Four Vines California Old Vines Cuvee Zinfandel 2005

The experience: Jam-tastic: This rustic but lush red provides a big-time blackberry jolt on the nose and palate. A slightly chunky mid-palate dose of black pepper and plum is followed by just enough oak to give this zin a balanced, surprisingly smooth finish for a wine at this price point (around $10).

The setting: Ideal for sipping by a roaring fire or quaffing with roasted meats. The winery's aim is to make "monster reds" that still go well with food (winemaker Christian Tietje is a former chef).

The back story: A man named Christian who proclaims himself a hedonist is probably incapable of making a wine that isn't just plain fun to drink. The grapes were culled from four vineyards as much as 250 miles apart.