Pairing zinfandel with Thanksgiving dinner is highly fitting, as no wine grape is as American as zinfandel. Plus, zinfandel has gorgeous color, delectably rich fruit and expressive complexity. Zins also pair well with a variety of foods, and quality bottlings are less expensive than most other red wines.

Below are my favorite zinfandels selected from 80 sampled in recent tastings. Unfortunately, I had to exclude fine bottlings from Soda Rock Winery, as it was destroyed in the recent Kincade wildfire. This column is dedicated to the recovery of Soda Rock and all other California wineries affected by recent fires, as well as to the well-being of their employees.


Maggio 2017 Zinfandel “Old Vine, Lodi” ($11): The best of ten zins under $15 far outperforms its modest cost with power, well-balanced fruit, strong personality and attractive core tannins.

Ironstone 2018 Zinfandel “Old Vine, Lodi” ($14): Another bargain in modestly priced zins, Ironstone has strength and fruit along with full body and very good complexity. It is especially appealing to wine lovers who like tannic structure.

Klinker Brick 2016 Zinfandel “Old Vine, Lodi” ($19): My favorite under $20 offers purple hue in the glass and strength and complexity on nose and palate, as well as an attractive finish nicely framed by core tannins.

Folie à Deux 2016 Zinfandel “Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County” ($20): This exceptional buy delivers far more than its price suggests, thanks to strong fruit accompanied by excellent balance, impressive refinement and a long-lingering finish.

Smith-Devereux 2017 red blend “No. 3, California” ($20): Highly appealing, especially for the price, this syrah-zinfandel blend is very strong with lush, finely balanced fruit. I particularly enjoyed its development in the mouth extending for great length.


Kunde 2016 Zinfandel “Sonoma Valley” ($22): Attractive all-around, with luminescent color as well as strength and complexity on the nose. Its strong attack features fruit and tannins and is followed by pleasing crispness, fine integration and long length.

Seghesio 2017 Zinfandel “Sonoma County” ($26): Highly appealing in all dimensions, especially with very good strength, fruit and complexity on nose and palate. I loved its excellent balance and beautiful combination of fruit and tannins persisting for long-lasting length.

Bear Flag 2016 Zinfandel “Sonoma County” ($27): Features a strong attack with forward, wonderfully balanced fruit. It then develops appealing complexity, integration and refinement, all of which persist for great length.

Saldo (by The Prisoner Wine Company) 2017 Zinfandel “California” ($32): Highly appealing on nose and palate. Very well balanced fruit initially dominates, followed by core tannins that lead to the development of attractive complexity throughout an extended finish.

Old Ghost (by Klinker Brick Winery) 2016 Zinfandel “Old Vine, Lodi” ($37): This impressive zin tops its price category with luminescent color and beautiful development of power, fruit and multidimensional complexity on both nose and palate.

Seghesio 2016 Zinfandel “Old Vine, Sonoma County” ($40): Very strong with gorgeous fruit, excellent balance and engaging growth and expression of complexity. Plus, its forward, pleasing personality lingers for great length on the finish.

Over $40

Director’s Cut 2017 red blend “Cinema, Sonoma County” ($44): This exceptional blend of cabernet and zinfandel poses great beauty to the eye, nose and palate. I loved its smooth texture, well-balanced fruit and complexity-enhancing tannins.

Dutcher Crossing 2016 Zinfandel “Bernier Sibary Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley” ($47): This wonderful zin features luscious fruit on the attack, soon joined by balancing acidity, followed by engaging tannins and ending with a long-lingering finish (available from

Dutcher Crossing 2017 Zinfandel “Maple Vineyard, Bill’s Block, Dry Creek Valley” ($56): Beautifully hued and very strong and complex on the nose, but even more impressive on the palate with great fruit on the attack joined by engaging tannins and complexity over prolonged length (available from

Hartford 2017 Zinfandel “Old Vine, Hartford Vineyard, Russian River Valley” ($60): Exceptional on both nose and palate! Features strength and impressive complexity, as well as integrated tannins, wonderful development, forward personality and a long-lasting finish.

Kunde 2016 Zinfandel “Reserve, Century Vines, Sonoma Valley” ($60): Kunde’s reserve bottling has a highly impressive nose with intensity, fruit and engaging complexity, all fully affirmed by the first sip, which also reveals thick body, core tannins and great length.

John Vankat’s Pine Wine appears most months and his Wine Pick of the Week is published every Wednesday. Wines can be ordered from local wine stores unless indicated otherwise. Prices may differ. John can be reached at


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