Kokomo, 2019 Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, Pauline’s Vineyard

With many local winemakers pouring their Zinfandels at ZinEx 2023 in San Francisco this week, I decided to preview some of these local bottlings.

With a lineup of seven, the winner was the Kokomo, 2019 Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, Pauline’s Vineyard. It just edged out runner-up, Wilson, 2020 Coyote Artist Collection Zinfandel, Sonoma County, both of which were rated 4.5 stars.

None of the wines in the flight below disappoint. They will all be cast at some point during the three-day ZinEx 2023 series of events. More than half of the 72 wineries serving wines at Saturday’s Grand Tasting are from Sonoma County. ZinEx is hosted by the Zinfandel Advocates & Producers, an educational organization dedicated to preserving and promoting Zinfandel (

Here is the full breakdown of the seven wines I tasted, with detailed tasting notes, listed in order of rating:

Kokomo, 2019 Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, Pauline’s Vineyard, 14.8%, $38, 4.5 stars. (The winery is soon moving to the 2021 vintage, skipping the 2020 vintage due to the wildfires that year.) This is a balanced Zinfandel with flavors of blackberry and black raspberry that continue through the palate, ending with a kiss of caramel. It is complex, multi-layered and impressive.

Wilson, 2020 Coyote Artist Collection Zinfandel, Sonoma County, 15.8%, $55, 4.5 stars. This jam Zin has beautiful, concentrated red fruit – red raspberry with hints of cranberry and hints of caramel. It is well made.

Bella Vineyards, 2019 Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Maple Vineyards, 14.8%, $60, 4 stars. This snappy Zin is weighted towards red fruit and has a spicy undercurrent. It’s savory with notes of forest soil, ground black pepper and blackberry. Pretty much.

Customer, 2019 Century Vines Zinfandel, Sonoma Valley, 14.8%, $65, 4 stars. This edgy Zinfandel is thorny and spicy with crunchy red fruits – cranberry and rhubarb – and hints of vanilla. It’s intelligent, with a lingering finish.

Limerick Lane, 2020 Zinfandel, Moon Mountain District, Sonoma County, Monte Rosso Vineyard, 15.2%, $72, 4 stars. A perfectly balanced Zin with notes of blackberry, cherry and hints of tobacco. Nice length and spot on.

Rockpile by Mauritson Wines, 2019 Zinfandel, Sonoma County, Rockpile Ridge Vineyard, 14.5%, $50, 4 stars. Complex and layered with notes of blackberry, plum and coffee interspersed with hints of red raspberry. Tasty.

Seghesio, 2021 Zinfandel, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, Home Ranch Vineyard, 15.5%, $65, 4 stars. Aromas and flavors of red raspberries, cherries, plums and ground black pepper. Concentrated fruit and juicy, with a long finish. top rate.

As for the award-winning Kokomo wine, the goal was to make it in the classic Dry Creek Zinfandel style, according to Erik Miller, owner/winemaker at Kokomo Winery in Healdsburg.

“Some people would refer to it as Bordeaux,” Miller said. “For me, this style is food-friendly, wholesome and balanced.”

What would surprise people most about his winemaking, Miller said, is his hands-free approach.

“We use 100% native yeast and focus on winemaking with minimal intervention,” he said.

And making his Zinfandels in the Dry Creek Valley gives them an edge, he added.

“I think the best Zinfandels in the world are grown here,” said the winemaker, who founded his winery in 2004. “I’ve been able to work with this variety long enough to get it through a variety of vintage conditions, from cold to hot, rainy to dry.”

You can reach wine writer Peg Melnik at [email protected] or 707-521-5310.