Because they're versatile and food-friendly, we drink zins year-round, with a special preference for those made from the intensely flavorful grapes grown sparingly on old vines. The 2007 Zen of Zin Old Vines Zinfandel (about $8 but often discounted at big box stores and supermarkets), from Sonoma County vintner Ravenswood, fills the bill for us nicely. It's great with hearty cold-weather fare like meaty stews, but it's just as good as a companion to the backyard grill or with a nice wedge of soft cheese served with fresh figs.
Colette describes Zen of Zin as a very zin zin, by which she means it is for her a true expression of the varietal. It begins with a heady, smoky aroma and on the tongue delivers the bramble any zin worthy of the name will display. That, plus intense cherry and dark fruits, are in the fore, but chocolate is prominent, too, underlaid by mellow leather and a smidgen of cinnamon for extra punch. The finish is long and lush, displaying each distinct flavor note in reverse as the wine goes down.
Appropriately, Ravenswood Winery's motto is "no wimpy wines." The house is famous for its reliable zins bottled under the Ravenswood label, from its workhorse Vintner's Blend to distinctive single-vineyard vintages, with old vines well represented. Zen of Zin, sourced from vineyards scattered over California wine country, is meant to be Ravenswood's everyday wine. At this bargain price, it fills that bill nicely, too.
By Colette and John Bancroft. She is the Times' book editor, and he is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel.