11 Best Zinfandel Wines for 2023

best zinfandel

Many people might easily confuse Zinfandel as the sweet pink wine called White Zinfandel. But the fruit-forward red wine is one of the BEST grapes produced in California.

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What Is Zinfandel?

Zinfandel grape is a red varietal that makes aromatic and juicy wine with robust fruit flavors that are also high in alcohol.

Also, it’s the fifth (5th) most planted wine grape variety in California

Old Vine Zinfandel is another type of Zinfandel that has recently become popular because of the intense flavor and tannins. Old Vine Zinfandels should be produced from vines that are at least 50 years old, however this is not enforced. So beware, it can be used as a marketing gimmick!

And although it’s a red wine grape, the majority are used to make White Zinfandel. Other wines produced using Zinfandel grapes include dessert wines, and California red wines blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah.

Where Zinfandel Come From? And Where Is It Produced?

best zinfandel

The Zinfandel vine has Croatian origin, an ancient varietal called the Crljenak Kastelanski, sometimes also called Tribidrag, grown around the Dalmatian coast.

Since gaining massive popularity in the US, particularly CA, the Central Valley is now the majority producer of Zins. For instance, many vines grown in the Russian River Valley and Amador Country wine regions date back over 100 years. These old vine Zinfandel wines produces spicier wines with slightly lower alcohol content.

Meanwhile, the Dry Creek Valley in the Sonoma County wine region is famous for having Zinfandel vines producing top-shelf wines. Napa Valley is also a producer of premium oak-aged California Zinfandel.

Primitivo vs. Zinfandel

zinfandel and primitivo

Primitivo is an Italian wine grape grown in Puglia, located in southern Italy. You can taste the difference between Primitivo and Zinfandel wines, but the two grape varietals are genetically identical!

Many still consider Primitivo and Zinfandel synonyms, but they have different growing conditions and overall winemaking processes.

Primitivo grows under the hot Italian sun is less fruity, less sweet, but heartier than Californian Zin, which has high sugar levels and alcohol.

Meanwhile, US regulations require that Primitivo and Zinfandel be identified separately on wine labels. However, Italian winemakers still often label their Primitivo wines sold in the US as “Zinfandel.”

Quick Facts

best zinfandel drink red wine
  • Once gained a reputation as the Bordeaux of California
  • Considered as California’s heritage grape
  • Only grape in the world with its own festivalZAP Zinfandel Festival in San Francisco
  • National Zin Day every November 19!
  • One of the oldest wine grape varieties still in production today, dating back from 6000 BC.
  • Lighter in color than Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Medium to full bodied, and tastes bolder with high acidity and moderate tannin
  • Higher alcohol levels at 14-17% ABV
  • Grapes are used to produces sweet blush wine called White Zinfandel
  • Pay attention to ABV – 5-14% ABV is lighter Zin while above 16% ABV are bold and spicy
  • High elevation Zins (Howell Mountain) are richer and more savory Zins

Tasting Notes

best zinfandel tasting notes

I find this red wine to have a ripe fruit-forward flavors of cherry, raspberry, blackberry jam, and hint of spice. 

Top 11 Best Zinfandel Wine

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Under $30

saldo zinfandel wine for beginners

This California wine is a red blend – 85% Zinfandel, 15% Petite Sirah, and Syrah. It’s rich, full, and layered. While its robust flavors are unmistakable, it’s not overpowering, and expect a smooth finish. Prisoner Saldo wine is always a great choice!

Tasting Notes: blackberry, baking spice, chocolate

Ford Coppola Director’s Cut Zinfandel​

This Dry Creek Valley Zin is concentrated, full-flavored wine yet mellow. Pair with a pizza, chicken, turkey, or beef, but it’s also the kind of wine you can sip while binge-watching Francis Ford Coppola’s movies.

Tasting Notes: blackberries, plums, sour cherries, mocha, spice

Michael David Zinfandel

Made from old vine Zin wine grapes from the Clements region of Lodi wine region in CA. It’s a full-bodied Zin with moderate tannins and surprising vanilla bean and espresso flavors from oak aging.

Tasting Notes: cherry, plum, cranberry, baking spice

Masca del Tacco lu rappaio primitivo

Intense but super satisfying wine made from Primitivo grapes in Italy. There’s a lot going on in every sip in terms of flavors and aroma – fruit forward, red fruits, oak, vanilla. And it’s definitely the best bang for your buck on this list! 

Tasting Notes: dark plums, cherry, blackberry, vanilla, oak

Seghesio Cortina Zinfandel

Another Californian Zin, but this one is from Sonoma County with bold and rich fruit flavors and spice. Best paired with barbecue chicken and ribs

Tasting Notes: blueberry, plum, black raspberry

Ridge Three Valley

Another Sonoma County Zin well-worthy enjoying for the next five years or so.

It’s mostly Zin but blended with Petite Sirah, Carignane, Mataro, and Alicante Bouschet. Not to mention, 20% of the vines are at least 80 years old.

Tasting Notes: raspberry, cherry, Asian spice, smoked pepper

Under $50

Turley Zinfandel Estate

Enjoy loads of fruit on the nose and a multi-dimensional palate. This hand-harvested, oaked Napa Valley Zin is dense and powerful but savory and polished. Plus, the entire vineyard is certified organic.

Tasting Notes: black cherry, smoked peppers, licorice

Rombauer Zinfandel

Another Napa Valley Zinfandel blend – 93% Zin and 7% Petite Sirah from some of the region’s oldest, most revered vineyards. Get this if you want an extra jammy red Zinfandel and some spiciness from the first sip. It’s high in alcohol at 15.9% ABV, so it’s a great Zin to take out for special occasions.

Tasting Notes: blackberry, plum, raspberry, chocolate

This red blend from Saint Helena, CA is a blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Syrah, and Grenache. Get a bottle if you want a Zin’s that’s fruit-forward but not too jammy. And don’t mind the high alcohol content. This wine slowly burns and is not overpowering.

Tasting Notes: raspberry, blackberry, plum, pepper, cloves

Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel

From Lytton Springs, home to old-vine Zinfandels that are over 100 years old. The wine is predominantly Zin with 16% Petite Sirah and some Carignane and Mataro. What’s more, it’s classically Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel.

Tasting Notes: plum, blackberry, cocoa

Inglenook Edizione Pennino Zinfandel

Napa Valley’s blend of 96% Zin with 4% Primitivo. Made in honor of esteemed musical composer and lyricist Francesco Pennino. Also, Francis Ford Coppola’s grandfather.

Tasting Notes: raspberry, plum, wood, blueberry, cherry

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