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2010 Carlisle Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley – 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.

Sourced from Teldeschi Ranch, Mounts Ranch, Oddone Vineyard and Del Carlo Ranch. 86% Zinfandel, 8% Grenache and 6% Petite Sirah.

Bright purple in color. 15.7% ABV. Brambly black fruits, plums, iron and pepper on the nose. Heady and decadent. Not quite Port like…but pretty close. Blackberries, blueberries, plum and spice on the palate. Not for the faint of heart, but right in my wheelhouse. Just enough acidity to keep everything in balance.  A triumph from a tough vintage for Zinfandel. Drink over the next 2-4 years.

My rating: 92 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 Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings.

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2008 Force Majeure CS II Red Blend – Bottle Notes

Previously known as Grand Rêve, Force Majeure was founded in 2004 by Paul McBride and Ryan Johnson. Force Majeure pairs some of Washington’s highly acclaimed winemakers with fruit from one of Washington’s highly acclaimed vineyards, Ciel du Cheval. The winemakers contributing to the Collaboration Series is a Who’s Who of Washington winemakers including Ben Smith, Carolyn Lakewold, Chris Gorman, James Mantone, Mark McNeilly, Mike McMorran and Ross Mickel.

Made by Ross Mickel of Ross Andrew winery the wine is 48% Grenache, 38% Syrah, 20% Mourvedre, 1% Viognier and 1% Roussanne.

Dark purple in color. 14.4% ABV. Smoke, grilled meats, charcoal and black fruits on an amazing nose. Great mouthfeel and the perfect amount of acidity. Black cherry, game, white pepper, anise and citrus on the palate. Impeccably balanced and complex with tons of structure. I’m hard pressed to recall a better Southern Rhone style blend from the state of Washington. Drink over the next 5-7 years.

My rating: 95 points.

In just a few short years Force Majeure has become one of the top 5 Syrah producers in Washington. The rest of the lineup is pretty stellar as well.

Force Majeure warrants your attention and (as I write this) the winery is still accepting names for their mailing list.

In other news Force Majeure recently announced the hiring of Todd Alexander, formerly of Bryant Family Vineyards, as the winemaker for the Force Majeure Estate wines. Ryan Johnson has left the winery and started a vineyard consulting company. Finally, a new facility for the winery should be up and running in time for the September Release Party. More to come on all of the above.

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The Week in Zinfandel (8/11/14)

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!

Clifford Brown reviews the 2008 Turley Zinfandel Cedarman Vineyard.

Food & Wine on Why Sommeliers are Drinking White Zinfandel.

The Savory writes Could White Zinfandel Actually Be Making a Comeback?

Gregory Dal Piaz of Snooth writes Sierra Foothills Zinfandel is Ready.

Wine on a College Dime writes My Plunge Into Red Wine.

The Wines of Lodi writes Appreciating Zinfandels (Especially from Lodi) Like a Sommelier.

Now and Zin Wine reviews the Lodi Native Zinfandel McCay Cellars Trulux Vineyard.

Yours truly reviews the 2012 Robert Biale Vineyards Zinfandel Black Chicken.

A busy Week in Zinfandel. Keep them coming!

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2011 Sojourn Chardonnay Sonoma Coast – Bottle Notes

Sojourn Cellars was founded in 2001 by Craig Haserot and Erich Bradley. The winery specializes in Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and recently added a Chardonnay to the lineup. Their fruit is sourced from some of California’s finest vineyards.

From Sangiacomo and Keller Estate Vineyards.

Golden in color. 14.1% ABV. My first try of the inaugural vintage of Sojourn Chardonnay. Beautiful nose of tropical fruits, flowers, marshmallow and mineral. Lush and rich with lively acidity. Pineapple, lemon meringue, hazelnuts and pears on the palate. Decadent finish. Impressive first effort. Drink over the next 2-3 years.

My rating: 91 points.

Current vintages are available via the Sojourn mailing list and website

Definitely consider a visit to the Sojourn tasting parlor on your next visit to Sonoma. They do a one-of-a-kind sit down tasting where you will have the opportunity to sample many of their highly acclaimed wines. My wife and I have had the good fortune to spend some quality time with Craig and Ziggy (his dog with a talent for sniffing out TCA).

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2011 Lauren Ashton Cellars Cuvée Arlette – Bottle Notes

Lauren Ashton Cellars was founded in 2009 by Kit Singh. A Dentist by profession, Kit’s passion for wine was fueled by trips to Napa, Sonoma and Europe’s best known wine regions. Kit enology background includes classes at UC Davis and Seattle Community College along with an internship at Delille Cellars.

The inspiration for the name of the winery was Kit’s two children, Ashley Lauren and Ashton Troy. The packaging for the wines is impressive. The black and white pictures on the labels are from buildings in Estonia where Singh’s partner, Riinu Rammal, is from.

Dark purple in color. 14.5% ABV. 49% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Franc, 19.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2.5% Petite Sirah. Columbia Valley fruit from Stillwater Creek, Klipsun, Ambassador and Dineen Vineyards. Great nose of red fruits, smoke, licorice and espresso. Well balanced, complex and elegant. Raspberry, currants, minerals, cherries and earth on the palate. Super silky tannins on an exceptional finish.

My rating: 93 points.

The wine is fairly priced at $50. The Woodinville tasting room is open Thursday thru Sunday from 1pm to 5pm. I will be visiting soon.

This review was based on a sample provided by the winery.

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Zinfandel of the Month – 2012 Robert Biale Vineyards Zinfandel Black Chicken

Zinfandel of the Month is a new 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 August Zinfandel of the Month is the 2012 Robert Biale Black Chicken.

Robert Biale Vineyards in Napa has its roots in the 1930s, when the Biale family started growing Zinfandel grapes and other produce on the outskirts of Napa. The family grapes mostly were sold to local wineries, though the Biales saved some to make wine for the family. The winery was formally founded in 1991. The estate grows Zinfandel and Petite Sirah on 25 acres in Napa Valley.

In the early days of Napa, Aldo Biale sold chickens and a wide variety of produce. Black Chicken was the code word for a jug of Aldo’s secret Zinfandel.

Bright crimson in color. 15.8% ABV. Black fruits, pepper and currants on the nose. Nice acidity. Ripe and juicy but still elegant. Blackberry compote, white pepper, plums and raspberry on the palate. This wine is still very young and vibrant. Drink over the next 5-7 years.

My rating: 92 points.

The Zins from Robert Biale are some of the very best in Napa Valley. The wines are readily available at retail and via the winery website. You should be able to find Black Chicken for $40.

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2009 Rochioli Estate Pinot Noir – 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. Although best known for their world class Pinot Noir, Rochioli also produces remarkable Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Rochioli recently published a detailed map of the Estate Vineyard that is required viewing for fans of the winery.

Crimson in color. 14.5% ABV. Red fruits, cloves and minerals on the nose. Perfectly balanced and elegant with just the right amount of acidity. Cherries and cinnamon are prominent on the palate with a bit of cola and earth as well. Great finish. Still young and evolving with tons of potential. Drink over the next 3-5 years.

My rating: 93 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 Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings and the Fab 5 of Mailing Lists.

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The Week in Zinfandel (8/4/14)

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!

Toledo Wine and Vines writes Unique Terroir Fuels Paso Robles Zinfandel Excellence.

Monique Soltani writes about the ZAP Simply Summer Celebration.

The Reverse Wine Snob reviews the 2012 Edmeades Mendocino County Zinfandel.

Martin Redmond of ENOFLYZ Wine Blog reviews the 2009 Ridge Zinfandel Carmichael Ranch.

Dave McIntyre of WashingtonPost.com writes about The Lure of Sin Zins.

Eric Asimov of NYTimes.com writes In Zinfandel, Brawn Wins Out.

Last but not least, yours truly, reviewed the 2012 Turley Zinfandel Old Vines.

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2010 Turley Zinfandel Old Vines

Turley Wine Cellars was founded in 1993 by Larry Turley and specializes in small lots of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah from some of California’s most historic and treasured vineyards.

The Old Vines is a blend of 18 vineyards with an average of 80 years old. They hail from Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Lodi, Contra Costa, Amador, and Paso Robles.

Bright purple in color. 15.5% ABV. Black fruits, licorice and pepper on the nose. Rich, lush and jammy. Blackberry, black cherries, tar, cloves and figs on the palate. The finish is long and complex. This wine, as always, delivers far above its $25 price point. Drink over the next 1-2 years.

My rating: 91 points.

Turley wines are available via the mailing list and periodically at retail. With all due respect to Carlisle and Bedrock, Turley is unequivocally the best Zinfandel producer in California. Exceptional vineyards and no detail spared in the winemaking process. The wines are simply better than ever.

The wait to get on the mailing list at Turley is relatively short. Take advantage of that.

Turley has tasting rooms in both Amador and Paso Robles. Both are not to be missed if you are in the area.

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The Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings

Welcome to the 3rd, annual installment, of the Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings. The intent behind the list was to rank wineries based on the buzz and excitement they create in the wine collecting crowd. The rankings are entirely subjective based on my observations on sites like Twitter, Facebook, Wine Spectator, Wine Berserkers and Cellartracker.

I’ve ranked the wineries below and indicated whether they’ve moved up the list or down. I’ve also highlighted wineries new to the list and those that have been dropped from the list. For the first time I have also included my bubble wineries. The bubble wineries might find a spot on the list in the years to come.

Without further ado here is the 2014 version of the Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings.

  1. Screaming Eagle – I have no idea who drinks this wine. I do know that the wine is released for $750 per bottle and can easily be resold for $1500 per bottle. Until that paradigm changes this wine will stay at the top of my list. Demand for the 2012, to be released next Spring, will be off the charts. No change from 2013.
  2. Sine Qua Non – The mailing list is virtually impenetrable and yours truly has a stack of post cards to prove it. The wines are exquisite. Even their “second label” Next of Kyn commands a premium on the aftermarket. To my surprise, not even the recession could dampen demand for these wines. No change from 2013.
  3. Carlisle – The waiting list for a spot on the mailing list continues to grow at Carlisle. Great wines, prices and customer service drive the demand. Second-to-none grape sources, including the new Limerick Lane Zinfandel, should not be overlooked. No change from 2013.
  4. Rivers-Marie – Thomas Rivers Brown is without question one of most acclaimed winemakers in California. Great fruit sources, pricing and customer service are the hallmark at Rivers Marie. The wine lineup is expanding on all fronts with new Cabernet, Pinot and Chardonnay additions this year alone. Up 1 spot from 2013.
  5. Saxum – The winery recently announced a price increase from $89 to $98 per bottle. I have little doubt that the current release will sell through in a heart beat but the $100 price point is a line in the sand for many consumers. Yours truly will be keeping a close eye on future purchases. Down 1 spot from 2013.
  6. Bedrock – I don’t know how Morgan does it but he makes upwards of 20 different wines, all of which are exceptional, and he also launched the Under the Wire sparking wine label. The dedication to the historic vineyards of Northern California should not be overlooked. Once again, a big winner this year, up 3 spots from 2013.
  7. Cayuse – Christophe Baron continues to produce breath taking wines at Cayuse and also launched the Horsepower label earlier this year. Even at a $110 price point collectors lined up to get a Horsepower allocation. If you are on the Cayuse list you owe it to yourself to visit Walla Walla on Cayuse release weekend in early April. Down 1 spot from 2013.
  8. Schrader – The demand for the 2012 Schrader lineup, released last Winter, was strong. On top of that allocations were increased. Even at $175 a bottle this is one of the best values in all of Napa Valley. The team from Schrader also launched the long awaited Boars’ View Pinot Noir. Down 1 spot from 2013.
  9. Scarecrow – The 2012 M. Etain and Scarecrow will both be released in the next 9 months and collectors will be falling all other themselves to get an allocation. Scores are up, demand is up, but Scarecrow would be well served to hold the line on pricing. The big winner this year. Up 7 spots from 2013.
  10. Kosta Browne – Kosta Browne has a vocal group of detractors but the waiting list to get the wines is as long as ever. Michael Browne launched Cirq which quickly sold through at over $100 a bottle. The wines are proving to be age worthy as well. Beg, borrow or steal for a tasting appointment at the new facility in The Barlow. Down 2 spots from 2013.
  11. Rochioli – Simply some of the best Pinot Noir in the world. Great Chardonnay as well. On top of that they actually have a tasting room open to the public! The best spot for a picnic in the Russian River Valley. East and West Block are being replanted but I am heartened by the upcoming inaugural releases of a Syrah and sparkling wine. No change from 2013.
  12. Rhys – Old world Pinot Noir that generates more conversation on wine boards than just about any winery. The founder, Kevin Harvey, is very accessible. Not even marginal scores from the Wine Spectator can derail Rhys. No change from 2013.
  13. Turley – You can make an argument that these are the best Zinfandels in California. Impeccable vineyard sources including the new Cobb and Sadie Upton Zins from Amador. Tegan Passalacqua has breathed new life into an already great winery. Up 2 spots from 2013.
  14. Williams Selyem – All eyes are on Williams Selyem as Bob Cabral is leaving after the 2014 vintage. Huge shoes to be filled. That being said the Pinot program is stellar and the Chardonnay and Zinfandel are second to none. The new facility is a tour de force. Even Burt Williams fans have grown to appreciate these wines. No change from 2013.
  15. Quilceda Creek – A decade long series of price increases, on a somewhat polarizing wine to begin with, has begun to take its toll. Demand is still strong but the next few years will mark a turning point. I’m still a buyer but definitely not in the volume of years past. Down 5 spots from 2013.
  16. Myriad – Mike Smith started his winemaking career under the direction of Thomas Rivers Brown in 2001. Like TRB he has his own label, Myriad, and works with many other clients including Quivet and Carter Cellars. Super wines that are well priced. New to the list in 2014.
  17. Dehlinger – The wines from Dehlinger are better than ever. Dehlinger makes one of the states best Pinots and the Cabernet, Chardonnay and Syrah are great wines that are fairly priced. If anything Dehlinger suffers from a lack of hype. Down 4 spots from 2013.
  18. Arnot Roberts – Small lot, single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay, as well as several other varieties uncommon in Northern Californian vineyards including a Rosé of Touriga Nacional. A producer to keep an eye on. No change from 2013.
  19. FIGGINS/Leonetti/Toil – Chris Figgins added Toil of Oregon to the Figgins family portfolio. The wine is super and bodes for great things to come. Recent releases from FIGGINS and Leonetti are exceptional as well. I suspect there are more exciting projects in the works. Up 1 spot from 2013.
  20. Ridge – Old vine Zinfandel is going through a revolution and wines like Geyserville and Lytton Springs are leading the charge. Monte Bello is one of the true blue chips of California. Down 1 spot from 2013.

On the bubble but not quite on the list: Reynvaan, Spottswoode and Thomas.

Dropped off the list: Corison

There you have it! The 2014 version of the Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings. As always, I welcome your feedback.

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