The 2003 Ledson Russian River Valley Old Vine Zinfandel is an example of everything this much-maligned grape is capable of producing. Many people stay away from Zinfandel because of the terrible “White Zin” craze of a decade or two ago. That is a shame, and one glass of this wine shows why.
The beautiful deep ruby color swirling in the glass releases very complex aromas. Black pepper and leather give way to sweeter aromas of brown sugar and spice that reminded me of freshly made pralines. All of these impressions were carried on an obvious alcohol presence.
The first sip brought a pleasant surprise of bright fruit flavors. Cherry, blueberry, plum and rhubarb flavors mix with hints of other dark berries to provide mouthwatering acidity that very nicely balances the smooth tannins. Eventually the characteristics one expects in the better examples of this varietal begin to take over. Brown sugar and baking spices dominate. Cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon make the long finish exceptionally enjoyable.
I paired this wine with a meat and cheese tray and it was very good with all of the cheeses, but was spectacular with a lighter chevre. It didn’t play quite as nicely with the spicy meats due to the high alcohol (14.2%) content. The alcohol enhanced spices of the salamis tended to bury the more subtle flavors that made this wine so enjoyable. My next bottle of this, and I hope to have many more, will be paired with more care.