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2009 Thomas Pinot Noir Dundee Hills – Bottle Notes

One of the most collectible Pinot Noirs made in all of Oregon is from a winery you’ve probably never heard of: Thomas Winery. Located in Carlton, Oregon, winemaker John Thomas has been releasing small amounts of wine from the Thomas Vineyard since 1988. I don’t recall ever seeing ratings from the Wine Advocate or the Wine Spectator, and I don’t think Thomas has ever hosted a public event. The winery has achieved cult like status among wine collectors.

Garnet in color. Almost translucent. 13.9% ABV. Red fruits, roses and earth on the nose. Light body with bright, racy acidity. Wow! Complex and sophisticated. Cranberries, rhubarb, smoke, cinnamon and mushrooms on the palate. The finish is exceptionally long. This is Oregon Pinot Noir at its very best. Maybe the best wine I have ever had from John Thomas. Stunning now but will drink well for another 4-6 years if not longer.

My rating: 95 points.

Thomas Pinot Noir makes a brief appearance at Portland-area shops soon after release, and is priced right around $55 per bottle. I’ve had the opportunity to taste bottlings going back to the late 90’s, and think the wine shows best 7-10 years past the vintage date.

I’ve blogged about Thomas previously in Thomas Winery: The Best Pinot Noir You Have Never Heard Of.

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2014 Betz Family Bésoleil – Bottle Notes

Betz Family Winery was founded in 1997 by Bob & Cathy Betz. Critical acclaim from local and national wine publications has put Betz Family Winery at the forefront of Washington wines alongside Cayuse, Leonetti and Quilceda Creek. The winery was sold to Steve and Bridget Griessel five years ago. Louis Skinner, a longtime assistant of Bob’s, is now the full time Winemaker.

Bésoleil is the Southern Rhone inspired red blend from Betz Family.

Bright crimson in color. 14.5% ABV. 33% Grenache, 24% Counoise, 20% Syrah, 17% Cinsault and 6% Mourvedre. Savory nose or black fruits, road tar, olive brine and grilled meats. Medium body with medium to strong acidity. Young and still coming together. Cherries, kirsch, plums and white pepper on the palate. Substantial tannins on a long finish. Lots of potential but some time in the cellar is warranted. Drink over the next 4-6 years.

My rating: 91 points.

I understand the mailing list is full, although I suspect the wait isn’t too long. Fortunately, the wines from Betz are readily available all over Seattle almost year-round. The 2015 Besoleil will be released to the mailing list this Fall and should be available at retail. I’m a buyer.

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Pick My Next Bottle – 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel

The February installment of Pick My Next Bottle focuses on Old Vine Zinfandel from the the 2013 vintage. As I mentioned in the first installment, the purpose of this series is to provide insight into specific wines or producers you may currently have in your cellar. The winning bottle will be opened on Saturday and a Bottle Note will be published the following week.

2013 was an exceptional vintage for Zinfandel throughout California. The wineries featured below have meticulous Winemakers who work hard in the vineyard and I am confident in saying the wines from Bedrock, Carlisle and Turley will rarely disappoint. Pagani Ranch and Hayne Vineyard date back to the early 1900’s while Bedrock Vineyard dates back to the 1880’s. More on the vineyards on the Historic Vineyard Society website.

The Contenders:

  • 2013 Bedrock Wine Co. Red Wine Pagani Ranch – The 2013 Proprietary Red Pagani Heritage rivals the incredible 2012. An ancient vineyard of mixed black grapes planted in the 1880s, this full-bodied, multifaceted wine offers a stunning display of blue, red and black fruits intermixed with floral notes, a juicy, exuberant personality, and, most importantly, a boatload of pleasure. Drink it over the next decade. 96 points from the Wine Advocate.
  • 2013 Carlisle Zinfandel Hayne Vineyard – From the famous Napa Valley site in Santa Helena, the 2013 Zinfandel Hayne Vineyard (15.9% alcohol, but only a mere 216 cases produced) is a blockbuster Zinfandel. There is something magical in this wine, which in 2013 is also 100% Zinfandel from 110-year old vines. Deep ruby/purple, with a stunning nose of licorice, incense, camphor, blackberry, blueberry, kirsch and earth, the wine is majestic, full-bodied and an absolute tour de force in Zinfandel winemaking. 96 points from the Wine Advocate.
  • 2013 Turley Zinfandel Bedrock Vineyard – A wine of real phenolic weight and vertical texture, the 2013 Zinfandel Bedrock Vineyard is explosive from start to finish. Iron, smoke, tobacco, savory herbs and dense red stone fruits blossom in a wine built on serious structure. In this vintage, winemaker Tegan Passalacqua gave the Bedrock three additional weeks of time on the skins, which no doubt explains much of the energy and power here. Dollops of Petite Sirah and Alicante round out a very classic-feeling Sonoma Valley field blend. 94 points from Vinous.

Which 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel Should I Open?

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Thanks for voting! I’d love to see a comment below on why you picked one bottle over another.

Also, let me know if you have any suggestions for the March Installment of Pick My Next Bottle.

I previously ranked all these vineyards in Top 10 Old Vine Zinfandel Vineyards.

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2008 Carlisle Zinfandel Montafi Vineyard – Bottle Notes

Carlisle Winery & Vineyards was founded in 1998 by Mike and Kendall Officer. Their passion is clear: Small lots of Zinfandel and Syrah from exceptional, historic vineyards. Many of these vineyards are heritage sites planted by Italian immigrants and date back to the late 1800s . They have also recently added their first whites, two blends from historic, old-vine vineyards plus Sonoma County’s first ever Grüner Veltliner.

Montafi Vineyard was planted in 1926. Located farther up the eastern bench of the Laguna de Santa Rosa flood plain, bordering the Santa Rosa city limits, this vineyard is mostly Zinfandel but does contain a good amount of Alicante Bouschet and Grand Noir.

Crimson in color. 14.8% ABV. 88% Zinfandel and 12% Mixed Blacks. Gorgeous nose of red and black fruits, menthol and wild flowers. Medium to full body with loads of acidity. Vibrant and lush with great mouth feel. Raspberry, blackberry, cocoa and white pepper on the palate. The finish is incredibly long. Montafi is consistently one of the best wines made at Carlisle and this wine is no exception. Perfect now and perhaps for another year or so.

My rating: 94 points.

Current vintages of the various Carlisle wines are available via the mailing list, which is exceptionally long. Several retail outlets in California stock Carlisle, but you need to check with them at the time the winery releases their wines in the Spring and Fall.

I’ve wrote about Carlisle previously in Winery Mailing Lists: The Fab 5 and The 2016 Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings.

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The Week in Zinfandel (2/13/17)

Welcome to the latest installment of The Week in Zinfandel. If I missed your post or story please send me a link and I will be sure to include it next week. Cheers!

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Zinfandel of the Month – 2014 Cline Family Cellars Ancient Vines Zinfandel

Zinfandel of the Month is a regular feature on Zinfandel Chronicles. Keep in mind that although the Zinfandel of the Month might be an older bottle, the current vintage will be one you can find at retail or via the mailing list.

The February Zinfandel of the Month is the 2014 Cline Family Cellars Ancient Vines.

Cline Family Cellars was founded in 1982 by Fred and Nancy Cline. Fred and Nancy chose to restore acres of 100-year-old vines and produce Rhone-style varietals like Mourvedre, Carignane, Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier. They also planted acres of what would become legendary Cline Cellars Zinfandel. In 1993 the winery was relocated from Oakley to a 350-acre ranch in the famed Carneros Valley in Sonoma County. There the Clines planted Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah.

Crimson in color. 15% ABV. Nice nose of red and black fruits, white pepper and cocoa powder. Medium body with light to medium acidity. Raspberry, strawberry, black cherry and pepper on the palate. The finish is long and spicy. Easy to drink Zinfandel that will surely be a crowd pleaser. Best over the next few years and a value at $16 or so.

My rating: 88 points.

The wines from Cline are readily available at retail.

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New Releases from Wayfarer Vineyard

Wayfarer Vineyard, located on the remote Sonoma Coast, was planted by David Abreu in 2002. In 2005, Jayson Pahlymeyer started blending Wayfarer Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with fruit from Russian River Vineyards and bottling it under the Pahlmeyer label. By 2012, the vineyard’s exceptional fruit presented an irrefutable case for a namesake label. Jayson’s daughter, Cleo Pahlmeyer, runs the estate and Bibiana González Rave is in charge of winemaking.

I was fortunate to try some of the wineries new releases.

2014 Wayfarer Chardonnay – Bright gold in color. 14.5% ABV. Sublime nose of Meyer lemons, hazelnuts and brioche. Rich and creamy with perfect acidity. Flavors of honeysuckle, peach and apple with just a touch of minerality. The finish is crisp and lingers on the palate. Absolutely stunning Chardonnay. Drink over the next 4-6 years. $80 at the winery. My rating: 95 points.

2014 Wayfarer Pinot Noir – Bright red in color. 14.5% ABV. Gorgeous nose of red fruits, pine needle, baking spice and forest floor. Smooth as silk on the palate with mouth watering acidity. Flamboyant and fruit forward flavors of cherry, strawberry and cranberry. The finish is exceptionally long. A big, bold Pinot Noir with enough nuance and complexity to make things really compelling. Fantastic wine. Drink over the next 5-7 years. $90 at the winery. My rating: 94 points.

There is much to like here. Great people, exceptional wines and an impeccable vineyard. I’ll be looking to add future vintages of Wayfarer to my wine cellar.

Reviews based on samples provided by the winery.

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The Week in Zinfandel (2/6/17)

Welcome to the latest installment of The Week in Zinfandel. If I missed your post or story please send me a link and I will be sure to include it next week. Cheers!

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2007 Force Majeure Collaboration Series IV – Bottle Notes

Force Majeure was founded in 2004 by Paul McBride and made its name pairing some of Washington’s highly acclaimed winemakers with fruit from one of Washington’s highly acclaimed vineyards, Ciel du Cheval.  The winery recently transitioned from Collaboration wines to Estate wines. Todd Alexander, formerly of Bryant Family Vineyards, is the winemaker for the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. There is also a second label that was introduced last year named Parabellum.

Interesting to note that this is one of my last Grand Reve bottles which was the original name of the winery prior to Force Majeure.

Violet in color. 13.6% ABV. 60% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Petit Verdot. Soaring nose of red fruits, anise and graphite. Rich and polished with layers of fruit. Currants, cassis, cherries and molten licorice on the palate. The finish is incredibly long and plush. This wine has lost some of the baby fat of years past and is taking on some cool tertiary characteristics. In a great place now. One of the best Merlot based wines in Washington. Drink over the next 4-6 years.

My rating: 94 points.

Force Majeure is one of the most exciting wineries in the state. The winery is still accepting names for the mailing list .

I’m going to miss the CS wines and in particular the Merlot dominant CS IV but am excited about the direction Paul McBride has in mind for Force Majeure.

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2014 J. Rochioli Valdiguié – Bottle Notes

Rochioli is one of the true pioneers in Russian River Valley, with a winemaking history dating back to the the late 1950′s. In 1987 Rochioli released their first estate wine, the 1985 Rochioli Pinot Noir. Although best known for their world class Pinot Noir, Rochioli also produces remarkable Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Magenta in color. 13% ABV. Savory nose of red and black fruits, baking spices and earth. Light body with medium acidity. Plush and textured on the palate. Flavors of black cherry, raspberry, cranberry and soil. The finish is long and supple. Delicious, fun and easy to drink. Best over the next few years. A great buy at $24. Typically just available in the tasting room but over the last several years Rochioli has opened this up to the mailing list.

My rating: 90 points.

At present time (and for the foreseeable future) buying from Rochioli via the mailing list is not an option. The Estate wines do show up at retail periodically, and the winery’s Russian River Valley tasting room is still open for public tasting. They may only be pouring a couple of wines, but it’s a great opportunity to buy a bottle for a picnic on their lovely patio and a few more to bring home for the cellar.

I’ve blogged about Rochioli previously in the The 2016 Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings and the Fab 5 of Mailing Lists.

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