2018 Inspiration, Zinfandel “Ray Zin” Russian River Valley.
The lean and tangy Ray’ Zin from Jon Phillips at Inspiration Vineyards comes from some head trained vines in a slightly cooler zone of the Russian River Valley region in Sonoma County, it is what he calls a claret style Zinfandel with low alcohol and crisp acidity. This reminds me of old school Chianti or maybe more of a lighter Rioja Crianza with its kiss of American oak and zesty raspberry and cherry fruits along with its medium bodied palate and slightly raw personality, which makes it great with pasta, pizza and hard cheeses. There is a tart cranberry, roasted herbs and a smattering of brown spices and peppery note along with a touch of cedar, coconut and toasty vanilla, gaining some floral bouquet with air and lingering red currant. There is some potential gains in texture and tannin roundness with time in bottle in this very limited bottling, with only 25 cases made and at 12.7% natural alcohol it offers a more easy drinking personality than the more powerful and full bodied versions of Zinfandel, like Phillip’s Dry Creek Valley Gallaway bottling, which is a full throttle style.

This 2018 Ray Zin, helped by the cool long growing season is pearly and dust with a vivid ruby color was produced to be more like some wines made in the past like the 1970s Zins of Joseph Swan or the like that rarely saw alcohol above 12% and aged well, but were a bit rough and chewy, needing time and air along with food to show their best. This Zinfandel has a bitter green edgy side that surely benefits matching it with savory foods and especially protein, it is nicer with BBQ and a slight chill that transforms it into a more friendly quaffer. Inspiration has turned up the quality and variety in their offerings and the new artist labels are striking as well, making a winery that was under the radar and somewhat unnoticed a more colorful presence, there is also a more authentic and natural feel to the wines. I recommend trying the new stuff, in particular I would lead you to their new Grenache, Syrah and Cabernet, along with the latest Pinot Noir, all of which impress for value and expressive details.
($25 Est.) 88 Points, grapelive

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