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Published May 18, 2011

Even in the summer heat, zinfandel is one red wine that drinks smoothly and makes an excellent companion to robust meals of everything from grilled steak to fresh mushroom lasagna. Drink it at room temp or pop it into the fridge for no more than an hour before serving; its full savor will still come shining through.

The 2009 Green Bridge Zinfandel (about $10 at wine-savvy markets) is made from organically grown grapes in California's quirky Paso Robles district on the Central Coast. The Green Bridge Vineyards are no Johnny-come-latelies to the organic fair, having had their first vineyard certified organic in 1988, well ahead of the curve.

This is a subtler zin than some, with the bramble hidden inside a velvet glove reminiscent of the texture of a good merlot. On the nose it offers ripe blackberry, a smidge of plum and a little black pepper kick. All of those flavors bloom on the tongue, as well, with rum raisin and a trace of vanilla chiming in at mid palate, yielding a smooth, nicely structured wine touched with spice. The finish is medium long with plum ascendant at the end, where a snap of ginger also reveals itself.

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