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Cheap Wine That Doesn't Suck: Old-Vine Zin Kicks Wimpy Butt

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Mention Zinfandel to your average noncork dork and the first wine likely to come to mind is some sweet, fruity pink stuff pissed out by giant conglomerates that is to real Zinfandel what paté de foie gras is to 9 Lives Liver & Bacon dinner. So let's get one thing straight: White Zinfandel is not Zinfandel. It is an abomination. 

With that out of the way, we can move on to a real Zin, a Zin that kicks sand in the faces of those insipid pink wussies without stomping on your wallet. It's the 2006 Ravenswood Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel, and it costs all of $12. The "old vine" thing is pretty cool, because these ancient, gnarly vines that resemble bonsai with arthritis produce small quantities of intensely flavorful fruit ("extracted," if you want to sound like a cork dork) that ignites a taste party in your mouth.  

Ravenswood, with a motto of "no wimpy wines," is a Zinfandel specialist and

produces more than half a dozen different vineyard-designated Zins,

most of them costing around $45 and so big and meaty that you can just about

serve them with a knife and fork. The Lodi Zin delivers that kind of

flavor but, frankly, with much better balance and drinkability. If you

can imagine chewing on toasted black cherries and blueberries with a

couple of pinches of black pepper and cloves thrown in for good

measure, you've got a pretty good idea what it tastes like. Except

there's enough underlying acidity to keep it from being just another

fat, stupid fruit bomb. 

Pour it with grilled beef or lamb, a

hearty stew or chili, or pasta with tomato sauce and spicy sausages as

long as your arm. Then go kick sand in some wussy's face.

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