Wine of the week winner: Armida zinfandel

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Zin is at its best when it’s an anomaly, a runaway sensation that completely takes you off guard.

Who knew that a zin with a tap dance of spice could be so delicious when coupled with bright acidity and tangy red fruit?

Our wine of the week winner — the runaway sensation — is the Armida 2016 Zinfandel Parmelee-Hill Vineyard Sonoma Coast at $48.

It offers an interesting take on zin with red fruit center stage — raspberry, pomegranate and cherry. Crisp acidity buoys the fruit, and it has an undercurrent of spice that keeps this zin lively. It’s a sassy, cool climate zin that’s the life of the party.

“I love this wine because it proves to me that zinfandel grown in different soils and weather conditions will express different flavors in the wine,” said Brandon Lapides, head winemaker of Armida. “This wine has brighter cherry and red fruit flavors that we won’t find in our other zinfandels. I think that most vineyards would plant as much pinot noir as possible in the Sonoma Coast, but this decision to plant zinfandel by Steve Hill was based more on passion and intellectual curiosity than profits.”

Lapides said what the uninitiated don’t know about zinfandel is that it has “chosen” California as the ideal climate to best express itself.

“When we (American winemakers) make zinfandel, there is no other place in the world that we are trying to emulate,” Lapides said. “We’re trying to make the best wine that California can produce. I feel that more Californians should take immense pride in our zinfandel wines and vineyards that we continue to help preserve today.”

Lapides, 37, graduated from UC Davis in 2004 with a degree in fermentation science. The 2019 harvest will be his 10th at Armida as head winemaker.

“My first full-time job out of school was the assistant-winemaker at Peachy Canyon Winery in Paso Robles,” Lapides said. “At age 23, I was thrust into producing about 50,000 cases annually of zinfandel from four estate ranches owned by Peachy Canyon.”

The vines were between 80 and 100 years old.

“I was immediately smitten with zinfandel and fascinated by these incredible old vines,” Lapides said. “I refer to my time at Peachy Canyon as getting my graduate degree in zinfandel.”

Lapides said balance is what he strives for in Armida’s house style.

“If I accomplish this balance, the zins will be tasting excellent in their youth and with extended bottle aging.”

Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com or 707-479-3880.

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