Travel back in time to when Zinfandel was first planted in California. It was during the Gold Rush Era, and the heart of the Era laid amongst the foothills of the Sierras. This is where the Deaver Vineyard was planted over 130 years ago in 1881.

Not long ago I had a chance to taste through Terra d’Oro’s line up of Italian-inspired varietals: Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese, Barbera, and of course Zinfandel. Without a doubt, the standout is their Deaver Vineyard Zinfandel. With its simultaneous delicacy and rusticity, a sip of this Zin will have you reveling in the mysteriousness of what has become California’s heritage grape.

About the Wine: The Terra d’Oro 2015 Deaver Vineyard Zinfandel is made from 100% Zinfandel grapes harvested from Deaver Vineyard in California’s Amador County AVA. The fruit is hand-picked and juices are bled from the hopper before going through a gentle press. Partial native yeast was used during initial fermentation. The wine is then aged in combination French and American oak barrels (30% new) for 16 months.


Flavor Profile: There’s just a light scent of smoke, worcestershire sauce, and cherry wood that escapes the bottle when opening the Terra d’Oro 2015 Deaver Vineyard Zinfandel. The wine is a light, dusty rouge on the pour, with a certain cranberry aura that encases it. In the glass, it’s the color of a dusty piece of finished cherry wood — simultaneously shiny but hazy. This color fades out toward a pink which, in turn, fades out to zero at the absolute perimeter.

Initial aromas are quite subtle and somewhat herbaceous, bringing to mind either eucalyptus or spearmint leaf. In the back, there’s a bit of brambly black cherry. Swirl the glass and reveal some of that umami sensed from the bottle (yes it’s either worcestershire or soy), release the vivaciousness of the cherry notes, and bring forward some raspberry as well. Lingering in the back there’s a hint of smoke that, when intermixed with those lively fruits, is almost reminiscent of a sweet tobacco.

The palate of the Terra d’Oro 2015 Deaver Vineyard Zinfandel is simultaneously full but light. Tannins are present, but maintain their distance, working solely as the backbone to the wine. Only toward the finish do they come just a half-step forward, leaving just a light blanket over the tongue. Dominant flavors are of dried and rehydrated black cherries, anise, raspberries, fresh cut wood, dried eucalyptus leaf, and, hiding in the atmospheric somewhere, that umami question mark.

Food Pairing: I paired the Terra d’Oro 2015 Deaver Vineyard Zinfandel with a slow roasted lamb shank, eggplant purée, and saffron-turmeric rice pilaf.

First of all, this was the first time I’ve ever cooked this meal and was uncertain about how exactly it was going to taste and, thus, what wine would pair best. What I did enjoy was that all the elements of the dish — the fall-off-the-bone lamb shank, the simply puréed eggplant, and the aromatic rice — all as individual components and as a collective meal highlighted the beautiful fruits and acidity in the wine, making it feel even brighter and lighter on the palate. But because there wasn’t a lot of spice notes to the wine and those smokey-ish elements stayed very much in the background, I’m not positive this was the perfect pairing for this meal. The richness of the dish may have married better with, say, a domineering Syrah.

That being said, I liked this Zinfandel and was actually glad for the contrast between my food and wine that evening, as — for me — it’s hard to enjoy heavy meals with heavy wines. So, again for me, maybe “perfect” is too strong a word, but this was a delicious and appreciable pairing for me.

More Info: I received the Terra d’Oro 2015 Deaver Vineyard Zinfandel as a gift. (Cheers Amy!) Retail: $30. For more information about Terra d’Oro, their wines, and to purchase wines directly, please visit the Terra d’Oro website.

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