Home | Wine Reviews | Wine Journals | Updates

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 Rockpile Wines - February 17, 2010

We tasted last night (2/17/10) some (mostly) Rockpile Wines:

  1. Mairitson Zin Grower'sReserve DryCreekVlly (15.5%; 48% BuchignaniVnyd/48% SainiVnyd/
    4% FaloniVnyd; 357 cs) 2006
    : Med.color; lovely bright/spicy/raspberry/Zin some pencilly/oak light
    earthy/dusty classic DCV Zin very attractive nose; tart strong raspberry/Zin/very spicy slight earthy/dusty
    some pencilly/oak rather hard/tannic classic DCV Zin flavor w/ good structure; very long some pencilly/
    oak very spicy/raspberry/Zin some hard/tannic finish; needs 2-5 yrs; a lovely/classic DCV Zin; better
    job w/ StanBuchignani's Zin grapes than Ridge does. $35.00
  2. RosenblumCllrs Zin RockpileRdVnyd/Rockpile (14.8%) 2006: Med.dark color; very strong blackberry/ framboise/ raspberry/Zin bit volatile classic Rosenblum/lush some toasty/oak bit alcoholic nose; soft very rich/ lush/blackberry/raspberry/framboise/Zin some tannic/hard somewhat toasty/oak flavor; long bit hot/ alcoholic rather toasty/oak strong blackberry/Zin/framboise classic Rosenblum/lush finish w/ some tannins; needs several yrs; a classic Rosenblum Zin that supresses the Rockpile character; pricey at $45.00
  3. DryCreekVnyds Malbec SonomaCnty (14.5%; www.DryCreekVineyard.com; 482 cs) 2007: Very dark color; rather toasty/pencilly/oak some herbal/green pepper slight chocolaty/earthy fragrant/ attractive nose; strong soft toasty/charred/oak slight herbal/greenpepper some chocolaty/blackcurranty fairly soft/smooth/ polished flavor; med.long soft chocolaty/blackcurranty slight herbal/greenpepper some toasty/oak finish w/ modest tannins; a bit one-dimensional but rather likable Malbec and better than most SouthAmerican ones. $30.00
  4. RockpileWnry Malbec Rockpile BuckPastureVnyd (14.3%) 2006: Very dark/black color; strong toasty/oak ripe/ chocolaty/licorice/blackcrurranty slight herbal/dusty/earthy nose; tart bit hard/tannic ripe/chocolaty/ licorice/blackcurranty light toasty/oak flavor; med.long chocolaty/licorice/blackcurranty light toasty/ charred/oak tart somewhat tannic finish; more Cab-like than the DCV; good rough/strappin' red but also seems a bit one-dimensional. $40.00
  5. DryCreekVnyd PetiteSirah DryCreekVlly (13.9%; 10% Zin; 186 cs) 2007: Very dark/black color; some milky/ pencilly/toasty/oak quite spicy/licorice/blackberry rather bright/perfumed/aromatic some spicy/peppery very attractive nose; pretty big/tannic soft/round/lush licorice/blackberry/PS/spicy slight toasty/oak flavor; very long rather/hard/tannic/extracted licorice/blackberry/peppery/spicy rather toasty/oak finish; pretty big/tannic PS but not at all oafish/clunky and very nice aromatics; needs another 3-8 yrs; very reasonably priced at $28.00.
  6. RockpileWnry BuckPasture Rockpile RW (14.3%;  55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc,
    15% Malbec, 10% Petite Verdot; www.MauritsonWines.com) 2006
    : Very dark color; big/rich/ chocolaty/ blackcurranty/Cab very fragrant/perfumed some toasty/charred/oak bit floral/insecticide/bing cherry complex very attractive nose; somewhat tart big/round/tannic ripe/rich/blackcurranty/ Cab/ chocolaty rather toasty/charred/oak flavor; long rather tannic/hard ripe/blackcurranty/blackberry/Cab/ chocolaty some pungent/toasty/oak rather perfumed finish; not as hard & lean as the Zins with bigger/rounder/ softer tannins; this is serious Cab w/ lovely aromatics and should go out 10-15 yrs; fairly priced at $50.00
  7. JCCllrs Syrah RockpileVnyd/Rockpile Haley'sReserve (15.8%; www.JCCellars.com; Rod&Cathy
    Park/growers) JeffCohn/Oakland 2005
    : Very dark color; intense blackberry/Syrah/boysenberry some toasty/ charred/oak slight roasted/espresso slight volatile/alcoholic very aromatic nose; somewhat tart rather hard/tannic intense blackberry/boysenberry/Syrah somewhat toasty/charred/oak some Rhonish/roasted/espresso/ coffee big/extracted flavor; vety long toasty/charred/oak intense blackberry/Syrah slight roasted/Rhonish fairly tannic finish; very slightly volatile but lovely rather Rhonish-like aromatics and needs age for ?? yrs. $60.00
  8. JCCllrs SoSerine Syrah RockpileVnyd/Rockpile (15%) 2007: Dark color; more complex/floral/violets very spicy blackberry/Syrah/boysenberry slight gamey/meaty lighter toasty/charred/oak bit ozone/WWII beacon somewhat more elegant/perfumed less Rhonish more complex/perfumed nose; tart very floral/violets/perfumed strong blackberry/Syrah some toasty/charred/oak more elegant/restrained less Rhonish bit leaner/less tannic/hard flavor; very long/lingering lovely/floral/violets/peppery strong blackberry/Syrah bit more restrained/less tannic finish; needs 2-8 yrs; lovely aromatics but still pretty intense and rather Rhonish in character. $60.00
  9. JCCllrs Syrah RockpileVnyd/Rockpile Haley (15.5%) 2006: Very dark/black color; slight volatile/ alcoholic strong blackberry/Syrah/boysenberry light toasted/pencilly/oak slight espresso/coffee bit chocolaty/spicy very attractive nose; soft rich/ripe/chocolaty very strong blackberry/Syrah/boysenberry huge fruit slight toasty/oak bit alcoholic less Rhonish huge flavor; long rather tannic/hard huge/blackberry/Syrah/ boysenberry slight toasty/oak finish; needs 2-8 yrs; a bit simpler, more Calif & less Rhonish in style but huge fruit, alost a Paso style of Syrah. $60.00
  10. JCCllrs Syrah RockpileVnyd/BuffaloHill (15.7%) 2006: Black color; beautiful roasted/espresso/ coffee/ Rhonish bit peppery/floral intense blackberry/Syrah/boysenberry/spicy complex quite Rhonish nose; tart rather hard/tannic/extracted intense blackberry/Syrah/spicy slight herbal/peppery/floral strong espresso/ coffee/roasted/Rhonish some charred/smokey/toasty/oak flavor; very long hard/tannic/ extracted intense blackberry/Syrah/boysenberry/spicy somewhat charred/toasty/oak strong roasted/espresso/Rhonish finish; needs much age; the most Rhonish of the four; a huge Syrah but not at all oafish or over-extracted. A bit pricey but not out of line for the quality. $85.00
  11. DryCreekVnyd LateHrvst Zin SonomaCnty (76% Zin/24% PS; SaH: 35 Brix; RS: 10%; 14.4%) 2006: Med.dark color; very intense blackberry/jammy/boysenberry/huge fruit rather Essence-like beautiful/intense nose; soft rather sweet huge/intense/boysenberry/blackberry/framboise/jammy flavor; very long huge/jammy/ blackberry/boysenberry/ripe Zin soft/mouthfilling/lush finish w/ modest tannins; a lovely example of ZinEssence w/o showing that overripe/puney/raisened side; should go out 10 yrs and beyond. $30.00/hlf
  12. RockpileWnry Independence Rockpile RW (18.3%; 23% Tinta Cao, 23% Touriga Nacional,
    23% Sousao, 23% Tinta Madeira and 8% Tannat; 297 cs) 2007
    : Very dark/black color; slight alcoholic very strong licorice/chocolaty/boysenberry bit dusty/earthy some complex spicy Duoro red nose; somewhat tart slightly sweet huge/intense/boysenberry/blackberry/big fruiit quite spicy rather hard/tannic flavor; very long/lingering slightly sweet huge/blackberry/boysenberry/spicy rather hard/tannic; semms more like some of the modern Duoro reds than a Porto; no overripe/late harvesty and not very alcoholic. One of the better Calif Ports I've had of late. $31.00/500 ml

More made-up stuff from TheBloodyPulpit:

1. Malbec: I'm not a big fan of Malbec. It's a wine that the SouthAmerica folks like to tout as their
best/new thing. I find that they often have a coarseness and a sourness to them I don't find very
attractive, plus often a ton of oak. Just not my thing. That said, I liked these two Malbecs quite
a lot, especially the Rockpile, if maybe a little one-dimensional and lacking a bit in depth. Maybe
that's why Malbec is regarded mostly as a blending grape. We'll try some Keating versions from
Rockpile in a few weeks.
2. DryCreekVnyds PS: DCV has been making PS for quite a few yrs, though only sporadically, and in small quantities. This is the first of theirs that I've seen in a few yrs. I find young PS can be rather oafish & clunky w/o a lot of aromatics. This new DCV version is not that, and has lovely aromatics. DCV doesn't get the recognition for their PS that they deserve I think.
3. BuckPasture: This vnyd is so named for its great deer hunting in days gone by. I'm not a big Cab/blend fan and didn't expect to care much for this one either. But this is a serious Cab that is probably half the price of one that said NapaVlly on the label. I find I like (and can afford) the Cabs from the DryCreekVlly more than their pricey brethern to the East.
4. Independence: ClayMauritson is a big fan of VintagePorto and wanted to try his hand at it, so put in some traditional Portugese varieties in their vnyd, plus Tannat (for some reason?). I was mightly impressed by his interpretation of Port. He made it pretty much "by the book", fortifying w/ grape brandy from Korbel. He likes to harvest these grapes a bit earlier than he does for his red wine in order to maintain a higher acidity in the Port. The wine has huge fruit like many of the modern Duoro reds. I'm used to a strong alcoholic burn in young Portos, mostly from the higher alcohols/congeners. This wine did not have that alcoholic character at all. Young Portos seem to be very sweet to my palate. This wine did not seem that sweet at all, though the 10% RS is about the right figure. Maybe its the higher acidity. But they terrain up on Rockpile seems very much like the pics of the DuoroVlly I've seen, so Port may be a natural for Rockpile. If a niche market, anyway.
5. JCCellars: I've pretty much followed JeffCohn from the very start...back in his days when he was given responsibility for the white wine program at Rosenblum. He regularly shows his wines at RhoneRangers and HdR and I've liked what he's shown quite a lot. But I must admit I've been a bit remiss in following them very closely because I felt some of them were agressively priced.
So..when I wanted to taste a bunch of Rockpiles, I knew I had to include a bunch of Jeff's wines. This was the first time I've tasted a tableau of them w/ my group, rather than the hit or miss fashion I've done in the past. Bottom line is they, and I, were very/very impressed by these Syrahs. I've promised to not be so slovenly in following Jeff's wines in the future. As for the pricing, they are fairly agressively priced for Calif Syrah. But, compared to their peers, like SQN/ Alban/Lewis/Saxum/Koonsgaard, and I feel these wines are of that level; I don't think they're unreasonably priced.
6. Serine: This is a name you sometimes/occasionally see bandied about with respect to NorthernRhone Syrah. It use is a bit nebulous in France. Some people have claimed it is the original Syrah that came to the RhoneVlly from the Savoie yrs ago (before my time I must add) and is a distinct variety from the present Syrah in the Rhone. CaroleMeredith cites French work that indicates it is one in the same as current-day French Syrah. She indicates that yrs ago ('50's and before), Serine was the common name used by Northern Rhone vignerons for what is now routinely called Syrah. Yet there are apparently vnyds in NR who claim to have Serine planted, as swear that it is different from the Syrah they grow. If it's regarded as a different clone of Syrah is something I've not been able to pin down. If it were, and regarded as such by its proponents in the Rhone, you would have thought there would have been an ENTAV clone labeled as Serine when those were released. So what exactly is Serine remains a mystery to me.

The only Serine I've heard of being planted in Calif is down at JohnAlban's and at the Park's RockpileRd vnyd, which I presume all goes to Jeff. I've not heard what John does w/ his Serine. This Serine from Jeff, in the '07 version, seemed to be different from the his other three Syrahs. It seemed to be a bit more refined & elegant (not a term usually associated w/ Jeff's wines!!) and floral/aromatic in character. Yet the BuffaloHill (so named because of the large wooden buffalo statue that sits atop that hill...therein must lie a tale!!) is supposedly also Serine, but the intensity of that wine may have obscured the floral/aromatics I found in the SoSerine.


[Additional Wine Reviews from Tom Hill]


Home | Wine Reviews | Wine Journals | Updates

Copyright © 1993 - 2010, Tom Hill- All rights reserved
No original material may be reproduced without written consent
Mail & Comments
- Grape-Nutz
Updated 5.29.10