Wine Review: Zinfandel (RED)

10/10/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Rancho Zabaco Zinfandel Heritage Vines 2005, Sonoma County, California about $13.

When I was a working sommelier (I got tired of working nights), I can't tell you how many people would ask for a glass of white Zinfandel. I would explain that the only Zin we had on the wine list was red. The response almost always was, "you mean there's RED Zinfandel?"

My end of summer wine pick is RED Zinfandel. Not the sweet, pissy, pinkish stuff guzzled by the masses who have no clue as to what they are drinking (not that there is anything WRONG with that!). I am thinking over the top, 15.9% alcohol, rich, ripe RED Zinfandel.

You wouldn't want a glass of light, elegant glass of French Burgundy or a pricey Napa "cult" Cabernet Sauvignon with those brats and burgers, would you? You NEED a hearty red wine that can stand up to barbecued ribs and smoked brisket.

Zinfandel, with its flavors of chocolate-covered black cherries and blackberry jam, is a real crowd-pleaser and it's a natural with spicy-sweet foods like barbecued ribs in raspberry-chipotle sauce.

Zinfandel is America's sweetheart grape, because it is almost exclusively produced in the U.S. Its origins have been traced to Croatia, as Crljenik Kasteljanski (don't ask!), but it came to the U.S. from Italy with the immigrants who started the American wine industry.

So, toast the end of summer with a nice big glass of Zin, and do give Aunt Ethel a big glass of the "big red" the next time she asks for Zinfandel.