Top Scoring Zinfandels from Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley

dscf0053California has claimed zinfandel as one of its signature grapes.  This is because there is no other place else in the world that can produce such big, spicy and jammy wines from this unique grape varietal (originally from Croatia).  One of the most famous appellations for zinfandel is the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma County which has hot dry summers and warm autumns to ripen the heavy purple fruit from this vine.  Driving through Dry Creek Valley in the autumn is one of the most beautiful sites in California, because the valley floor and hillsides are filled with a tapestry of gold, red, yellow, and orange leaves on knarly old black zinfandel vines.  A truly amazing site.

This week’s blind tasting included 5 zinfandels from Dry Creek.  Our five Millennial judges had a hard time selecting their favorites, because they said all 5 wines were good.  Indeed they gave medals to all of the wines, but when pressured were able narrow it down to 3 top favorites:

***** (94, GOLD) Peterson Zinfandel 2005 Dry Creek – $21petersons-zin

A richly concentrated wine with depths of dark blackberry, raspberry, and chocolate.  Lovely carmel notes with spices of clove, cinnamon and white pepper, and a hint of smoke.  Would go well with charred fish or chicken with a spicy rub.  The favorite wine of Zack, Matt, and Jennifer.  Available at

**** (SILVER) Pedroncelli Zinfandel 2006 Dry Creek, Mother Clone – $15pedroncelli-zin

An elegant more feminine zinfandel with soft berry and floral notes; allspice; and smooth tannins.  A lighter ruby red color with good balance.  Katie’s favorite and she would pair it with BBQ chicken.  Available at

**** (SILVER) Alderbrook Old Vine Zinfandel 2006, Dry Creek, Sonoma alderbrookCounty- $19

A complex leathery zin with raspberry, spice, oak and smokey overtones. Well balanced with a smooth finish.  Shannon’s favorite and she would drink it with chocolate.  Available at

How the Judges Scored the Wines

All the judges are millennials between the ages of 21 and 30 and are attending university.  They have varying degrees of wine experience, but have been trained on how to use the Wine Tasting Evaluation form (see menu on How We Evaluate Wines).  All judges complete the Wine Tasting Continuum Questionnaire and completed the PROPO test to validate their score in order to determine if they are tolerant, sensitive or hyper-sensitive tasters.  Following are wine preferences of each judge:

Zach is from Rohnert Park, California. He is a Tolerant Taster with a score of 7 on the Wine Tasting Continuum. He prefers big, red tannic wines.  His scores were: Peterson = Gold-20; Pedroncelli = Silver-18 and Alderbrook = Bronze-16.

Matt is from Sherman Oaks, California.  He is a Sensitive Taster with a score of 4 on the Wine Tasting Continuum.  He prefers dark red wines with big tannins.  His scores were: Peterson = Gold-19; Pedroncelli = Silver-17 and Alderbrook = Bronze-15.

Jennifer is from Petaluma, California. She is a Hyper-Sensitive Taster with a score of 3 on the Wine Tasting Continuum. She prefers white wines, such as Chardonnay, as well as Champagne and sparkling wine.  Her scores were: Peterson = Gold-19; Pedroncelli = Silver-18 and Alderbrook = Silver-18.

Shannon is from Lodi, California.  She is a Sensitive Taster with a score of 4 on the Wine Tasting Continuum.  She prefers red wines such as cabernet and pinot noir, and is found of a well balanced wine with spicy oak, smooth tannins and firm acid.  Her scores were: Peterson = Silver-18; Pedroncelli = Silver-17 and Alderbrook = Gold-19, with Alderbrook being her favorite.

Katie is from Solvang, California.  She is a Sensitive Tasters with a score of 4 on the Wine Tasting Continuum.  She enjoys all types of wine with no preference of white over red, but selects wine based on the food and occasion.  Her scores were: Peterson = Silver-18; Pedroncelli = Gold-19 (her favorite) and Alderbrook = Silver-17.

How We Evaluate Wines

Each judge is trained in how to complete a Wine Tasting Evaluation form which includes analysis of wine color, aroma, flavor and quality.  Quality is determined based on balance, length of finish, intensity, and complexity.  Judges are also asked to describe the “x factor” of whether they like the wine or not – and why. See “How We Evaluate Wines” on main menu.