Honestly, this post is more for my friends who might piggyback on our allocations than anyone else, but feel free to enjoy the write-ups (and if you live nearby and want to hop in, let me know). It’s also a window into the kinds of decisions we have to make when the fall allocations come out. We certainly can’t afford to pick up everything we’re allocated, so there are tough choices to be made. We also have to consider that there are other allocations for the fall yet to arrive, from spectacular wineries like Kosta Browne and Quilceda Creek.
The two which have arrived are Martinelli and Bedrock, two of our absolute favorites. We have more Martinelli in the cellar than any other winery. Bedrock is so tasty and so affordable, it’s become our third-most popular in numbers of bottles.
The ratings listed on the Martinelli wines are either from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate or longtime Wine Spectator writer Antonio Galloni’s Vinous. The Bedrock wines are probably too fresh to have any professional ratings done on them yet–but we don’t need anyone to tell us how amazing they are.
2014 Chardonnay Charles Ranch $58 WA 94+
Charles Ranch was only the 2nd vineyard to be planted in the “true“ Sonoma Coast in 1980. This is a stunning example of Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, with a beautifully soft mouth-feel. The 2014 vintage was especially small, so we do not have much to offer.
2014 Chardonnay Lolita Ranch $58 WA 94+
Lolita Ranch is a warmer vineyard site on a steep 55 degree steep on Martinelli Road. Our Lolita Ranch Chardonnay exhibits tropical notes and is weightier on the palate than the other Chardonnays in this release.
2014 Chardonnay Martinelli Road $58 Vinous 96
The Martinelli Road Chardonnay vineyard, planted with dijon clone 95, is located on Lee and Carolyn Martinelli’s property beneath the famous Jackass Hill vineyard. This is often a favorite Chardonnay, with its concentrated flavors and full mouth-feel.
2014 Syrah Hop Barn Hill $95 Vinous 95
This petite vineyard overlooks our Tasting Room in the Russian River Valley AVA and was our first Syrah vineyard planted, in 1996. Layers of bacon fat and savory flavors are bold and rich now, and will continue to deepen.
2014 Syrah Lolita Ranch $58 Vinous 93
Our Lolita Ranch Syrah from the Russian River AVA shows more fruit characteristics than savory ones; it has a robust structure with flavors of bright cherry and hints of clove spice.
2015 Pinot Noir Blue Slide Ridge $95 WA 95+
Beautiful wine from beautiful vines. The Blue Slide Ridge Pinot Noir shows its coastal influence with delicious blue fruits and a touch of hickory smoke.
2015 Pinot Noir Lolita Ranch $68 Vinous 94
The Lolita Ranch Pinot Noir is a fine example of an approachable, food friendly, classic Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.
2015 Pinot Noir Moonshine Ranch $68 Vinous 96
Our Moonshine Ranch Pinot Noir is rich and deep while still remaining balanced. A delicious mix of savory notes intermixed with deep, fruit flavors.
2015 Zinfandel Jackass Hill +130 Vinous 97
Our Jackass Hill is a 135 year old vineyard that proudly sits on a 65 degree slope. This site embodies the perfect balance of sun exposure, soil drainage, vine stress and Russian River Valley morning fog to gift us some of the most spectacular fruit flavors year after year.
2015 Zinfandel Lolita Ranch $58 WA 95
Our Lolita Ranch Zinfandel vineyard is located in the Russian River Valley AVA, on a steep 55 degree slope. Antonio Galloni calls this wine “a flat out delicious Zinfandel”, and we can’t help but agree with him.
2015 Zinfandel Vellutini Ranch $58 Vinous 92
Our Vellutini Ranch Zinfandel vineyard comes from cuttings of our 135 year old Jackass Vineyards, and is planted nearly between these two vineyards. This is our spiciest zinfandel of this release with juicy strawberry and apricot flavors.
2016 Compagni Portis Heritage White, Sonoma Valley, $26
This is always one of my hands-down favorite wines we make each year. The combination of field-blended Gewurtzraminer, Trousseau Gris, Riesling, and Roter Veltliner always morph slightly according to vintage conditions. For instance, the 2015 showed off more of the Gewurtzraminer richness that comes in a warmer year. The wine from the more moderate 2016 displays plenty of Gewurtz perfume but also some of the stoniness and leavening acidity from the other varieties.
2016 Judge Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Bennett Valley, $28
In exceptional years we make a single vineyard Sauvignon Blanc from this vineyard in the cool Bennett Valley Gap. Done exclusively in a blend of older French oak, new cigare barrels and Stockinger barrels this is one of my favorite SB’s we have made. Judge Vineyard, though not planted to the musque clone, always has head spinning perfume. Red cassis, pink grapefruit and peppercorn jump out. In a year like 2016, this is matched by surprising intensity and weight that sits atop all the nerve you would expect from a wine with a finished pH of under 3.3.
2016 Old Vine Zinfandel, California, $19
We take immense pride in the quality of this wine as we want it to reflect how good California’s beloved Zinfandel can be. A quick glimpse at what goes into it tells most of the story. In order of percentage, the wine comes from Bedrock Vineyard, Teldeschi Ranch, Sodini Ranch, Nervo Ranch, Katushas, Evangelho, Esola, Casa Santinamaria, and Story Vineyard. It is about 88% Zinfandel blended with Petite Sirah, Carignan, Alicante Bouschet and many different interplanted varieties that maintain poise and add complexity and structure. This has plenty of juiciness and should be delightful in the nearer term with a good decant; however, as many have discovered this wine will age gracefully and improve with time in bottle.
2016 Bedrock Vineyard Heritage Wine, Sonoma Valley, $39
This is the wine I started the winery to make. From vines planted by Senator George Hearst in 1888, this is the geographic and viticultural center of everything else we do. 2016 is one of my favorite Bedrock Heritage wines to date, as I tend to prefer vintages that are less about immediate fruit intensity and ripeness and more in line with the old-school “California Claret” these vines were originally planted to make. This wine is more in line with the 2013 than the 2008 or 2015. The wine, a blend of the 27 varieties interplanted at our family’s vineyard is roughly 50% Zinfandel, 20% Carignan, 4% Mataro with the reminder being everything else found in the field. The rocky site yielded a small amount of dense and balanced fruit and as always this wine features the savory, spice-infused character of Sonoma Valley. This wine will last a long time and decanting is highly recommended if consuming in the next few years. I have had a few of the more recent vintage wines that really show nicely after 12-24 hours of double-decanting—there is a lot of goodness coiled in this one.
2016 Monte Rosso Zinfandel, Sonoma Valley, $60
Our last vintage from this storied and beautiful vineyard, a fact that almost brings me to tears as I write this. As heartbreaking as it is to have this fruit taken away from us, the good news is that the 2016 is a wine for the ages. This reminds me most of my father’s 1993 version from this site—a wine that is still vibrant and hauntingly perfumed 25 years later. Tight-knit and structured, this wine has the classic citrus and pit fruit tinctured perfume of the ranch backed by vibrant and dense fruit. This one will need some time but has great promise.
2016 Evangelho Vineyard Heritage Wine, Contra Costa County, $30
I still cannot believe that we somehow own this unbelievable unicorn of a vineyard. Perched on banks of deep sand on the windy edge of the Sacramento River Delta this vineyard of own-rooted, 120-year-old vines produces vibrant and personality-filled wines unlike anything else we make. Though all the blocks are field-blends and co-fermented, I would estimate this wine is about 60% Zinfandel and 35% Mataro, with the remainder being Carignane, Palomino and a few other odds and ends. This features racy and vibrant fruit that is pleasantly funkified but the presence of the savory Mataro. Raised predominately in large foudre, this wine probably resembles a wine from the Southern Rhone as much as a “Zinfandel” from California. As always, the incredibly suave tannins from the sandy soils at the ranch make for a high-tone and elegant red wine.
2016 Esola Vineyard Zinfandel, Amador County, $35
Since starting to work with this vineyard in 2014, the wines have continually redefined what I thought possible from Amador County. Elegant and poised, the 2016 has the immense perfume this site can be capable of—the fermentations often smell like grapefruit and cherries—with the line and structure common to Amador County. As in previous years, this is a blend of two different lots from the same block at the vineyard. The first is pressed off at dryness and typically has fresher perfume but rawer tannic structure. The second sees extended maceration on the skins for 20-30 days to help reconcile the structure, a process that makes for more refined structure and deeper fruit tone. As in 2015, this is one of my favorites from the vintage.
2016 Dolinsek Ranch Heritage Wine, Russian River Valley, $39
A poster child of generously endowed, but still vibrant, Russian River Valley old vines. These stunning little bonsai vines date to 1910 and cling to a steep, north-facing slope of Sandy Goldridge Loam off of Laguna Road. A field-blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouschet, Barbera, Syrah, Black Muscat, Palomino, and even a single vine of Mourastel, this wine, as in most years, is ready to impress in its youth. This is one to break into while you wait for Bedrock Heritage and Monte Rosso to come around.
2015 Sodini Ranch Zinfandel, Russian River Valley, $37
Our first wine from this lovely vineyard since 2012—and boy has the vineyard changed. We were approached by Steve Sodini who was at wit’s end after several difficult and money-losing harvests and was looking to find a solution for his 1905 planted vineyard. As is the case with too many old vineyards, there were lots of missing vines and soils had been depleted after years of production. In certain blocks almost 55% of the vines were missing, which meant the 16-acre vineyard was putting out less than 1 ton per acre. With Steve’s blessing we took over the farming and started pouring TLC into the vineyard. Compost was spread, hard-pan was spaded and cover crops were planted to start the process of soil rejuvenation. Missing vines have been replanted to a massale selection of cleaned up Zinfandel clones from Bedrock Vineyard and are starting to bear fruit. It has been a bit of a massive undertaking but the quality has steadily increased year after year and the vineyard is living up to the enormous potential of its Limerick Lane address. Starting in 2015 we were able to select some of the best barrels for a vineyard designate (the remainder is a core of the Old Vine blend). Sodini is almost a perfect hybrid between the weight and pepper of Dry Creek and the sexy blue fruit of Russian River Valley—indeed, the soil on the flat of the vineyard are classic RRV sandy clay loams, while the hillside is made of the red clay loam so common on the east bench of Dry Creek Valley. This is satisfying stuff that will age nicely but can also be enjoyed on the sooner side with a generous decant.
2015 Griffin’s Lair Syrah, Sonoma Coast. $45
To say working with Griffin’s Lair since 2009 has been a privilege would be an understatement. Few younger vine vineyards have excited us every year like this wind-swept Petaluma Gap location. Our love and belief in the greatness of California Syrah is heavily owed over the last 8 years of making wine to this vineyard and tasting the great wines from others like Pax and Arnot Roberts. Coming from a co-fermentation of several clones of Syrah and a smidge of Viognier, grown in the ever-windy Petaluma Gap, this is one of the most consistently excellent wines we get to make every year. To double down on the already explosive aromatics of violets, pepper and bacon, we included 50% whole-cluster at the fermenter. The wine was then aged in a combination of large and small format barrels. This is a classic Griffin’s and should age beautifully. Decanting and hearty fare are always recommended here.