Hello friends. Today is another step in our continuing monitoring of The New California. One of the most pleasant surprises of 2014 was the success of our inaugural New Cali offer back in April, and I intend to (slowly) continue our explorations of this burgeoning movement.
The movement is probably best captured in San Francisco Chronicle wine critic Jon Bonné’s recent book The New California Wine. Bonne focuses there on wineries moving away from high-alc, high-oak, overly-manipulated monsters. It’s a grass-roots movement for now (and will be as long as there’s so much cash to be made from cult Napa Cabernet), but it’s well worth tracking.
Last year we began with Morgan Twain-Peterson’s Shebang label. Those bottles were warmly received by our list members and became frequent reorder targets. Today we’re going to stick with Morgan but focus instead on his main Bedrock label. Both of today’s wines feature some of the oldest American vines still in production, and both are (as you can see) sold out at the winery.
Morgan is a second generation Cali winemaker, the son of Ravenswood founder Joel Peterson (the family sold Ravenswood in 2001). He founded Bedrock Wine Company in 2007, after first trying to escape his winemaking roots (he’s notorious for making the Vino Bambino Pinot Noir as a five-year-old) by studying history and American studies at Vassar and then at Columbia, and then accepting the gravitational pull of winemaking, returning to California in 2005. I try not to hold it against him that he is both a) younger than me; and b) further along in his Master of Wine studies.
The heart of Morgan’s winery is Bedrock Vineyard, a site planted in 1854 (!) that then had to be replanted in 1888 post-phylloxera, and that is one of the three Sonoma sites forming the core of this old vine Zin (average vine age: 80+ years, which may not be so crazy in Spain or Australia but is rare indeed in the United States). Monte Rosso and Casa Santinamaria are the other two Sonoma sites, and then there are another six vineyards that contribute dollops, from sites in the Alexander Valley, Russian River Valley, and Lodi. As far as varieties go, I’ll turn to Morgan: Though it is legally a Zinfandel, and labeled as such, it is also a Bedrock wine so you can be sure it has its full quotient of the wacky, weird and wonderful in it as well—nearly 23% Carignane, Mourvedre, Grenache, Petite Sirah, Abouriou, Aubun, and assorted mixed white varieties.
Robert Parker himself makes it a point to review these wines. Here is his screed on the ’13 OV Zin:
Wine Advocate (Robert Parker): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”
I think that review nails the aroma/flavor profile, a mix of brambly berries, herbaceous/forest floor, and savory tomato paste. The 14.5% listed alc is totally reasonable, especially for Cali Zin, and I thought this had a gorgeous sense of purity and intensity. There was almost no new oak used here, and there is some sense of fine-grained tannin on the finish, but truly, this is all about the fruit, unapologetically lush and delicious.
This is one of those rare bottles that lights up the left and right sides of the brain, the intellectual and sensual receptors alike. Let’s begin with the intellect. Bedrock Heritage comes entirely from Bedrock Vineyard, and specifically the blocks that were replanted after phylloxera between 1888 and 1895. Which means, by the 2013 vintage, we were looking at vine ages from 118 to 125 years old. By any standards, anywhere in the world, those are oooooooooooooold vines, and it’s a wild vineyard (seriously; check out this ridiculous picture), a mix of a full 22 different interplanted varieties. The finished wine is mainly Zinfandel (55%) and Carignan (30%), but after that, there another 20 varieties that make up the final 15%.
Now the sensual side. My notes focus almost entirely on texture, as you’d expect from vines this old. Phrases like “dense,” “intense,” “depth of character,” “perfect palate weight” dot the landscape of my tasting note. This sees 40% new French oak and shows considerably more structure (acid and tannin) than the OV Zin. Flavors are black cherry, roasted herb, and an attractive smokiness that just won’t quit. The lingering finish is all cherry tea, and the entire package is a marvel of old-vine electricity.
Wine Advocate (Robert Parker): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 93pts.”
Please limit order requests to 24 bottles total (mix and match as you like), and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wines should arrive in a week or two, at which point they will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.