No matter what you’re celebrating this season, most holidays are an excuse to bring people together—to eat a lot of food. When you’re devouring hearty dishes like Fondue Mac and Cheese or Melting Potatoes, you need a wine that can stand on its own, which is why you should look to old-vine Zinfandel.
This grape is believed to have originated in Croatia, but it dates back to the 1800s in California. Moderately tannic, Zinfandels are often full bodied, fruity in flavor and have elevated alcohol levels. Here are some of our favorite bottles for all different budgets.
Easton 2015 Rinaldi Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel (Fiddletown); $35, 94 points. Hardly a run-of-the-mill wine, this potent liquid exudes tobacco and flint aromas that join with wood smoke, cocoa and blackberry flavors to make it dramatic and spicy. Full body and firm tannins build great structure to pair with indulgent proteins and give it the stuffing to age. Best from 2022. Cellar Selection. —Jim Gordon
Jessie’s Grove 2014 Jessie’s Collection Estate Grown Old Vine Zinfandel (Lodi); $22, 92 points. A velvety texture based on a wealth of fine-grained tannins sets this high-octane wine apart. That structure supports good ripe fruit flavors and lots of spicy oak accents so the wine is layered and long on the finish. —J.G.
Dry Creek Vineyard 2015 Old Vine Zinfandel (Dry Creek Valley); $35, 92 points. With 22% Petite Sirah and 2% Carignan in the mix, and the vines averaging more than 95 years in age, this is a memorable wine. Structured and powerful, it boasts flavors of raspberry jam, graham cracker and cinnamon, with integrated tannins that impart richness and length. —Virginie Boone
Saucelito Canyon 2015 1880 Old Vine Zinfandel (Arroyo Grande Valley); $80, 92 points. Intense aromas of black fruit, savory meats and dried flowers provide a complex entry to the nose of this wine, which comes from vines planted in 1880. Buoyant acidity and ample structure uphold the palate, where bright flavors of blackberry and elderberry meet with mocha and anise. —Matt Kettmann
Sidebar 2016 Old Vine Zinfandel (Russian River Valley); $28, 91 points. This is from the Alegria Vineyard, originally planted in 1890 and then partially replanted in 1950. It blends within 10% Alicante, 10% Petite Sirah and 2% of a dozen other varieties found in the field. Burly, dusty tobacco is accented in cedar notes and graphite, with powerful concentration and structure at its core. —V.B.
Caricature 2015 Old Vine Zinfandel (Lodi); $16, 90 points. A Port-like ripeness in the aroma leads to lush, chocolaty flavors that range from superripe black plums to blueberry syrup. The wine is full bodied, rich and viscous in texture, with mild tannins and soft acidity for balance. Editors’ Choice. —J.G.
Carol Shelton 2016 Monga Zin Old Vine Lopez Vineyard Zinfandel (Cucamonga Valley); $24, 90 points. This bottling is always a fun taste of Southern California’s wine-growing history. Exotic plum and alpine strawberry aromas mix with sweet juniper and herbal cola aromas on the nose. There’s a menthol-like spice to the palate, giving depth to the plum jelly core, with tannins rising toward the finish. Editors’ Choice. —M.K.
Lorenzi Estate 2014 Lopez Ranch Old Vine De Ambrogio Block Private Reserve Zinfandel (Cucamonga Valley); $65, 90 points. The nose of this bottling from an old vineyard in Rancho Cucamonga carries aromas of blackberry jelly on wet slate, with a touch of violets. The palate is rich and flavorful, with more blackberry paste, a dusting of cracked pepper and a warm toast tone, framed by decent acidity. —M.K.