by Fred McMillin
for June 18, 1997
California's Best Buy Grape
Prologue: The 1996 California Winegrape Harvest— Tons crushed of Cabernet Sauvignon = 159,000, Zinfandel = 300,000. Average price per ton of Cabernet Sauvignon = $1,095, Zinfandel = $564.
The Rest of the Story: Cabernet Sauvignon vines arrived in California over 100 years ago. In short order it became clear that the Cab made a better red wine than the Zinfandel, and Cab became the more expensive grape. It is still the case today.
However, my tasters repeatedly find Zinfandel superior in one way. The prologue shows that there's twice as much Zin available at about half the price. So, when the panel compares a Cab and Zin that cost the same, the Zin usually gets the higher rating by something like 10%.
This is particularly apparent when a superior winemaker looks over the 40,000+ acres of California Zinfandel and spots a superior vineyard or two. A case in point is Dr. David Bruce's Vintner's Select 1994 Zinfandel. While his winery is in the Santa Cruz area, half the grapes for this wine came from San Luis Obispo far to the south, and half came from El Dorado County, over a 100 miles to the northeast. The wine packs a peppery punch and much more for only $10...very hard to find a $10 Cab that's its equal.
1994 Vintner's Select Zinfandel
Category: Highly Recommended in its price range
Postscript: Decades ago a young dermatologist joined in the search for a small boy lost in the Santa Cruz Mtns. Dr. David Bruce brought the boy to the nearest house, that of a vintner. Hot and thirsty, he was served his first wine. Voila! He had not only found the boy, but also his future!
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