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Zinfandel Lives!!! Three from Wine Guerrilla and more

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Last month, we were contacted by Bruce Patch, head honcho at a Sonoma County outfit called Wine Guerrilla, asking where he might send samples for review. Patch, who spent most of his career in the music industry, moved to Sonoma in 1997 and started up a wine brokerage firm; eventually, he decided to turn Wine Guerrilla into his own label, with the mission of “Finding the very best zinfandel grapes, and crafting wines worthy of the grape’s unique characteristics, and introducing those wines to the public.” This strikes longtime lovers of the variety such as us a noble endeavor, and being mentored by no less than David Coffaro is certainly a bonus for Patch’s operation.

Now, we rarely, if ever, turn down samples, so not long afterward, we received three 2009 single vineyard bottlings from Wine Guerrilla. We were immediately struck by two things, the first being the somewhat provocative label artwork, created by Bruce’s girlfriend’s son, Sean Colgin. The second is that all of WG’s wines employ the Stelvin enclosure, which we have no problem with whatsoever. But labels and twist-offs don’t mean doodly-squat if the wines themselves aren’t up-to-snuff, and we’re happy to report that the three we tried deliver the goods and then some. Kim and I got started with a bottling sourced from a vineyard that has long provided fruit for Rosenblum Cellars.

2009 Wine Guerrilla Harris-Kratka Vineyard Alexander Valley Zinfandel, 85% Zinfandel, 10% Carignane, 5% Petite Sirah, 14.8% alc., $30.00: Clean, dark color, with bright, spicy zinberry flavors and aromas graced with a well-integrated kiss of oak; sleek, full bodied and amply structured for at least a few years in the cellar, but there’s no reason not to twist that Stelvin enclosure off right now (love that sound). Not exactly old school, but neither is it an over-ripe, over-extracted monstrosity, and it’s nicely balanced, despite the alcohol level, showing no excessive heat. Kim sums it up, saying, “Really jammy, I like it!” 268 Cases produced, unfiltered, unfined. Find this wine

We tasted the next two side-by-side, with no less than the Canadian Zinfan himself, Alan Kerr.

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2009 Wine Guerrilla Conte Vineyard Russian River Valley Zinfandel, A field blend of 83% Zin, 12% Petite Sirah, 2% Carignane, 2% Alicante Bouchet, 1% Grenache, 15.1% alc., $30.00: Alan Kerr describes this dark garnet colored Zin as “the more feminine of the two” compared to the Forchini, and it’s not nearly as bright as the Harris-Kratka, but that’s OK. Full bodied, with very good structure and nice length, it offers up earthy black raspberry and forest floor flavors and aromas. Nicely balanced and not too ripe, it’s almost old school and that’s a good thing! Three thumbs up! 238 Cases Produced Find this wine

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2009 Wine Guerrilla Forchini Vineyards Old Vine Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel, A true field blend… about 95% Zinfandel, with Carignane, Petite Sirah and Alicante Bouchet, 16.1% alc., $35.00: Clean, dark garnet color, with a nice kiss of toasty oak in perfect proportion to the black raspberry, root beer and earth, being richer and riper than the Conte. Alan adds impressions of “much more soil and mineral and forest floor and fennel seed,” calling it “so much fuller, almost glycerin-y.” Not as effusive aromatically as the other two; full bodied and thicker than the Conte, but perhaps not quite as well-structured. 241 Cases Produced. Find this wine

These are zins the way we like them, and we’d love to try more from Wine Guerrilla, because based on this survey, they’re up to some serious mischief of the best kind. Wine Guerrilla zins available in 23 states as of this writing, so if you can get ‘em, try ‘em!

It has been quite a while since we had a good Zin-in, so we followed up the previous two with a couple more, starting with one from the cellar of the Zinfan.

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2003 Rosenblum San Francisco Bay Zinfandel Planchon Vineyard, 14.6% alc.: Kim described this darkly colored number as “really pruney,” and we all agreed that it’s big, rich and ripe; it also shows some of its alcohol on the nose. Juicy black raspberry and blackberry flavors are shaded with what Chef Kerr describes as “that wood varnish note.” Starting to push the envelope, but never really going over the top, this is rough and ready, now and over at least the next few years. Find this wine

Next, I pulled one that we’ve been storing patiently for some years now.

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2000 Ridge Lytton Estate Late Harvest Zinfandel, 93% Zinfandel, 5% Petite Sirah, 2% Carignane, 16% alc., 1.8% residual sugar: This clean, dark colored thing is still big, rich and primary, offering black sweet cherry, black licorice candy and a big, bright kiss of sweet oak; even now, there’s still a deep, dark core of earth and mineral. Super intense and deeply structured, this is still a young wine and very much in your face, so hold, don’t drink. I won’t think about opening our other bottle for at least five years, maybe ten. Find this wine

Reporting from Day-twah,

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