California's Amador County is famous for its zinfandel plantings and wines, boasting some of the oldest zin vineyards in the country. In fact, the Grandpere vineyard lays claim to zin plantings dating to 1869, making them some of the oldest zin vines on the planet.
In the midst of all this fabulous zin history sits the county's Shenandoah Valley, home of Sobon Estate, a family winery that produces a number of varietal wines but is best known for its great big zins. Its 2009 Hillside Zinfandel (about $11 at big box stores) is not a huge zin but it is full and satisfying, from its black cherry and black pepper nose right through to the nip of gingerbread that rounds out a long and spicy finish. Up front and through mid palate, this lush, fruit-forward red offers the black cherry and black pepper promised by its bouquet, as well as a captivating hint of ripe fig.
Muscular reds go well with just about any red meat you can name, but this one would be particularly seductive with crispy roasted duck or duck quesadillas spiked with poblano chiles.
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.