I’m pretty into zinfandels right now. I’ve always been pretty into brisket, so this is a fortuitous obsession.

Some years ago, when I was just getting my wine legs, I ordered a glass of pinot noir in a busy restaurant. Momentarily, the waiter brought me a glass of pinkish fizz that was definitely not pinot noir. I placed my index finger on the foot of the glass, slid it toward the edge of the table, and in an uncharacteristically snobbish tone and with scrunched nose said: “No, no, no…pinot.”

It’s not a moment I’m proud of (well, I kind of am). That experience turned me off of zinfandel for several years. See, I was just starting out and although the glass the waiter brought was obviously white zinfandel, I had an unfavorable sensory memory related to all things zinfandel. The image of a glass filled with what looked like Cherry 7-Up stuck. The horror.

Back to brisket. Joel and I love meat. We love to brine it, smoke it, grill it, roast it, braise it and of course, eat it. We experiment with a lot of different types and cuts of meat, but putting a brisket or a pork shoulder on the smoker in the wee hours of the morning and then feasting on it some hours later is truly a favorite pastime. On one of these occasions we were looking for a wine to go with a pork shoulder that had no doubt been rubbed down with something delicious and then carefully tended to. Why the need for an ideal wine to go with smoked pork hadn’t come up before, I don’t recall, but there we were in the wine aisle of H-E-B. I was thinking pinot noir, feeling the lighter body might be nice with the salt and smoke, but Deborah, the friendly wine expert at our neighborhood H-E-B, in an almost chastising tone, said to me: “No, no, no… zinfandel.” My, how the tables had turned. I don’t remember what wine we chose that day, but it was a zinfandel and it didn’t disappoint. This old vine of California is now a go-to for most of our smoked meat pairings, and especially with pork.

That’s a lot of back story, but I felt it necessary to set up my opinion of the Joel Gott 2012 California Zinfandel. You see, what I ended up loving about zinfandel is its innate plummy lusciousness and the best zins, in my book, always have a sweet and spicy war going on, with spicy winning. All of that said, in the Joel Gott, the sweet is winning.

This is a 100% zinfandel from multiple sources, including Sonoma and Lodi. It falls in the medium-bodied range with soft tannins and loads of rich fruit flavor – my luscious plum is present and accounted for. The Joel Gott is a jammy wine in that it’s sweet, but certainly not syrupy. If my research serves me correctly, all of these characteristics are indicative of a young zin, which the Joel Gott is.   

If you crave a more full-bodied zinfandel with more spice, definitely look for one a bit older.