We generally don't like to read a winemaker's tasting notes before trying a wine. They tend to be full of marketing hyperbole and describe subtle or exotic flavors (barnyard funk, anyone?) that are too obscure for our palates to find.
On the other hand, it can be fun to read the winemaker's tasting notes after you taste a wine to see how much you agree. We recently enjoyed a bottle of 2007 Heitz Cellars Zinfandel at our favorite neighborhood Italian restaurant, Antica Trattoria. Winemaker David Heitz's notes were spot on with our observations.
"Ours is a medium-bodied wine that delivers the unadulterated characteristics of the varietal. Marvelously balanced and softly rounded, the delicious core of wild berry flavors picks up a touch of spice before building to an elegant finish."
Zinfandels tend to have a higher alcohol content than some other wines. At 14.5%, this one isn't too extreme, but the wine was so smooth you could hardly tell it had any alcohol at all. And, it went wonderfully with our meals. Jeff had a veal chop while Sally enjoyed a nice bowl of capellini.
A couple sitting next to us in the restaurant noticed how much we were enjoying the wine and asked if the bottle was on Antica Trattoria's wine menu. Sorry - we brought this one in ourselves!
The best part? Heitz is either extraordinarily kind with their pricing or they don't know how much of a gem they have on their hands. You can still pick up a bottle of the 2007 direct from the winery for $22 per bottle. You might pay $15 - $20 more per bottle for a similar quality Zinfandel at some other wineries, so snatch some up if you can.