St. Francis “Old Vines” Zinfandel Sonoma County 2008, $19: If you have a few extra bucks, you’ll find this wine is worth the toll. It’s the benchmark for Old Vines Zins with its intense dark cherries, dark plums, licorice, lots of black pepper and vanilla off the oak. It’s the perfect pairing with a juicy steak or grilled lamb chops. It’s made off vines that are 55 to 100 years old — they are large and gnarly, and grow close to the ground and produce small, intense grapes. St. Francis defines “old vines” as at least 50 years old, head-trained (a type of trellising) and dry-farmed (not irrigated). This wine is a legacy of retired, longtime winemaker Tom Mackey. It’s widely available and often on sale.
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