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by Tom Hill

A self-admitted wine geek, Tom lives in Northern New Mexico and works as a computational physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory doing numerical neutron transport & large scale code development. He has been tasting wines since 1971, participates locally with a couple of large tasting groups in his area, and is practically a fixture at most California wine festivals, such as the Hospice du Rhône, Rhône Rangers, and ZAP. Other interests: Tom is heavily into competitive sport fencing (foil & epee), biking, cooking, basketball, skiing, backpacking, mountain climbing.

Some RockpileRoad Zin/PetiteSirah - February 10, 2010

We tasted last night (2/10/10) some RockpileRoad Zin/PS:

  1. Branham Zin Rockpile (14.6%) 2007: Med.dark color; bright/spicy/Zin/raspberry rather perfumed/ fragrant very spicy slight earthy nose; tart bit lean very bright/raspberry/Zin bit tannic/hard slight earthy very structured flavor; very long very bright/raspberry/Zin/spicy bit tannic/hard/tight finish; needs a few yrs; loads of bright/zippy electric neon red Zin fruit; lovely expression of Zin. $30.00
  2. Branham PS Rockpile (14.8%; www.BranhamWines.com) Rutherford 2007: Dark color; somewhat earthy/peppery/ licorice/pungent some earthy/dusty bit clunky nose; soft bit tannic/hard light earthy/ peppery/blackberry/ PS/pungent bit earthy tight flavor; long bit clunky/pungent/ licorice/ blackberry/PS bit earthy rather tannic/hard finish; needs 2-5 yrs; not a lot of fruit but rather tight/hard on the palate; some thought it might be corked buut most thought it OK. $32.00
  3. Branham Senal Rockpile RW (14.8%; 45% Zinfandel/20% Syrah/20% Cabernet Sauvignon/
    15% Petite Sirah) 2007
    : Dark color;strong earthy/blackcurranty/Cab/blackberry/Zin bit toasty/oak/ pencilly very attractive nose; bit softer but some tart very rich/blackcurranty/Cab/berry/Zin/spicy some toasty/oak/ pencilly rather hard/tanic/structured flavor; long mostly blackcurranty/blackberry/Cab some toasty/ pencilly/oak somewhat tannic finish; needs 2-6 yrs; speaks mostly of Cab w/ some Zin perfume; quite a nicely done blend at an attractive price; structured & should develop well. $30.00
  4. SeghesioFamilyVnyds Zin Rockpile/Rockpile VA (15.6%; www.Seghesio.com) 2007: Dark color; rather pencilly/ toasty/oak some spicy/blackberry/Zin fairly perfumed/spicy nose; strong blackberry/ raspberry/Zin rather toasty/smokey/Am.oak/pencilly/vanilla somewhat tannic/hard flavor; long tannic/ hard strong blackberry/Zin/ raspberry somewhat toasty/pencilly/oak finish; structured and needs 2-5 yrs; one of the best Seghesio Zins I've had in a long time. $36.00
  5. RockpileWnry Zin Rockpile RockpileRidgeVnyd (15.5%; www.MauritsonWines.com) MauritsonWines/ Healdsburg 2007: Dark color; very strong/bright/raspberry/Zin/spicy fragrant/ perfumed light pencilly/ oak bit floral beautiful/perfumed classic DCV Zin nose; tart bit lean/hard/tannic very bright/spicy/ raspberry/Zin light pencilly/oak flavor; very long/lingering bit tannic/hard bright/ raspberry/Zin very spicy/perfumed finish; a classic/beautiful DCV Zin w/ more structure than most; loads of exhuberent fruit but then potential to go out 3-6 yrs. $35.00
  6. RockpileWnry Zin Rockpile WestphallRidgeVnyd (15.5%) 2007: Med.dark color; deeper licorice/ blackberry/ Zin/insecticide/boysenberry/floral more toasty/coconutty/oak bit chocolatey riper light earthy more complex nose; slightly softer/lusher but still tart more blackberry/chocolaty/licorice/raspberry/Zin
    bit floral more ripe some coconutty/oak somewhat tannic flavor; long some coconutty/ZagNutBar/oak strong blackberry/chocolaty/Zin/raspberry/floral slight earthy somewhat tannic finish; somewhat bigger/riper deeper flavor w/ structure to age; more like RRV Zin than DCV; lovely Zin. $37.00
  7. RockpileWnry Zin Rockpile CemeteryVnyd (15.5%) 2007: Dark color; slight earthy/ozone/WWII beacon/pungent deep/blackberry/Zin/boysenberry very spicy/floral/insecticide light toasty/oak very perfumed nose; rich/ mouthfilling tart rather tannic/hard deep/blackberry/Zin/boysenberry light toasty/charred/oak slight dusty/earthy flavor; very long hard/tannic ripe/blackberry/Zin some pungent/toasty/oak/smokey finish; wonderful aromatics and the structure to go out 7-10 yrs. $39.00
  8. RockpileWnry Zin Rockpile Jack'sCabinVnyd (15.5%) 2007: Dark color; very powerful/perfumed/ fragrant/floral very spicy/blackberry/boysenberry/Zin/raspberry light toasty/pungent/oak complex/ aromatic nose; softer/ lusher/riper/rounder very strong blackberry/Zin/raspberry/very spicy bit chocolaty/ licorice very slight alcoholic rich/mouthfilling flavor; long very strong/blackberry/Zin/raspberry some chocolaty/licorice light toasty/pungent/oak finish; a bit bigger/riper and not quite as structured as the other three Zins, but should go out nearly as long; a slight favorite of the four; beautifully crafted Zin. $37.00
  9. RockpileWnry Syrah Rockpile MadronaSpringVnyd (15.3%) 2007: Dark color; more fragrant very strong floral/ blackberry/Syrah/pungent/licorice quite spicy/perfumed/floral light toasty/pungent/oak nose; tart very spicy/floral/fragrant strong/blackberry/Syrah/raspberry/framboise light toasty/oak rather tannic/hard/ rough flavor; very long/lingering strong blackberry/Syrah/framboise/very floral/perfumed light toasty/oak rather hard/tannic finish; beautiful/powerful/floral aromatics that suggest Zin but definitely Syrah; beautiful/unique rendition of Calif Syrah. $38.00
  10. RockpileWnry PS Rockpile MadronaSpringVnyd (15.1%) 2006: Black color; rather earthy/dusty clunky/licorice/ blackberry/PS/slight peppery some earthy/dusty somewhat toasty/oak nose; soft rather tannic/hard/ structured licorice/blackberry/PS slight pungent/earthy/clunky some toasty/oak flavor; long hard/tannic clunky/licorice/pungent/blackberry/PS slight peppery some toasty/oak pretty tannic finish; a rather hard/coarse example of PS that may/should age into something pretty interesting. $37.00
  11. VIE L'Etranger/TheStranger SonomaCnty (60% Zin, 35% Syrah, 5% PS; 14.7%;
    www.VIEWinery.com) 2007
    : Med.light color; rather attractive/pleasant raspberry/blaclberry/Zin slight
    earthy light toasty/oak bit peppery/spicy pleasant nose; tart bit lean/tight light spicy/Zin/raspberry
    some pencilly/toasty/oak flavor; med.long pleasant/raspberry/Zin slight peppery light pencilly/oak
    finish w/ modest tannins; a pleasant little Zin, but just that; overpriced at $39.00
  12. VIE Zin BeattyRanchVnyd/HowellMtn/NapaVlly (90 yr old vines; 14.5%) 2007: Med.color; rather earthy/ dusty/old vine light blackberry/Zin some oaked/toasty nose; rather hard/tannic/rough light blackberry/ Zin some earthy/dusty/old vine some toasty/oak flavor; long tannic/hard bit rough/ rustic/mountain Zin some blackberry/Zin somewhat toasty/oak finish; a pretty classic example of rugged mountain Zin; not a lot of fruit but this should develop into a classic old Zin w/ 4-8 yrs along the lines of the old Ridge BeattyRanch/HowellMtn Zins of yore. Fairly priced at $39.00

And some more crapola from TheBloodyPulpit:

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.


[Additional Wine Reviews from Tom Hill]


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