2019 Ironstone Vineyards “Old Vine Reserve” Zinfandel, Lodi, California (Alcohol 14.5% Residual Sugar 5 g/l) LCBO Vintages $38.95 (750ml bottle)

The other night I sent a message to a friend casually mentioning that I was enjoying a glass of Zinfandel as I was winding down from the workday. His one word reply said it all really…


Five minutes later he followed that up with:

“I had a good Zin once.”

And therein lies the problem; it’s often hard to get wine folks to take Zinfandel in any way seriously.

I’m not embarrassed to admit it, but around fifteen or so years ago I used to be a complete Zinfandel fanatic, something I refer to in every recent Young Blood Sommelier interview:

No fair-weather Zin advocate me, I went as far as touring Amador, Contra Costa, Paso Robles, and Lodi many times in search of the very best old vine wines. I even attended the San Francisco Z.A.P. (Zinfandel advocates and producers) conference a handful of times, possibly the biggest single variety bacchanal on the planet, dragging so many friends and co-workers there over the years. I’m known for never doing things by halves, and so with Zinfandel I dove extremely deep.

But then something changed. Perhaps it was me splitting up with my long-term San Francisco girlfriend, but almost overnight I stopped drinking the stuff.

These days my palate most certainly leans towards reds on the lighter side, although in the right context I can also enjoy much more weighty wines, however my taste for Zinfandel never really returned.

Until the other evening, that is, with this bottle of Ironstone Old Vine. It was akin to happening upon a pic of an old flame on the internet, still being able to appreciate all of their charms, but from a vastly different place in one’s life.

The seriously alluring bouquet brings loads of blackberries, brambles, black raspberries, pleasantly stewed plums, leather, herbal elements, and a lovely warm clove-like spice.

In the mouth this is undeniably a bigger wine, with a ton of super-ripe black fruits, more wood spice, and intense kirsch-like elements, but the acid balance is absolutely right on target, and the alcohol isn’t too prevalent despite it clocking in at a weighty 14.5%. I feel that Zinfandel often gets a bad reputation for often being wackily out of balance, but Ironstone do a truly terrific job here.

I’d say it was actually a Zin that would pair with a lot more than the clichéd barbecue match that’s so often referred to when it comes to wines made from this grape. The soft, ripe, supple, chocolatey tannins have their place here too, each mouthful showing a decent amount of grip (perhaps from the 13% Petite Sirah), a very welcome facet in a Zinfandel in my opinion, as structure can often be lacking. The gorgeous black fruit/cedar finish lingers long after one swallows a mouthful.

So after over a decade of abstinence, I’ve decided that I can enjoy Zinfandel once again. It’s an extremely enjoyable glass of wine, and something I’m going to return to again very soon, whatever my friends say.

(Four out of a possible five apples)


Ironstone Vineyards are represented in Ontario by Icon Vins Fins.

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