold Zinfandel made for food pairings. The spice side of things is stronger than the fruit side, so it is not necessarily a back porch sipping wine, this is a Zin that will find its balance with a plate of Spanish cheese or Firecracker shrimp. The finish starts off strong, then slowly fades away.
There was a time when inexpensive Zinfandel was big, brash, fruit forward and bold, but not complex wine, great for a slab of ribs, but not particularly versatile. The Sphere Lodi Zinfandel 2012 is structured and nuanced, full of flavor, but still in control. This is a challenging wine, the spice and the pepper may be too much for some people, but if you can match it with the right meal, say a pepper crusted pork loin, you are in for a treat. The Sphere Zin is a serious, nuanced 6 buck wine, imagine that.