Virtually every week I peruse WineBid to see if there are any wines worth bidding on. It strikes me that when I browse through the Zinfandel category I see countless bottles of Zin that are 10 plus years of age. Often I will see bottles that are 15-20 years old. I think that more often than not these wines end up on WineBid because collectors are disappointed with the way their aged Zinfandel tastes.
This past week I opened a 2003 Ridge Lytton Springs out of magnum. The wine was interesting with flavors of black tea and aromas of bay leaves and wet forest floor. It was definitely drinkable and paired admirably with a grilled steak. What the wine lacked though was the juicy acidity and brambly fruit characteristics that I adore in Zinfandel. This was the oldest bottle of Zin in my cellar and I had aged it intentionally to see how it would develop.
I am a proponent of aging wine in the cellar if they improve or become more compelling with bottle age. Obvious examples for me would include Bordeaux and top tier Cabernets from Napa. They develop compelling secondary characteristics and the tannins are more in balance with the fruit profile. While my bottle of ’03 Ridge Lytton Springs clearly made it to 15 years of age I am certain it was not better than had I consumed if 5-7 years ago. I know many a wine consumer who won’t touch a bottle of Ridge Geyserville or Lytton Springs until it reaches 15 years of age. I’ll err on the side of drinking them sooner rather than later going forward.
With that being said a little bottle age can clearly benefit some Zins. A recent bottle of 2015 Ridge Pagani was just a little too over the top at this time and a year or two in the cellar should bring more balance to the wine.
I will not pass judgement on those of you who want to cellar your Zins. I plan to drink most of my single vineyard Zin from the likes of Carlisle, Turley and Ridge in the the 5-8 year window after release. Wines like Outpost and Black Sears that are sourced from Howell Mountain will also be consumed after 5-8 years. Entry level Zins like Turley Juvenile and Old Vines or Carlisle Sonoma County will be consumed 1-3 years after they are released. Unless I lose track of the bottle in my cellar I don’t intend to keep bottles of Zin past 10 years of age going forward.
The July Installment of Pick My Next Bottle focuses on Syrah from the 2009 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 this Saturday and a Bottle Note will be published the following week.
2009 was an average to slightly above average in California and Washington. However, I rarely worry about vintages when purchasing from these producers. Lillian, Carlisle and Cayuse seemingly deliver tremendous wines, year in and year out, regardless of conditions.
2009 Lillian Syrah – Inky purple. Explosive aromas of candied dark berries, incense, violet and patchouli, with woodsmoke, olive and Asian spice nuances adding complexity. Lush, palate-coating black and blue fruit compote flavors are energized by bright spice and mineral notes. Picks up candied violet and licorice notes on the sweet, impressively long finish, which is given grip by late-arriving tannins. With its suave marriage of power and energy, this is built for the long haul. There’s no way I’d have guessed that this wine clocked in at 15.2% alcohol save for its fruit intensity. 94 points from Stephen Tanzer.
2009 Carlisle Syrah Cardiac Hill – The 2009 Syrah Cardiac Hill is a gorgeous, thrilling wine laced with bacon fat, tapenade, savory herbs and plums. It possesses gorgeous aromatic delineation and fabulous length. The intense, mineral-drenched finish argues for cellaring the wine for at least another 2-3 years, but readers are going to have a very hard time keeping their hands off this gem. Cardiac Hill is a very cold site. The wine (100% Syrah) was vinified with 40% whole cluster and aged in French oak barrels, 27% new. Anticipated maturity: 2014-2029. 93 points from the Wine Advocate.
2009 Cayuse Syrah Armada Vineyard– A much more voluptuous, concentrated and obviously great Syrah, the 2009 Syrah Armada Vineyard yields lots of plum sauce, spice, licorice and crushed rock aromas and flavors to go with a full-bodied, layered, pedal-to-the-metal style. This is a great wine that will have 20-25 years of longevity. 97 points from the Wine Advocate.
Which 2009 Syrah Should I Open?
2009 Cayuse Syrah Armada Vineyard (37%, 23 Votes)
2009 Lillian Syrah (35%, 22 Votes)
2009 Carlisle Syrah Cardiac Hill (28%, 17 Votes)
Total Voters: 62
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 August installment of Pick My Next Bottle.
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.
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.
With the arrival yesterday of the Carlisle mailer so began the semi-annual struggle of deciding what wines to buy from one of my very favorite producers. This mailer, with 13 different wines, included two whites, two Syrahs, a Petite Sirah and 8 different Zinfandels. What makes this particular mailer somewhat unique is it is the last vintage for a couple Zins that have become staples in my cellar all the while adding a new vineyard designate that has me somewhat intrigued.
Below is how I would approach the mailer at different bottle increments.
3 bottles – For me, Carlisle is first and foremost a Zinfandel producer. If I was going to limit myself to 3 bottles I would make sure to include the Hayne and Monte Rosso as unfortunately Carlisle will no longer have access to these venerable vineyards. I would also include the Montafi as it is consistently one of my top 2 Zins from Carlisle. All 3 of these vineyards scored high when I ranked my Top 10 Old Vine Zinfandel Vineyards.
6 bottles – If I were able to add 3 more bottles to the 3 above I would include the Mancini Ranch Zinfandel, Limerick Lane Zinfandel and Papa’s Block Syrah. Mancini is new to the Carlisle lineup. I’ve always enjoyed the Mancini Ranch Zins from Joseph Swan and on top of that Mancini Ranch is literally a stones throw from my favorite Zin Vineyard, Papera Ranch. I’ve been a fan of Limerick Lane going back 20 years and the vineyard rarely disappoints. For my 6th bottle I am giving a very slight edge to the Papa’s Block Syrah over the Palisades Vineyard Petite Sirah. For my money Papa’s Block is the best Syrah made by Mike Officer.
9 bottles – The last 3 bottles I would add to my order would be the aforementioned Palisades Vineyard Petite Sirah, Sonoma County Zinfandel and Compagni Portis White Wine. The Petite Sirah from Carlisle is one of the best in the state although I’d include Turley and Switchback Ridge in the conversation. The Sonoma County Zinfandel is a staple in my household. You can do no better for $24. Lastly, if you have not tried one of Mike’s white wines you are missing out. The Compagni Portis is the place to start.
It just goes to show how strong this offering is when the wines that did not make the cut are all exceptional: the DuPratt Zinfandel, Steiner Gruner Vetliner, Sonoma County Syrah and Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel. Consider the Sonoma County Syrah if you need to fill out a case. For just $20 this is an amazing wine.
Carlisle is all about exceptional wines at exceptional prices. My advice…buy all you can afford.
It is the time of the year where every wine blogger publishes their lists of Wines of the Year or Values of the Year, etc. Although I try to blog about all the wines I taste it is clear that Zinfandel is definitely my grape of choice. With that in mind here are my top 10 Zinfandels of 2016.
The link for each wine will take you to the detailed Bottle Note on Zinfandel Chronicles. All of the older wines were stored in my cellar since release.
The October installment of Pick My Next Bottle focuses on Old Vine Zinfandel from the the 2012 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.
2012 was an exceptional vintage for Zinfandel throughout California. The wineries featured have meticulous Winemakers who work hard in the vineyard and I am confident in saying the wines from Carlisle, Ridge and Turley will rarely disappoint. These particular vineyards all date back to the early 1900’s.
2012 Carlisle Zinfandel Dupratt Vineyard – The knock-out 2012 Zinfandel DuPratt Vineyard from the Mendocino Ridge AVA comes from an old vine vineyard planted at a 1,600 foot elevation. Officer told me this is an extremely cold site, and the acids can remain high despite a late harvest. This wine is beautifully balanced with 15.4% alcohol as well as lots of blueberry and black raspberry fruit, medium to full body, a layered mouthfeel and, again, the hallmarks of Officer’s winemaking – purity, texture and enormous hedonistic appeal. 94 points from the Wine Advocate.
2012 Ridge Lytton Springs – The 2012 Lytton Springs is quite reserved, compact and inward at this stage. There is good density and depth in the glass, but the elements aren’t fully formed just yet. While most of Ridge’s 2012s are quite open today, that is not at all the case with the Lytton Springs. The 2012 is going to need time. In 2012, Lytton Springs is 70% Zinfandel, 21% Petite Sirah, 7% Carignane and 4% Mataro (Mourvèdre). 93 points from Vinous.
2012 Turley Zinfandel Pesenti Vineyard – Bright, deep red. Pungent aromas of black raspberry, pepper and herbs, lifted by a mineral note from the limestone-rich soil. Wonderfully intense and energetic, with a light touch that belies its substantial alcohol. Captivating flavors of blackberry, herbs and lavender saturate the palate. Boasts a superb balance of sugar, acidity and tannins. This is spectacularly aromatic today but should really be held for a few years. 94 points from Stephen Tanzer.
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.
Papera Vineyard is situated in the Russian River Valley and was planted in 1934 by Charlie Papera. Most vineyards from this era are comprised of a number of mixed black varieties. Papera, on the other hand, is 95% Zinfandel.
Bright crimson in color. 14.9% ABV. 93% Zinfandel and 7% Carignane. Super nose of fresh red fruits, citrus and pepper. Medium body with picture perfect acidity. Exceptional balance. Raspberry liqueur, cherry cordial and white pepper on the palate. The finish is long, graceful and seamless. Everything you can ask for in a Zinfandel from what may be my single favorite vineyard. Drink over the next 1-2 years.
My rating: 95 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.
The April Installment of Pick My Next Bottle focuses on 2010 Old Vine Zinfandel. 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 this Saturday and a Bottle Note will be published shortly thereafter.
2010 was an exceptionally tough vintage for Zinfandel producers. California endured record-breaking low temperatures throughout the spring. The result was late budbreak. Summer wasn’t much better. It was the second coldest July in 50 years in Napa and Sonoma. Things became really problematic in late August when temperatures pushed first into the high 90s and then cracked 100 for several days, breaking records around Northern California. Many vineyards were wiped out by the heat including Papera and Carlisle. Ultimately though, the grapes that made it through to harvest, were of high quality.
2010 Bedrock Zinfandel Monte Rosso Vineyard – The 2010 Zinfandel Monte Rosso Old-Vine shows the darker side of Zinfandel in its black fruit, spices, flowers and licorice. It displays tremendous depth and intensity in a rich, round style that is hugely appealing. The blend is 96% old-vine Zinfandel (planted in 1886) and 4% Alicante Bouschet. Ironically, this is a block Twain-Peterson’s father, Joel Peterson, used for some of the Ravenswood wines when Twain-Peterson was a child. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2025. 93 points from the Wine Advocate.
2010 Carlisle Zinfandel Bedrock Vineyard – Freshly cut flowers, spices and mint all jump from the glass in the 2010 Zinfandel Bedrock Vineyard. Nuanced and detailed, the 2010 Bedrock comes across as fresh, vibrant and beautifully delineated from start to finish. This is very bright and floral, especially for the year. Mike Officer told me the fruit at Bedrock had matured to the point it could withstand the sweltering heat from the spikes that arrived in late August. The 2010 is a field blend of approximately 86% Zinfandel, 11% Mourvedre and 3% Petite Sirah/Alicante Bouschet. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2020. 92 points from the Wine Advocate.
2010 Turley Zinfandel Dragon Vineyard – The 2010 Zinfandel Dragon Vineyard is voluptuous and beguiling from the very first taste. A wine of considerable impact, the Dragon Vineyard offers up blackberry jam, violets, cloves and a host of other dark aromas and flavors. This is one of the more intriguing wines in the lineup. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2025. 93 points from the Wine Advocate.
Which 2010 Old Vine Zinfandel Should I Open?
2010 Bedrock Zinfandel Monte Rosso Vineyard (45%, 31 Votes)