The Wine Curmudgeon, as regular visitors here know, is quite skeptical about what he likes to call post-modern zinfandel. Those are the ones with higher alcohol, that feature way over the top fruit, and bear little resemblance to what passed for zinfandel in the old days (in this case, five or six years ago).
What's worse is that these wines often move middle-aged men to wear baseball caps backward, call each other dude, and offer high-fives to everyone they see when they drink them. And then they say things, when asked about the wine, like "sweee-eet."
That will not happen with the Cline ($11, sample), which is about as traditional a zinfandel as you're going to find these days -- and especially at this price. The alcohol is just 14 percent, which is not much at all in these days of 15 and 16 percent wines. There is cherry fruit, but it's not sweet or gloppy like it is in so many other entry level zinfandels. Plus, the Cline actually has black pepper, which used to be a tell-tale zinfandel character but has mostly disappeared in the rush to add alcohol, sweet fruit and tannins.
Best yet, the Cline is food friendly, something else that many of the high alcohol zinfandels don't bother with anymore. Drink with this with barbecue or burgers, spaghetti and meatballs, or even chili (which I did) and be glad someone making zinfandel still respects the varietal.