Our shorthand for Wine of the Week (and maybe yours) is wow, an exclamation that fits the 2009 Mettler Family Vineyards Lodi Zinfandel (about $19 at big-box stores and wine shops) like a glove.
First clue to this stunning red's promise is its provenance, California's Lodi district, the epicenter for outstanding zins. This one is a blend of 78 percent old vines zin, 12 percent petite sirah and a smidge of cabernet franc, a combination that yields a beautifully complex and full-bodied wine.
In the glass this zin is a deep plum purple. The plum comes through on the nose, too, abetted by notes of warm spice and black pepper. On the tongue it rewards us with three very distinct but smoothly transitioned flavor phases, all informed by that inimitable zin bramble. First there is an opening burst of juicy dark stone fruits, especially black cherry, plus blackberry and the warm spice detected in its bouquet. Next comes a deep and mellow mid-palate that adds notes of dark chocolate and tobacco to the blend. Finally there is a surprising finish, long and smooth and smoky.
We love zinfandels and this has just become one of our favorites, one we'll happily pair with a really good dry-aged steak, a classic rack of lamb or a chicken and sweet potato curry thickened with fresh banana.
By Colette and John Bancroft. She is the Times' book editor, and he is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel. For an index and archive of reviews, go to pictograph.com.