Ferrari-Carano makes a wine composed of 97% Zinfandel grapes with a splash of Petite Sirah. Their 2012 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel is fermented in steel tanks before aging for 16 months in French oak. A third of that oak is new. The wine retails for $28 dollars.
The Dry Creek Valley Zin is an incredibly dark wine, almost black when held to the light. Its appearance led me to expect a gigantic, ripe, imposing, blammo nose to explode in my face like a loaded cigar. What else from a deep, dark Zinfandel? The nose is not at all blustery, though. It is elegant. Blackberry fruit is ripe, to be sure, but the nuances of sage, cinnamon, pepper and basil play lightly across the olfactory nerve endings.
On the palate, the expectations are met. Flavors of black plums, cherries and dark berries don't even try to be subtle. There is black pepper galore and enough minerals to allow me to skip my multi-vitamin in the morning. Great mocha notes come into play late. The juicy acidity needs to be paired with some meat, and fast. A hearty mouthfeel and bold tannins round out a great wine to have with a thick, juicy steak.
You could also pair this Zinfandel with anything off the grill - I'm thinking of mild Italian sausage right about now - or a burger with blue cheese on it instead of mustard.