Let’s face it: We’re all immigrants in this part of the world. Even American Indians had to hike here from Asia once upon a time. So the claim that Zinfandel is uniquely American is somewhat exaggerated. Still, it’s undisputable that Zinfandel came into its own after it reached our shores in a way that it never did in its native Croatia. In fact, of all the vinifera varieties that traveled across the pond from Europe, none has a better rags-to-riches story than Zinfandel.
But success has sometimes gone to this full-bodied wine’s head—and “legs”—as it can tend toward over-the-top fruitiness and bombastic alcohol levels. For this reason, Roger Clark of Surdyk’s recommends wines from Dry Creek Valley in California’s Sonoma County, which has a long history of producing food-friendly Zinfandel.
Containing less than 14 percent alcohol, Peterson’s 2002 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel is easy on the palate but has enough substance and spice to stand up to boldly flavored food. With its affable personality and deep American roots, it’s a perfect choice for a Fourth of July barbecue.