This was only the second time we have tasted red Zinfandels as a group (the first was in January 2006), and while the bottom bottle was a bit off, we liked these wines overall, showing good fruit and drinkability. All improved with air. One minor complaint was the high alcohol levels that got to our heads faster than usual (all were around 15%).

In an unusual confluence, two tasters brought the same bottle, but neither remembered to put their initials on their entry, we do not know who to attribute the winning bottle to. The top bottle was a clear favorite with 33 points, but the equivalent entry came in fourth (no one guessed that they were the same).

First Place:  Ridge Zinfandel East Bench 2012 (Dry Creek Valley). Tasters found complex scents of buttered popcorn, dishwater, brown sugar, sulphur, chocolate chip cookies, and black cherries. Really nice texture, with flavors of dark fruit (plums, blackberry), cherry cola, tobacco, and sour fruit. Better balance, with a hint of heat toward the end. Black licorice finish. Long. Everyone's favorite except for Holly. Received 33 points. Michael or David's bottle. About $30.

Second Place: Saucelito Canyon Zinfandel Estate Reserve 2007 (Arroyo Grande Valley). Pretty nose, featuring notions of flowers, eucalyptus, mint, old room, and Good n' Plenty candies. The alcohol sticks out a bit. Dairy on the palate, along with hot leather and beef blood. Kristin found "pepperoni pizza", while David was impressed with the texture. Andy noted that is "has a good swell in the mouth". Becomes more jammy with air. A bit hot. Received 19 points. Andy's bottle. About $70.

Third Place:  3 Ball Zinfandel 2012 (California). Showed lighter fruit, like peach or apricot, plus a mustiness, then rose petal and game. Ali was reminded of the "inside of a cowboy boot". Brighter in acidity, with notions of yogurt, butterscotch, dark fruit, and cinnamon. Kristin found "some cheese along the way", while Ali noted "flat cola". Zippy finish, with black tea notes. David remarked that it was "not bad, but I want a bit more from it". Really improves with air, with more balance and focus later on. Received 15 points. Holly's bottle. About $14.

Ridge Zinfandel East Bench 2012 (Dry Creek Valley). Scent of cherries, raisins, leather, and oak. The alcohol stands out here. Andy found "salted caramel". David and Andy thought it was rich and dense, though others thought it was lighter. Peppery on the palate, showing Kool Aid and prune flavors. Long finish, where the alcohol heat shows up again. Kristin felt that it was "on its way to port". Really improves with air. Received 9 points. Michael or David's bottle. About $30.

Seghesio Zinfandel 2012 (Sonoma County). Pepper, sulphur, seaweed, and nail polish remover on the nose. Ali was reminded of "pond at low tide", and David felt that there was "something mysterious about it". Lots of fruit, and somewhat like a digestif, with a medicinal finish. Holly noted that "this one really burnt my stomach". Holly's favorite. Received 7 points. Kristin's bottle. About $28.

Joel Gott Zinfaldel 2013 (California). Unfiltered. Earthy nose, with scents of basement, Ben Gay, funk, leather, crayon wax, tires, and butter. Holly decided that it "smells like my chaps". More than a little candied, with flavors of cough drop, campfire, cloves, potpourri, dried figs, cedar, and sandalwood. Some bitterness on the finish. Ali was reminded strongly of Tanzania. Received 1 point. Ali's bottle. About $14.

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