8/18/02 - ‘ have been drinking zins bought upon release and stored in a cold, san francisco wine chamber:
last night:‘93 ridge pagani ranch - still voluptuous (14.9% alcohol) & rich, but more rounded than in its youth. complex flavors, spicy fruit; did that really remind me of my grandmother’s fig preserves? excellent. drink.
recently:‘92 ridge pagani atp - a power house, i detected no signs of age; deep purple. it’s like drinking unctuous rasberries or maybe blueberries with hints of pepper & spices. drink or hold.
‘92 ridge lytton springs - less flamboyent than the ‘92 pagani, but more subtle complexity and structure. drink or hold.
‘92 ridge pagani ranch late picked - timeless, super-rich (15.8% alcohol) again, loads of fruit, fantastic rasberries laced with nut meg and spices. the residual sugar is listed as 0.1% on the label, but it was not a problem in the glass. drink or hold.
‘93 ridge alegria vineyard - striking red color matched by red, spice flavors and an elegant body. i remember drinking this wine at different times in the past and liking it better back then, but i’m glad to have experinced its progression. drink.
‘93 ridge lytton estate atp - spicy, dense fruit with complex layers of vinuous flavors. in the age of spices. drink.
‘93 martinelli jackass hill - still big and velvety, berry fruit. very nice, i think i’ll find some way to drink the other bottles of this soon. drink.
‘92 williams & selyem (jackass hill) - it just says russian river valley on the label. still oaky at first, though it receded some later and the fruit emerged. i’ll wait a few years before opening any more of this. i expected it will really be something one day. hold.
‘93 topolos piner heights - the first whiff was quite volatile, although it did smell like very good vinegar. i suspect this wine had that funky nose from the beginning (the ‘90 smelled like laquer on relase in ‘92). i poured it back into the bottle from the deacanter so as not to give it too much air. later i was able to enjoy it somewhat, despite its quirkiness. passed.
‘93 sausal - ready to go, brick edges, good fruit, probably best to drink in the near future.
‘93 sausal private reserve - a little hard & closed at first; later it opened and became smoothe and velvety with toasty oak flavors only giving glimpses of its potentail. ‘ will try again in 2004. hold.
‘93 turley hayne vineyard - texture like silk velvet, but then, it had that the first time i tasted it, as a barrel sample, at the zap event. it has lost very little with time, but gained very little. i believe i’ll dig the ‘94 turleys out and see what they are doing. drink.
‘94 rochioli sodini vineyard - ‘ had very high expectations of this wine from the time i tasted and bought it on release. two years ago i felt it had not resolved with the oak yet. it is softer now, but i want more texture and friut. i suppose i will continue to wait. hold.
conclusion:
i opened these and had them with dinner over the last fortnight or so and haven’t drunk this much zinfandel in years. in fact i felt that my palate had changed and that i prefered the balance and style of coche-dury volnay over jackass hill zin. it would probably be an amusing lab experiment to see whether chimps or rats have the same preference as i do. i expect they would go for both, but i bet the volnay would disappear fisrt.
a palate is a dynamic entity and changes with experince.
i have hardly touched any bordeaux in years even though i have the gems from ‘88, ‘89 ‘90. burgundy is just so seductive and classy that it makes bordeaux seem bitter. when the time comes for bordeaux, i will adapt my palate and gear up just as i am doing for these zins. no joking, it has not been easy with alcohol contents of 14, 15 & 16%; so yes, zinfandel is less classy grape than pinot or cab, but it has a place a place in the world....california.
well made zinfandel will age (given proper care), even though it has been made to be approachable in its youth. the vast majoriiy of wine is drunk soon after relase no matter how it was made.
there are still more bottles that i have to test, taste, i mean drink. ‘90 & ‘91 ravenswoods, ‘91 ridge lytton and geyserville magnums, ‘90 & ‘91 williams & selyem, ‘92 geyserville & etc.
Original Post
Last year I happened to be driving by the Deer Park winery tasting room in Escondido with G.A. and we decided to stop in to waste a little time. They were tasting thier "library" zins. I don't recall exactly what vintages we tasted, but some of them were like 15 years old! It was kind of a morbid curiosity that drove us to sample the stuff. If memory serves me correctly they were WELL past prime and kinda rancid. I had never tasted an old zin. and it was a different experience all together. [Smile]
I am glad to see the Ridge wines, I saw a posting on Parkers site http://www.gangofpour.com/ridgestock/index.html that has a very interesting vertical from Ridge. I have some Zin's from '95 and '96 that I just haven't gotten around to. Interesting Topolos notes, I stopped there a few years ago and bought some different Zin's. When I got home and opened them I dumped them down the drain because they were so bad, Light and funky no good at all.
Tastewine2: I hate to say this, but Topolos has seemingly made duds the last few years. Very nice people, and the restaurant was still good last year, though.

I have had Joseph Swan zins from the 60s in the last few years that were remarkably good. Mr. Swan was "The Godfather Of Zins and Pinots", and his initial efforts with zin was from the Topolos Vineyard, I believe.
Over the years, I've done my own tests, having some Zinfandels as much as 17 years old. Not a single one of them was any better after they passed four years of age. This is a wine built for the short haul. It's power and exuberant fruit are best appreciated in their youth, with no exceptions, in my experience.
About a year ago I had an '87 Ridge Geyserville. It was great, but not having had the wine before, I have no idea if it was better than it was on release. I've gone back and forth on this issue, but I think I'm with Board-O: zins can sometimes last a long time, but they don't necessarily improve.
rbon444 - the temperature in the wine chamber is usually about 59°f in the winter and 62°f in the summer. it’s a passive setup.

christopher curnutt - the difference, to me, between the apogee of burgundy that of zinfandel is signifigant. i like zin, but they often don’t have the balance that burgundy does.

acaronianasa - “improved” requires a value judge which i have no problem making, but you or others may not agree. some of the zins improved. the williams & selyem zins seem to need time to resolve the wood. others got better, too.

i’m thinking that the storage conditions are working pretty well and i don’t have to worry about putting off drinking the 1990 beauséjour-duffau until 2015. how much of a difference it has made with the zins, i don’t know.

tastewine2 - i found the box with a couple of bottles of ‘90 topolos rossi ranch zin and opened one last night. i remember tasting this wine on release, probably in ‘92, and thinking the nose reminded me of lacquer. it didn’t taste bad, just odd. i think i opened another bottle a few years ago and decided it needed more time. it seems that almost 12 years of age has improved the rossi ranch; the color was as bright purple as a 2 year old. the lacquer nose, that i recalled, had evolved into an intense eucalyptus flavor that overwhelmed everything else. it was not bad.

i wouldn’t recommend topolos zin to most people, but i would recommend the alicante (probably best fairly young), based on my memory of it years ago.

i don’t remember buying any zin since i bought the ‘97 ravenswood teldeschi zin and i only bought that because i made a barrel of wine from the same vineyard that year.

gmtinJapan - soon, i’ll be opening some swan zins; i have loved rod’s wine in the past. joe was before my time, but i know of his place in zin history.

board-o - ok. i tend to agree on some aspects, but might like to hear the details of your tests; namely, which wines. “no exceptions”, seems a little rigid. in robert parker’s 1987 wine buyer’s guide, he says that the ‘70 jimsomare zin
“is still not fully mature”. i don’t intend to seem like a zin advocate, i don’t buy it any more.
Never had it. My Zin verticals were Ridge Geyserville back to 1974. I'm not sure how much Zin was in the earlier ones. I've had Ridge Lytton Springs back to before Ridge bought the Lytton Springs Winery (Remember the flowered labels?) I've had Joseph Swan back to 1980, last in 1997 at Bern's. I've had MANY others back to the mid 1980's.
It's amazing how regularly the question of Zinfandel's ageability comes up. It's also amazing how the issue always has the same resolution: most zins don't improve with age, but a few notable exceptions might.

In my experience, some Ridge zins improve, if you accept that "improve" means they drink more pleasurably--though a bit differently--to my taste. The '92 Pagani LP that sfiorare described is a good example. In 1995 it drank very similarly to a young Port--big, bruising tannin, huge fruit, noticable alcohol. By 1998 it had mellowed quite a bit, more silky in the mouth, alcohol not so obvious. After reading sfiorare's note, I'm sorry I don't still have a couple of bottles.

I think my all-time favorite zin was an '84 Ridge York Creek, drunk in '95. It wasn't very zin-ish, but what it lost in bramble and berry power it made up for in enjoyable texture and finesse. We drank it at the same dinner as an '86 Beausejour-Duffau, and I believe everyone preferred the zin (they sometimes do become a bit Bordeaux-like when they're older).

In any event, I think all experienced wine drinkers at some point make the decision about whether they prefer their wines younger or older, and they do what suits them best. Different strokes, and all that.
I agree with the rule that most Zins should be drunk up within 5-6 years, and that they show best in the first 2-3 years, but I think there are exceptions.

A '78 Lytton Springs Winery Zin drunk in '91 was outstanding. Still rich and well concentrated in the fruit department. And it still tasted like Zin, too, with added layers of complexity, not just like generic old wine, which is where most aged Zins go.

A '91 Ridge Lytton Springs drunk in '00 performed pretty much the same trick as the '78 Lytton Springs.

Several bottles of early '90s Lytton Springs and Ridge Geyserville have held up nicely and been quite enjoyable at 7-10 years of age, but they haven't developed the "magic in the bottle." Then again, Geyserville is a bit of a different animal because of the blend. In my experience, the Paganis get flabby over time.

Despite my few great experiences with older Zins, aging them is not a high-percentage proposition, and doesn't make sense if you like Zin for the blast of up-front brambly fruit.
I don't think the debate is if they hold up or not. Everyone seems to agree that the high pedigree (Ridge in particular) hold up fine, it's if they improve at all.

Jimsomare is the only one anyone has sited as improving with time. IS that what everyone else is getting out of this?
Zinners and readers alike;
One of my local shops has uncovered a 'special order' of '92 Ridge York Creek zin and has priced it at $19. I know York Creek is typically one of the 'weak sisters' of the Ridge family, but for $19, I think it'll be an interesting experiment.

Storage was very good to excellent, and one the store clerks, who had recently tried it in a tasting, said that for her tastes the 'big, bombastic zin fruit flavors' that she looks for in a zin were gone, but that it wasn't 'bad'. I trust Carmen's judgement and palate, but I'm gonna have try this one myself! TN's to follow.

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