I had the opportunity earlier this week to pay a visit to Carlisle Winery and catch up with Mike Officer. I’ve been on the Carlisle mailing list for almost 15 years. The first vintage I purchased was the ’02’s. Despite having corresponded over the years via email this was my first time meeting Mike in person and my first time visiting the winery in Windsor. We tasted through 6 or so bottles of the newly released ’16’s and then went on to barrel sample almost a dozen of the soon to be released ’17’s.
I am just a huge fan of the wines made by Mike so suffice it to say there was not a disappointing wine in the bunch. We tried, from bottle, the ’16 Mancini, ’16 Montafi and ’16 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel followed by the ’16 Sierra Mar Syrah and the ’16 Palisades Vineyard Petite Sirah. Knowing all the wines were exceptional, it was the Palisades Petite Sirah that made the largest impression on me. Lush and opulent with tremendous aromatics. My orders from Carlisle are always heavy on the Zinfandel but I will make certain to include this Petite Sirah on future mailers.
From the ’17 vintage we tried the DuPratt, Limerick Lane, Mancini, Montafi, Piner-Olivet, Papera, Carlisle, Two Acres, Integral and the Montecillo Cabernet Sauvignon. Each Zinfandel had lovely bright fruits with mouthwatering acidity and impeccable balance. Mike commented that there is somewhat of a learning curve with making wines. The ’17 vintage was similar to the ’10 vintage due to extreme heat, however, having lived through it once Mike knew how to better manage the harvest. Yields were down by roughly 15% in ’17 due to the September heat spike but the quality of the wines did not suffer whatsoever.
The Montecillo Vineyard dates back to the 1960’s and sits at the top of the winding Nelligan Road on the northern edge of the Moon Mountain District AVA. Mike mentioned he is a fan of old school Napa Cabernet, noting Corison in particular and this Cabernet pays homage to that ideal. The wine is herbaceous and rustic with no shortage of fruit and tannic backbone. I’m hoping to secure one of the somewhat limited bottles with the intention of sticking it in the back of my cellar for at least a decade.
To top of my visit we drove with Mike from the winery to Carlisle Vineyard. The vineyard, approaching 100 years in age, is absolutely astonishing. Forty grape varieties have been identified in the vineyard and it was just so cool to walk the vines and look at ancient vine Zinfandel, Mission and Muscat of Alexandria to name just a few.
Lastly it is worth noting that the ideals Mike continues to strive for are exceptional wines at fair prices. He is humble, unassuming, incredibly passionate and an absolute pleasure to taste with. It is so easy for me to support a winery like Carlisle and I look forward to following Mike’s wines over the next 15 years.