An unusual region made up of the peaks that rise above 1,200 feet over the Anderson Valley ― "islands in the sky," they've been dubbed. While Pinot Noir loves the cool valley, Zinfandel thrives in the warmth above the fog.
Edmeades Alden Vineyard Late Harvest Zinfandel 2003 (375 ml, $13). Minty, brambly blackberries with a touch of mocha come with just enough late-harvest sweetness to make this an interesting aperitif as well as a lively dessert wine.
Edmeades Ciapusci Vineyard Zinfandel 2004 ($28). Intense, complex, and fascinating, with layers of brambly berries and herbs and lively acidity.
Handley Cellars Gianoli Ranch Vineyard Zinfandel 2005 ($25). A big, earthy, mouth-filling Zin, heavy on pepper and berry jam.
Mariah Zinfandel 2003 ($29). A bright, juicy Zin that pairs interesting herbs with its berries and mocha aromas.
Dry Creek Valley
Slanting northwest from Healdsburg in Sonoma County, the warm valley was planted with quite a bit of Zinfandel in pre-Prohibition days. A few of those old vines survived the valley's subsequent orchard era, and in the late '70s and '80s, more Zin vines displaced orchards.
Amphora Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2005 ($24). Generous up-front fruit (blueberries lurk under blackberries and plums), with tobacco, herbs, and hints of chocolate.
Lambert Bridge Winery Ranch Block Zinfandel 2004 ($30). Deep layers of peppery plums and blackberries, plus a haunting floral quality.
Bella Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2005 ($25). A big, earthy Zin ― plums cooking down to jam on the stove.
Resources: Nora wineglasses ($8.95 each) and Orrington flatware ($30 for a five-piece place setting) from Crate and Barrel (800/967-6696). Stemless wineglass from Pottery Barn ($42 for six; 800/922-5507).
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