1. Rockpile AVA: This is an AVA that dates back only to 2002. It is located high above LakeSonoma.
The WarmSprings dam created LakeSonoma, daming up DryCreek at its headwaters, when it was completed in 1982. Construction/project manager of this dam was one DonWallace, now married to KimStare and President of DryCreekVnyds. It is a spectacular area, up at about 2,000' elevation. Very dry/rocky/rugged condition. No water available for irrigation. Some 5-6 yrs ago, I took a drive up RockpileRd. The vnyds are located way to hell & gone up that road...thought I'd never find them. I have tried sporadically Rockpile wines, mostly from Rosenblum and JCCllrs. Since there are more folks making wines from Rockpile, I thought it would be interesting to put together a tasting or two of Rockpile wines, in order to get a vinous feel for the area.
So...my take on Rockpile, mostly the Zins...the wines seem to have much the same fragrant/ perfumed/ spicy aromatics of their DryCreekVlly brethern. Yet they are structured quite different than most DCV reds. They seem to have a wirey/tight leaness and a more tannic structure than the DCV versions, not quite the lushness and opulent fruit. This suggests they are probably more ageworthy than their valley floor brethern. Gross generalizations, of course. I'd love to repeat this tasting in 10 yrs to see where the wines have gone.
2. VIE: I've been a big fan of BrianKane's wines over the yrs. Followed 'em from the very start, I did. And I like what he does w/ his SolRouge label from his LakeCnty grapes, mostly. I was disappointed in the L'Etranger in this pair. A pleasant enough red, but pretty pricey for what it delivered. The BeattyRanch was pretty typical of HowellMtn Zin; not showing much in their youth, but plenty of structure for the long haul. When I first started tasting the Ridge HowellMtn Zins back in the mid-'70's, I was pretty underwhelmed by them. But once they got some 5 yrs or so of age on them, they really began to show something. I'm confident this VIE version will do the same.
3. RockpileWnry: I'd never had any RockpileWnry wines before this tasting. This is the label that
MauritsonWnry uses for the wines made from their grapes grown up on RockpileRd, from 7 different vnyds located up there. Their WebSite (www.MauritsonWines.com) has a great GoogleEarth image of them. I had driven by the MauritsonWnry tasting room any number of times over the yrs when I'm up in the DryCreek area, but I was never tempted to stop. I will visit a tasting room of an unknown wnry only if it's received very high scores from certain Monktown attourneys. Mauritson is now no longer an unknown wnry to me, so a stop will certainly be in order next time I'm up there. I was quite taken by the Zins. All four pretty impressive. The RockpileRidgeVnyd was to me the most classic DCV Zin in character that spoke loudly of classic DCV Zin. The other three Zins, though distinctly different, were bigger/riper/deeper in character and resembled RRV Zin as much as DCV Zin. Though all above 15% alcohol, I thought they all carried the alcohol very well and none showed any overripe character to them. They had a distinctive floral character that reminded me of the powerful aromatics you get in some insecticides; a good trait. I was hard pressed to choose a favorite of these 4 Zins.
I loved the exhuberent DCV character of the RockpileRidge, but the powerful araomatics of the Jack's eventually won me over. But you can't go wrong w/ any of the four. I liked the Syrah quite a lot. I'm not a big fan of DCV Syrahs in that I find they often have much the same aromatics of DCV Zins and are not that distinctive. This Syrah was very distinctive of Syrah; yet had intense floral/perfumed aromatics that you'll often find in DCV Zins...but definitely Syrah. It, too, has the structure to go out in yrs and is one I plan to follow out to see what happens. Certainly not mainstream Calif Syrah, but very interesting rendition of Syrah.
I was less taken by the PS, but didn't find that unexpected. When young, PS can have a very coarse/ clunky character not unlike Languedoc wines; with powerful tannins that suggest only a mastadon steak or something similar. They only rarely have the lovely aromatics that attracts me to Syrah. This Rockpile PS was pretty typical of that genre. Nonetheless, PS can sometimes age into something pretty amazing... or it can be a clunky/oafish wine for its entire life. I expect this will age into something pretty interesting w/ 5-10 yrs of age. All in all, I was pretty impressed by what ClayMauritson is doing with these wines and look forward to trying some of his others, next week and in the future.
4. Next week, we'll taste all the JCCllrs RockpileSyrahs and I'll have a better understanding (I hope) of Rockpile Syrahs. There originally was a lot of Cabernet varieties planted up on Rockpile. I am not much a fan of Cabernet from anywhere. But we'll try some Rockpile Cabs and see what they have to offer.
5. There is even a Rockpile GrapeGrower's Association. Their WebSite (rockpileappellation.com/) contains a wealth of information on the history and the current vnyds/owners up on Rockpile AVA. Worth reading.