It's rare that I drink a wine, try to blog about it and then can't find any information on who made it, the winery, or the winemaking. But that's unfortunately the case with this bottle that a friend brought over the other night.
The only thing there is to talk about is where the grapes come from --three blocks of a vineyard site on the western slopes of the Mayacamas mountains in Sonoma -- Nelligan Road, the Old Ranch, and Rockpile.
Rockpile is so named because it sits along Rockpile Road, which in turn is named for the Rockpile Ranch. Rumor has it that everything here is so named for the piles of rocks uncovered by the convicts who built the first roads in the area. The vineyard is planted primarily with Zinfandel (for which it is famous, thanks to the folks at Rosenblum), and a little bit of Syrah. Its soil is red and loamy, with heavy clay and lots of rocks (go figure).
I can also tell you that this wine is the opposite of much Syrah that is being produced in California these days. While most of those efforts involve rich, spicy, extracted fruit, this wine is restrained and dark, probably picked at a lower brix (sugar level) than Syrah is typically picked at these days. I'm guessing this not only from the flavors (which have also probably mellowed with age) but also from the relatively low alcohol content of the wine (13.3%).
The wine definitely saw some oak for quite a while and was made in pretty miniscule quantities (410 Cases).
Perfectly blood red in the light of my dining room table, this wine has a deep nose of smoke, cassis, and cherries laced with toasted oak. In the mouth it is clearly a European style syrah, with the cassis and black cherry fruit flavors taking a back seat to more intense flavors of leather, damp earth, woodsmoke and dried mushrooms. The fruit is there, however and makes a nice integrated package with these flavors, laced up by smooth tannins that have clearly mellowed a little in the bottle. This wine reminds me of some Languedoc wines in its earthy intensity and is very unlike what passes for Syrah in California today which either lean towards Rhone style, or more commonly the boldness of Australian Shiraz.
This is a great wine to serve with grilled meat of any kind. I've been picking up fruit flavored sausages at my local grocery store, and I'd love to serve this wine with them, charred on the outside savory and a little sweet on the inside with some good mustard on a fresh roll. Now that's summer cooking.
Overall Score: 8.5/9
How Much?: $22
This wine may be difficult to find given its small quantity production and the fact that it's been on the market for a few years. Bevmo had it for a while but it looks like it's long gone from their shelves, at least in San Francisco.
A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. Learn more.
The Superb Grace of Old Vines: Drinking Janasse The Zinfandel Experience: January 31, San Francisco Vinography Unboxed: Week of January 4, 2015 Vinography Images: The Colors of a New Season Vinography Unboxed: Week of December 27th, 2014 Vinography Images: Rich Skies Losing a Legend in Serge Hochar Flirting with the Ecstatic: The Wines of Nikolaihof, Austria Vinography Unboxed: Week of December 20, 2014 A Grape By Any Other Name
Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune