Photo by Megan Leigh Barnard

California Dreamer

What do you do when your favorite wine style becomes overrun with variations that aren’t to your taste? Make your own.

That’s what Scott Zanon, an Upper Arlington resident who runs a medical supply company, decided to do when be became frustrated with the Zinfandels available to him. Nevermind that he lives in Ohio and Zinfandel grows in California.

“Zinfandel has always been my favorite grape,” said Zanon. “This,” he tells me as he buries his nose in a glass of Zanon Zinfandel at a wine bar in Upper Arlington, “is the style of the early ’90s Zins right here, medium-bodied, not jammy, over-alcoholic, not a fruit bomb. This is the way Zins were back then, and that’s what really turned me on. Over the years I tried Zins and they kept getting higher alcohol, these big styles – I can’t stand them.”

Utilizing experience and connections from his previous life working in wine retail and distribution, Zanon contacted a vineyard in Dry Creek Valley in northern Sonoma County to see if they had a surplus of wine he could blend. They – a “third generation Italian family that’s been around since 1927 and their name ends in a vowel” which Zanon won’t name – did have wine to spare, so he flew out, blended his wine and came home to work on the label design and approval.

“I’m coming home on the plane thinking, ‘Damn, Scott, what did you get yourself into?’”

His original batch was 300 cases, a 2011 vintage that hit store shelves in Central Ohio in February. Zanon went back to Dry Creek Valley in April to blend another 500 cases. He plans to continue to make it as long as people continue to buy it, even if it never becomes a massively profitable venture.

Zanon describes his Zinfandel as “brambly,” with blackberry and raspberry flavors mixed with just a touch of vanilla and black pepper spice. It’s “the way Zinfandel should taste,” according to Zanon, who also trademarked that phrase as a tagline for the Dry Creek Valley wine.

“Dry Creek Valley is the best place in the world to grow Zin,” said Zanon. “You could line up 10 glasses of Zinfandels and I could tell you which ones were from Dry Creek Valley just by the smell…it’s very distinct. To be able to put Dry Creek Valley on a label in this state for under $20 is really quite remarkable.”

Grab a bottle of Zanon Zinfandel (retail price $18.99) at Gentile’s, Hills Market, Huffman’s Market, Weiland’s and dozens of other Central Ohio retailers and bars. 

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Cheryl is way too into craft beer, sci-fi and board games. In addition to writing for (614), she is the editor of Columbus’ online source for booze news, DrinkUpColumbus.com. Cheryl has been voted one of the top three bloggers in Columbus by the readers of (614) Magazine for the past four years. (Despite writing for the magazine, she swears she did not rig the vote.)

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