10 Best Zinfandel Wines in California (2022)

10 Best Zinfandel Wines in California Featured

Zinfandel: California’s Renowned Grape

Typically known as Primitivo, Zinfandel comes from Italy but has found a new home in California, USA. The Californian wine industry has adopted Zinfandel, with this red variety cultivated in more than 10% of the region’s vineyards. On top of that, Zinfandel grows prolifically in California due to the Mediterranean climate found there. This allows the production of juicy and bold wines. Hence, Californian Zinfandels show high alcohol content, from 14 to 17%.


Best Cheap Overall Best Value Best Under $15 Best Under $20 Best Under $25 Best Under $30 Best Under $40 Best Under $50 Best Under $100 Best With Unlimited Budget
Bottle
Name Turley Cedarman Vineyard Zinfandel The Prisoner Saldo Zinfandel 1000 Stories Zinfandel Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel Napa Cellars Zinfandel Frank Family Zinfandel Rombauer Vineyards Zinfandel Orin Swift Eight Years In The Desert LangeTwins Centennial Zinfandel Martinelli Jackass Vineyard Zinfandel
Color Red Red Red Red Red Red Red Red Red Red
Country United States United States United States United States United States United States United States United States United States United States
Grapes Zinfandel Zinfandel Zinfandel Zinfandel Zinfandel Zinfandel Zinfandel Zinfandel Zinfandel Zinfandel
Taste Raspberry, Blueberry, Plum, Cocoa, Bramble, Tobacco, Cedar, Licorice Raspberry, Plum, Raisin, Chocolate, Smoke, Forest Floor Blackberry, Cocoa, Coffee, Clove, Caramel, Butterscotch Cherry, Raspberry, Plum, Blueberry, Licorice, Leather, Raisin, Smoke, White Pepper Blackberry, Plum, Citrus, Pepper, Fig, Charred Wood, Toasted Oak, Smoke Blackberry, Cherry, Redcurrant, Smoke, Pepper, Butterscotch, Sage, Eucalyptus Blueberry, Fig, Licorice, Plum, Dark Chocolate, Pepper Plum, Bramble, Blackberry, Blackcurrant, Forest Floor, Chocolate, Dried Herbs Blackberry, Prune, Plum, Fig, Cinnamon Stick, Clove, Bay Leaf Blueberry, Cherry, Plum, Fig, Cedar, Smoke, Leather, Tobacco, Cinnamon Stick
Food Pairing Rib-eye Steak, Lamb Rack, Barbequed Chicken, Roast Pork, Pulled Pork Ham, Lamb Chops With Thai Peanut Sauce, Beef Burger, Grilled Chicken, Feta Lamb With Anchovies, Veal Stew, Lasagna, Sausages With Peppers, Feta Lamb Burgers, Rib-eye, Stilton, Gorgonzola Venison, Brisket, Duck, Pork Belly, Cannelloni, Chili Con Carne Fillet Mignon, Flank Steak, Smoked Sausage, Fried Chicken, And Lasagna Lamb Leg, Rib-eye Steak, Roast Goose, Pheasant, Pizza Roast Pork, Glazed Ham, Barbecue Venison, Roasted Squash Lamb Rack, Pulled Pork, Beef Burgers, Veal Stew, Manchego, And Aged Cheddar Lamb Rack, Braised Lamb Shanks With Parsley Pesto, Roast Pork Loin, Smoked Sausage, Grilled Chicken
Alcohol Content 15.5% 15.5% 15.2% 15.6% 14.9% 14.6% 15.9% 15.6% 15.6% 16.9%
Sugar Content Dry Dry Dry Dry Dry Dry Dry Dry Dry Dry
Our Rating 4.9 out of 5 stars (4.9 / 5) 4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5) 4.6 out of 5 stars (4.6 / 5) 4.7 out of 5 stars (4.7 / 5) 4.6 out of 5 stars (4.6 / 5) 4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5) 4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5) 4.9 out of 5 stars (4.9 / 5) 4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5) 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)
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Californian Trademark

In California, Zinfandel grows in Napa Valley, Sonoma, and Lodi, for the most part. The grapes ripen unevenly, so it’s not uncommon to find under-ripe Zinfandel grapes next to overripe ones. The riper grapes, as expected, give jammy wines with pronounced flavors of plums, blackberries, and bramble. At the same time, the under-ripe grapes are responsible for California’s signature off-dry rosé wine, White Zinfandel.

Finally, Lodi is renowned for its Old Vine Zinfandel. By far, this is the tastiest and most complex expression of Zinfandel wine. As a result, Old Vine Zinfandel is considered the premium version of the wine. You’ll expect to pay a considerable amount to get your own Old Vine Zinfandel bottle. Hopefully, wine fans wondering what is the best Zinfandel in California will have their answer after reading this article.


Best Zinfandel Wines in California

Best Overall

  • Name — Turley Cedarman Vineyard Zinfandel
  • Winery — Turley
  • Country/Region — United States, California, North Coast, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
  • Type — Californian Zinfandel
  • Aroma — Boysenberry, Blackberry, Cracked Pepper, Game Meat, Forest Floor
  • Grapes — Zinfandel
  • Taste — Raspberry, Blueberry, Plum, Cocoa, Bramble, Tobacco, Cedar, Licorice
  • Alcohol Content — 15.5%
  • Sugar — Dry
  • Pairing — Rib-eye Steak, Lamb Rack, Barbequed Chicken, Roast Pork, Pulled Pork
Overall Rating: 4.9

Positives
  • Concentrated Flavor
  • Expressive Of The Terroir
  • Lengthy Finish
Negatives
  • Might Be Too Havy For Some People

Tasting Notes

Turley Cedarman Vineyard Zinfandel could be the best Zinfandel in California for one reason: It shows such a bold, concentrated flavor. On top of that, the fruit has been cultivated organically, meaning it reflects the Napa Valley terroir in every sip!

With a bouquet of wild raspberry, boysenberry, and blackberry together with nuances of cracked pepper, game meat, and forest floor, Turley Cedarman Vineyard Zinfandel starts off in a dynamic way, with a complex nose. On the palate, the wine displays a concentrated flavor of jammy brambles, blueberries, and plums, accentuated by cocoa, sweet tobacco, cedar, and licorice. This complexity carries on to the lengthy finish, where fine-grained tannins combine with notes of prune, violets, and rhubarb, concluding the tasting journey.

Dedicated to Organic Viticulture, Producing Expressive Old Vine Wines

Turley Wine Cellars is dedicated to organic and sustainable viticulture. The winery focuses on Old Vine vineyards to preserve California’s winemaking culture. This notion is prevalent in Turley Cedarman Vineyard Zinfandel, which brims with depth and flavor concentration.


Best Value

  • Name — The Prisoner Saldo Zinfandel
  • Winery — The Prisoner
  • Country/Region — United States, California
  • Type — Californian Zinfandel
  • Aroma — Licorice, Fig, Cherry, Cranberry, Cinnamon Spice, Clove
  • Grapes — Zinfandel
  • Taste — Raspberry, Plum, Raisin, Chocolate, Smoke, Forest Floor
  • Alcohol Content — 15.5%
  • Sugar — Dry
  • Pairing — Ham, Lamb Chops With Thai Peanut Sauce, Beef Burger, Grilled Chicken, Feta
Overall Rating: 4.8

Positives
  • Velvety Tannins
  • Smooth Texture
  • Incredible Aromatic And Flavor Sensations
Negatives
  • Very High Alcoholic Content For A Non-fortified Wine

Tasting Notes

Produced from grapes sourced from Amador, Lodi, and Dry Creek, the Prisoner Saldo Zinfandel is a great red wine with a dark ruby-red color. On the nose, the wine shows the aromas of cherries, baking spices, and licorice, among others. The palate is bold, with hints of chocolate, raspberries, plums, and raisins. Likewise, the finish is powerful and lengthy, packed with a pronounced creaminess and notes of smoke, earth, and cloves.

The tannins are soft and smooth, like velvet, and add to the rounded texture. This is one of the better examples of this type of wine. With fantastic balance and superb structure, it gives drinking pleasure! It’s jammy, and the cherry-chocolate palate displays toastiness and there are herbaceous elements, too. Sure, at times it tastes sweet, but that’s because it’s so rich. Pair with grilled Rib-eye steak.

Winemaker Inspired by Spain’s Iconic Artist

The Prisoner Wine Company is inspired by the 19th Century sketch Le Petit Prisoner of Spanish artist Francisco Goya. The painting became a protest against the racism, fascism, and brutality of the Spanish War of Independence in 1808. In this way, the Prisoner Wine Company indicates that they’re completely against any form of racism and that they embrace diversity.


Best Under $15

  • Name — 1000 Stories Zinfandel
  • Winery — 1000 Stories
  • Country/Region — United States, California
  • Type — Californian Zinfandel
  • Aroma — Raspberry, Strawberry, Blueberry, Nutmeg, Clove
  • Grapes — Zinfandel
  • Taste — Blackberry, Cocoa, Coffee, Clove, Caramel, Butterscotch
  • Alcohol Content — 15.2%
  • Sugar — Dry
  • Pairing — Lamb With Anchovies, Veal Stew, Lasagna, Sausages With Peppers, Feta
Overall Rating: 4.6

Positives
  • Elegant Bouquet
  • Graceful Tasting Profile
  • Oak-aged In Bourbon Barrels
Negatives
  • Can Be Too Syrupy At Times

Tasting Notes

This wine tells the story of how it has evolved. By combining American and French oak perfectly, it comes off as bold and distinctive. And for this reason, despite its approachable price, it is considered one of the best California Zinfandel wines. Smokey and oaky, 1000 Stories Zinfandel is warm, rich, and graceful. It begins with fragrances of red berries, blueberries, nutmeg, and cloves.

The palate is luscious and bold, showing jammy blackberry and blackcurrant flavors. These flavors combine seamlessly with notes of cloves, cocoa, mocha, and caramel. The fermentation in the bourbon barrels has given the wine a unique butterscotch texture and tastes of sweet tobacco, tree bark, and whiskey. The finish is lengthy, while the acidity is moderate but refreshing. Pair with grilled meats, like sausages, pork, or beef.

Fermenting in Bourbon Barrels

1000 Stories is the story of winemaker Bob Blue, who began his journey in winemaking decades ago. Back then, wine barrels were difficult to obtain in the United States, so he used bourbon casks to mature his wine. This, however, gave Bob Blue’s wines a distinct bourbon character and an identity. And even if today, American and French oak barrels are available in the US, 1000 Stories still uses bourbon barrels because of the distinctive flavor it brings to the wine.


Best Under $20

  • Name — Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel
  • Winery — Seghesio
  • Country/Region — United States, California, North Coast, Sonoma County
  • Type — Californian Zinfandel
  • Aroma — Blackberry, Sage, Cinnamon Spice, Cedar
  • Grapes — Zinfandel
  • Taste — Cherry, Raspberry, Plum, Blueberry, Licorice, Leather, Raisin, Smoke, White Pepper
  • Alcohol Content — 15.6%
  • Sugar — Dry
  • Pairing — Lamb Burgers, Rib-eye, Stilton, Gorgonzola
Overall Rating: 4.7

Positives
  • Plush Palate
  • Creamy Texture
  • Soft Tannins
Negatives
  • Spiciness May Not Be For Everyone

Tasting Notes

This is a fine Zinfandel example from the Seghesio winery. This specific one begins with a nose of blackberries and cedarwood and has a palate of juicy plums and blackcurrants. The great thing about this wine is that it is reliable, meaning that every vintage is of the same high quality.

It makes an awesome example of what this winery can do. The bouquet is packed with touches of cedar, sage, blackberry, and baking spices, while the generous palate presents flavors of red and black fruits, as well as hints of pepper. The tannins are soft and velvety, while the finish is silky and lingering.

An Old Winery

As one of the most respected wineries in the United States, the Seghesio Family Vineyards have cultivated Zinfandel vines for at least 100 years in Sonoma. Sure, Zinfandel’s popularity waxed over the last decades, but that doesn’t mean that Seghesio doesn’t keep producing high-end wines.


Best Under $25

  • Name — Napa Cellars Zinfandel
  • Winery — Napa Cellars
  • Country/Region — United States, California, North Coast, Napa County, Napa Valley
  • Type — Californian Zinfandel
  • Aroma — Cherry, Strawberry, Raspberry, Vanilla Spice, Cinnamon Spice, Bay Leaf
  • Grapes — Zinfandel
  • Taste — Blackberry, Plum, Citrus, Pepper, Fig, Charred Wood, Toasted Oak, Smoke
  • Alcohol Content — 14.9%
  • Sugar — Dry
  • Pairing — Venison, Brisket, Duck, Pork Belly, Cannelloni, Chili Con Carne
Overall Rating: 4.6

Positives
  • Fruit-forward Nose
  • Silky Tannins
  • Robust Woodsy Sensations
Negatives
  • Slightly Burning Sensation On The Back Palate

Tasting Notes

The grapes of this Zin are hand-picked from some of the warmest vineyards of Napa Valley, including St. Helena and Calistoga. Napa Cellars Zinfandel has undergone aging in American and French oak barrels, thus, contributing to a fulfilling and mouthwatering experience. As soon as the wine is uncorked, fruity aromas of cherry, strawberry, and raspberry emerge, accompanied by vanilla, cinnamon, and bay leaf spices. In the mouth, the tannins are fine and silky.

Next, flavors of blackberries, plums, and peaches blend harmonically with citrus, pepper, and fig touches for a structured mouthfeel. And as mentioned above, the wine has been oaked. Therefore, robust sensations of charred wood, toasted oak, and smoke are discernable, too. As to the finish, it is fruity, palatable, and fresh.

Wine From Exceptional Quality Fruit

For over 40 years, Napa Cellars has been crafting fine wine in the Napa Valley. The grapes are sourced from their estate, sustainably farmed vineyards, or esteemed partner grape growers dedicated to the terroir of Napa Valley. Napa Cellars was founded in 1976 along Highway 29 in Oakville by Charlie Woods. Since then, they have crafted classic wines, unmistakably interpreting the distinctiveness of Napa Valley’s territory.


Best Under $30

  • Name — Frank Family Zinfandel
  • Winery — Frank Family
  • Country/Region — United States, California, North Coast, Napa County, Napa Valley
  • Type — Californian Zinfandel
  • Aroma — Raspberry, Blackberry, Blackcurrant, Coffee, Potpourri
  • Grapes — Zinfandel
  • Taste — Blackberry, Cherry, Redcurrant, Smoke, Pepper, Butterscotch, Sage, Eucalyptus
  • Alcohol Content — 14.6%
  • Sugar — Dry
  • Pairing — Fillet Mignon, Flank Steak, Smoked Sausage, Fried Chicken, And Lasagna
Overall Rating: 4.8

Positives
  • Captivating Appearance
  • Jammy, Plush Mouth
  • Powerful Tannins Lead To A Lingering Finish
Negatives
  • Overwhelming Sweetness At Times

Tasting Notes

Frank Family Zinfandel is one of the top-rated Zinfandel wines in California. And there is a good reason for that. It is fragrant and earthy with a core of dark and red fruits and hints of mocha and cardamom. At the same time, robust tannins find unique harmony in the long and lingering finish, producing an amazingly delicious outcome.

The wine has a deep garnet-purple color in the glass, captivating wine enthusiasts. Pronounced aromas of stewed raspberry, blackberry, and blackcurrant enhance the wine’s crispy acidity, while scents of mocha, potpourri, and baking spice complete the bouquet. Full-bodied, on the palate, Frank Family Zinfandel shows a core of black and red fruits and a frame of powerful but well-integrated tannins. The finish is lingering and peppery.

A Winey of Historical Interest

Originally constructed as the Larkmead Winery in 1884, Frank Family Vineyards was established in 1906 when it was refinished with sandstone. In fact, this winery is considered a Point of Historical Interest in California State, which is impressive, to say the least.

Frank Family Vineyards wines are produced by owner Richard Frank in small quantities and are sold only within the winery’s premises and from a handful of retailers. Except for high-quality Zinfandel, Frank Family Vineyards produces Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and sparkling wines made with the Traditional Method, too.


Best Under $40

  • Name — Rombauer Vineyards Zinfandel
  • Winery — Rombauer Vineyards
  • Country/Region — United States, California
  • Type — Californian Zinfandel
  • Aroma — Blackberry, Boysenberry, Raspberry, Vanilla Spice, Tea, Game Meat
  • Grapes — Zinfandel
  • Taste — Blueberry, Fig, Licorice, Plum, Dark Chocolate, Pepper
  • Alcohol Content — 15.9%
  • Sugar — Dry
  • Pairing — Lamb Leg, Rib-eye Steak, Roast Goose, Pheasant, Pizza
Overall Rating: 4.8

Positives
  • Complex But Elegant Flavor Profile
  • Rich, Luscious Tastes
  • Fresh Finish
Negatives
  • Too Syrupy At Times

Tasting Notes

A charming Zin, Rombauer Vineyards Zinfandel exhibits concentrated aromas of boysenberry and blackberry on the nose and a flood of chocolate and pepper in the mouth. Undoubtedly, Rombauer Vineyards Zinfandel is an elegant and complicated wine. It begins with pronounced fragrances of jammy blackberries, boysenberries, and raspberries mingled with vanilla spice, tea, and game meat.

Rich tastes of blueberries, fig, licorice, and plum dominate the palate as dark chocolate and pepper abound in the background. The texture is round and velvety, while the tannins are subtle but chewy and go for a fresh finish. Overall, the wine is quite balanced and perfect for enjoying over the coming 5 years or so, if stored correctly.

Aging Wine Inside Caves

Founded in 1982 by Koerner and Joan Rombauer, Rombauer Vineyards sits atop a tree-covered hill overlooking the picturesque Napa Valley. The unique thing about the winery is the caves it features, which extend for over a mile into the hillside. The caves provide optimum storage conditions for wine aging, such as constant temperature and humidity.

In a way, they resemble the renowned caves in Pleven, where Bulgarian winemakers mature their wines. Whether you are collecting or just enjoying drinking wine, Rombauer Vineyards will have something for you. And if you also happen to be a Zinfandel fan, Rombauer Vineyards Zinfandel could be the best wine choice!


Best Under $50

  • Name — Orin Swift Eight Years In The Desert
  • Winery — Orin Swift
  • Country/Region — United States, California
  • Type — Californian Zinfandel
  • Aroma — Raspberry, Cherry, Fig, Prune, Peppercorn, Coffee, Soil, Fennel
  • Grapes — Zinfandel
  • Taste — Plum, Bramble, Blackberry, Blackcurrant, Forest Floor, Chocolate, Dried Herbs
  • Alcohol Content — 15.6%
  • Sugar — Dry
  • Pairing — Roast Pork, Glazed Ham, Barbecue Venison, Roasted Squash
Overall Rating: 4.9

Positives
  • Explosive Fruit Aromas
  • Richly Textured Palate
  • Uplifting Aftertaste
Negatives
  • Occasional Bitter Touch

Tasting Notes

An explosive Zinfandel, Orin Swift Eight Years In The Desert is opulent, lush, and complex. With a palate of bramble fruit, cocoa, and forest floor flavors, the wine offers an immersive wine-drinking experience. Powerful aromas of raspberry, cherry, fig, prune, and peppercorn dominate in the glass, and as time goes by, explosive scents of mocha coffee, soil, and fennel elevate.

The palate is richly textured, with rich flavors of plums, bramble, blackberries, and blackcurrant. Notes of forest floor and dark chocolate add structure and depth to the wine, as uplifting minerality mingled with subtle touches of dried herbs surfaces on the mid-palate.

Expressive and Finesse Wine

Led by winemaker Dave Phinney, Orin Swift Cellars are known for their evocative expression of art on the wine bottle label and wine with true finesse. They are based in St. Helena, within Napa Valley, and feature a diverse wine portfolio, appealing to a variety of senses. On top of that, every one of their wines is produced only with the highest quality fruit available. Consequently, there is this good reason that Orin Swift Eight Years In The Desert is so spectacular!


Best Under $100

  • Name — LangeTwins Centennial Zinfandel
  • Winery — LangeTwins
  • Country/Region — United States, California, Central Valley, Lodi
  • Type — Californian Zinfandel
  • Aroma — Raspberry, Redcurrant, Cherry, Blackberry, Cinnamon Spice
  • Grapes — Zinfandel
  • Taste — Blackberry, Prune, Plum, Fig, Cinnamon Stick, Clove, Bay Leaf
  • Alcohol Content — 15.6%
  • Sugar — Dry
  • Pairing — Lamb Rack, Pulled Pork, Beef Burgers, Veal Stew, Manchego, And Aged Cheddar
Overall Rating: 4.8

Positives
  • Warm Spicy Bouquet
  • Velvety Mouth
  • Emphatic Aftertaste
  • Good Balance
Negatives
  • Slightly Spicy

Tasting Notes

LangeTwins Centennial Zinfandel is a bright reflection of old-growth vines. With a traditional winemaking approach that enables the complexity of the prestigious Lewis Family Vineyard to shine through, this wine is packed with concentrated flavors of dark and red fruits and a pronounced oak influence. Nuances of raspberries, redcurrants, cherries, and blackberries meld together on the nose with licorice and warm spice tones created from 24 months of maturation in American oak barrels.

The palate is velvety, with supple tannins and a fine, round texture. Sumptuous yet incredibly balanced, juicy black fruit interlaces with cinnamon stick, clove, and bay leaf notes, as the uplifting acidity refreshes, finishing long and emphatically. Pair LangeTwins Centennial Zinfandel with heavy meats and barbequed goodies glazed with a smoky barbeque sauce. Perfect for sipping over the coming 7-10 years when stored well.

Winemaking Spanning for Generations

The Lange family has embraced sustainable viticulture in Lodi for five generations. They are an advocate of the concept that great wine starts in the vineyard. Since opening the winery in 2006, they have continued to expand with state-of-the-art equipment and technologies to keep up with the demand for LangeTwins wines!


Best With Unlimited Budget

  • Name — Martinelli Jackass Vineyard Zinfandel
  • Winery — Martinelli
  • Country/Region — United States, California, North Coast, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
  • Type — Californian Zinfandel
  • Aroma — Raspberry, Blackberry, Peach, Apricot, Potpourri, Licorice, Smoke, Dried Violet
  • Grapes — Zinfandel
  • Taste — Blueberry, Cherry, Plum, Fig, Cedar, Smoke, Leather, Tobacco, Cinnamon Stick
  • Alcohol Content — 16.9%
  • Sugar — Dry
  • Pairing — Lamb Rack, Braised Lamb Shanks With Parsley Pesto, Roast Pork Loin, Smoked Sausage, Grilled Chicken
Overall Rating: 5.0

Positives
  • Incredibly Complicated Nose
  • Concentrated Palate
  • Pronounced Oaky Sensations
  • Superb Aging Potential
  • Perfectly Balanced
Negatives
  • Nothing Much

Tasting Notes

This Zinfandel is very approachable, indeed. However, to reach its full potential, it would have to stay in the cellar for a decade and a half. For optimum flavor, do not drink before 2030. Sweet berry aromas and a powerful palate filled with savory and charred wood sensations define this Zinfandel powerhouse. From the get-go the wine shows fragrances of berry preserves, peaches, apricots, and potpourri, making it dynamic.

These aromas are followed by smoke, dried violets, licorice, and tobacco scents, which intensify as time goes by. The palate has great depth and juiciness, with savory components dominating. Cedar, smoke, leather, cinnamon stick, and herbs complement the dark fruit core, and the wave of Asian spices completes the tasting profile.

World-Class Wine Production

Cultivating grapes since the 1880s, the Martinelli family is one of the most recognized in the US for producing rich, high-quality wines. Above all, they abide by a strong work ethic and consider the stewardship of the terroir a way of life. This Zinfandel has been produced with grapes cultivated in the Jackass Vineyard, a plot of land which lies on the steepest, non-terraced vineyard in Sonoma. For the most part, the Martinellis are not just wine producers but also wine merchants, selling their grapes to some of California’s best winemakers.

Conclusion

If you are on the lookout for the best-selling Zinfandel wines in California, these should get you going. Most are from producers encompassing organic and sustainable viticulture, meaning that the wines are extremely expressive of the California terroir. Just find the one that appeals to you most, take a sip, close your eyes, and imagine walking among the dense grapevine plantings of Napa Valley, St. Helena, and Lodi!

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