Cooking to the Wine: Slightly Aged Mazzocco Zinfandel with Spiced Pot Roast with Mushrooms and Sweet Potatoes (#WinePW)

Who says Zin can't age?! A bottle from Mazzocco winery in Dry Creek pairs beautifully with a spiced pot roast. Get ready to cozy up!

Zinfandel gets a bit of a bad rap in the ageability department. It’s not really known as one of its strong suits. However, I’ve had some very good luck with moderately aged bottles. In fact, just this week I opened a bottle from 2010 and was very happy with what I found in my glass. 

I think there are a few factors that lead to the perception that Zins aren’t meant for cellaring. To start with, a big part of the charm of California Zinfandels is their alluring, rich fruit notes, and cellaring will diminish exactly those attributes. As well, there are a lot of crappy zins out there that go way beyond jammy and are just plain flabby. Take a sip of one of these and the wine kind of just sits on your palate and weighs it down. Bleh. 

A well-made Zin with good structure and acidity, however, can definitely be worth cellaring. Of course, I might not recommend keeping most bottles around for decades (although I have had one or two that managed to make that kind of journey through time), but there is an interesting sweet spot where the grape’s deep fruit notes start to mix with the notes of leather, tobacco, and dried leaves that come with time with beautiful results. I’m happy to say that we had just that kind of luck with the bottle of Mazzocco Winery Thurow Vineyard Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 2010 I opened this week. 

Moreover, the combination of berries, spices, and a few dried leaves tasted like fall in a bottle. 

For more background on Zin, check out this post.


Mazzocco specializes in Zinfandel. They make wines from other grapes as well, however, Zins makes up the lion’s share of their offerings. They have a wide variety of single-vineyard Zin bottlings, so it’s a great place to taste the different ways the grape can express itself. 

It’s been a few years since we stopped at their tasting room in Dry Creek Valley, however, in my experience, their wines tend to be on the richer end of Zin, but they maintain enough acidity to hold up all that fruit. Their wines tend to be bigger than what I normally go for, but I simply find them to be quite yummy. 

Wine tasting tip: Mazzocco’s tasting room is just down the road from Ridge Lytton Springs, another personal favorite. Ridge makes a very different style of Zin, which makes for a great comparison. Between the offerings at these two spots, you can get a really good idea of the range Zin is capable of. After you’re done tasting, head down the road just a bit further to the Dry Creek General Store to enjoy some excellent sandwiches.

We picked up this bottle of their 2010 Thurow Vineyard Zin on a stop at the winery way back in 2012. In the decade that bottle was with us, it went back with us to New York (where we were living at the time), and then it moved back with us when we returned to California. It’s been through a lot. Whenever I open a bottle like this, there’s a moment when I feel like I’m holding my breath as I wait for the verdict on if the wine is still doing ok or if we’ve missed our window. Luckily, I needn’t have worried. The wine was doing just fine. 

In my memory, the Thurow married deep berry flavors with an undercurrent of earthiness. This continued to be true, and as one might expect, time had brought the earthy factors out even more. On the nose, the wine showed notes of stewed mixed berries, dried leaves, notes of dusty earth, licorice, clove, and white pepper.  On the palate, the berry flavors were richer and blended fresh and stewed fruit notes. Boysenberry, plums, and pomegranate joined the party, along with more pepper, spice box, and mixed dried herbs. Greg added that he picked up notes of blueberries, purple flowers, and a bit of bacon fat. I didn’t tell him what I’d poured for him when I first had him taste it, and he did not think it was showing his age at all. 

We knew we were in for a treat with our dinner. 

A quick trip down memory lane – Greg and I at Mazzocco in 2012 and with my parents in 2016.


It’s been getting chilly so I wanted to make something cozy to go with this wine that would reflect the wine’s autumnal feel. I decided on pot roast since something rich and meat seemed perfect. I wanted to play with the range of flavors in the wine, so I added mushrooms for their earthiness, along with lightly caramelized onions, sweet potatoes, and flavored it all with thyme, allspice, and white pepper.  I also find mushrooms to be a secret weapon when serving aged wines. Even wines that taste over the hill (and this one was NOT) seem to get revived a bit when they're paired with mushrooms.

As it happens far more often than I’d like to admit, I ended up running late with my food prep, so I decided to enlist my Instant Pot to help me regain some time. You can absolutely make this on the stovetop or in the oven as well, but you’ll just likely need more liquid than indicated here. 

In the version I made, I added the sweet potatoes and mushrooms toward the beginning shortly after the onions. The sweet potatoes didn’t hold up under the high-pressure cooking and kind of disintegrated into the cooking liquid. I actually enjoyed it this way as they added body to the sauce, however, it didn’t look as pretty as it might have with bigger chunks. After looking at a few recipes, I’ve taken a play from a recipe I found via New York Times Cooking and have adjusted the recipe here for how I’d do it next time.  

To finish things off, I served it all on a bed of quick-cooking barley, peas, and lentils which added texture and nutty flavors. 

The pairing was everything I could have hoped for and the wine gained added depth when sipped alongside the savory flavors of the pot roast. A perfect combo for snuggling up on a chilly night!

Geeky Details

I don’t think Mazzocco is making wine from this vineyard anymore, as I could no longer find it on their website. However, I'll quickly note that Mazzocco grows their grapes sustainably and is Certified California Sustainable for its vineyard practices.

The current average price of this wine is $32 and while this one might no longer be available, Mazzocco has quite a few offerings in this price range. 



For more posts and pairings related to Zinfandel, check out:


The Wine Pairing Weekend (#WinePW)  blogging group is exploring Zinfandel this month. Be sure to check out the rest of their posts:



  1. When we attended Passport to Dry Creek regularly Mazzocco was a regular stop. Being that it was kinda next door to Ridge, it was always fun to taste the stylistic differences. I always appreciated their deep selection of delicious Zins. Your pairing sound great!

  2. The instant pot has come to my rescue more times than I can count. Great flavor profile to match the wine. Thanks for sharing your memories with us.

    1. It is so useful to have on hand! And the flavor combo was delicious.

  3. I'll need to visit next time I'm in the area! (PS love my instant pot but last night we had time to actually braise in the oven... yum!)


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