Dry Creek Vineyard – 2010 Heritage Zinfandel

March 11, 2013

California’s Dry Creek Valley is the home office of Zinfandel. Certainly there are fine examples made elsewhere, but Dry Creek Valley has a stunning away of great ones emanating from its confines. Dry Creek Vineyard, the namesake winery of the appellation makes several consistently terrific Zins themselves. Today I’ll look at the current release of their Heritage Zinfandel.

The Dry Creek Vineyard 2010 Heritage Zinfandel was produced from fruit sourced in Sonoma County. This vintage blends together Zinfandel (88%) and Petite Sirah (12%). Fermentation took place over 18 days in stainless steel followed by 14 months of barrel aging in a combination of French, American and Hungarian oak; 15% of the barrels utilized were new. Just more than 13,000 cases of this Zinfandel were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $19.

The nose of this 2010 Zinfandel is inundated with brambly dark berry aromas and a supporting undercurrent of crème fraiche. Black cherry flavors lead the palate along with bits of blueberry, blackberry and lots of spice character. Minerals, sour fruit, black pepper and dusty chocolate notes all emerge on the finish which has good length. This is a classically styled Zinfandel that has some jam components but it leads with excellent structure.

What I love most about this wine is its consistent quality. Vintages vary to be sure but year after year this is a well proportioned, even keeled Zinfandel. For those who prefer their Zins balanced and food friendly this is absolutely one of the go to choices in the under $20 price tier. It’s delicious today, particularly after 45 minutes of aeration, but this Zin will drink well for the next 5 years at minimum.

Pedroncelli – 2009 Family Vineyards Petite Sirah

November 10, 2012

If there’s a better Petite Sirah for under $20 than the one Pedroncelli releases vintage after vintage I have yet to taste it. And as much as I love Petite Sirah I sample every example can get my hands on. At some point it would stand to reason that someone would challenge them in this category. But with fruit that’s under their control, a very long track record of making affordable wines in Sonoma County and the fact that Dry Creek Valley is the epicenter of the best Petite Sirah in the world, the Pedroncelli family has an advantage. With all of that in mind I sat down to taste their latest release of Petite to see how it compares to my somewhat lofty expectations.

The Pedroncelli 2009 Family Vineyards Petite Sirah was made from fruit sourced at two vineyards within Dry Creek Valley that have family connections for the winery. Roughly half came from their own estate vineyard and the balance was sourced at a vineyard owned by John and Jim Pedroncelli’s niece. Barrel aging occurred over 17 months in a combination of French and American oak. This wine has a suggested retail price of $16.

Violets and black plum aromas fill the nose of this 2009 Petite Sirah along with hints of vanilla and cardamom. From the first sip through the very last a core of dried black and purple fruits are revealed with red fruit characteristics making a cameo appearance here or there. Blackberry, plum and blueberry are the stars here. The firm tannins cling to the back of your throat pleasurably. This finish shows off earth, continued dark fruits and hints of minerals. This wine will absolutely flourish paired with hearty and full flavored foods such as roasted meats and stews or mushroom heavy dishes. However It’s a delicious and glorious wine all by itself.

I’m thrilled to report that the 2009 vintage of Petite Sirah from Pedroncelli is in keeping with previous vintages when it comes to quality, value and eminent drinkability. This is quite simply the best Petite Sirah on the market for under $20. It’s delicious today but has the tannins and structure to age gracefully for a decade. 10 years from now you’d have a softer wine that is silky smooth and even earthier. However it’s so damn good now and they literally keep making more so my advice is to knock it back.

Dutcher Crossing Winery – 2009 Bernier-Sibary Zinfandel

May 22, 2012

The Facts:

The Dutcher Crossing Winery 2009 Bernier-Sibary Zinfandel is a classic Dry Creek Valley Field Blend. In addition to Zinfandel this single vineyard effort contains Petite Sirah, Carignane, and Mourvedre. The grapes are picked at the same time and co-fermented. Barrel aging was accomplished over 14 months in French oak; 30% of them were new. This wine has a suggested retail price of $39.

Dutcher Crossing Winery is located at 8533 Dry Creek Road in Healdsburg. They’re open every day from 11 AM until 5 PM. They close on a handful of major holidays. Please check their website for those specifics, or call them at 866-431-2711. Tours and private tastings are also available by prior appointment.

Gabe’s Take:

Aromas of black raspberry and plum fill the heady nose of this 2009 Zinfandel. The palate is rich, layered, powerful and simply loaded with an overflowing abundance of intense dark fruit flavors. A host of spices such as black pepper and nutmeg are present as well. The finish shows off a bit of bacon fat as well as sour black cherry characteristics in droves followed by an intense wallop of dark chocolate sauce. This wine is big and powerful to be sure but it retains balance and grace, never going out of proportion. It’s a classic example of Bernier-Sibary Zinfandel from Dutcher Crossing Winery. This release has established itself as one of the very best single vineyard Zins in Dry Creek Valley year after year. In a valley famous for it’s Zinfandel, that’s no small feat. Kudos to Deb Mathy and her team for the quality wines they keep putting out.

Dry Creek Vineyard – 2008 Old Vine Zinfandel

April 23, 2012

The Facts:

The Dry Creek Vineyard 2008 Old Vine Zinfandel was produced using fruit sourced at vineyards throughout Dry Creek Valley. In strictly keeping with their ideal of the Old Vines designation the vines soured range in age from 85 to more than 110 years old. In addition to Zinfandel (92%) this offering also contains a small amount of Petite Sirah (8%). Barrel aging took place over 18 months in a combination of French (71%), American (18%) and Hungarian (11%) oak; 51% of the barrels were new. Just fewer than 2,700 cases of this Zinfandel were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $28. Dry Creek Vineyard is located at 3770 Lambert Bridge Road in Healdsburg. They’re open daily from 10:30 AM until 4:30 PM. Private tasting options and tours are available by prior appointment. Check their website for the details or call them at 800-864-9463.

Gabe’s Take:

Dry Creek Vineyard makes several fine Zinfandels each year. The vineyard designates are quite special in their own right. Their Old Vine Zin though has its own unique appeal. Vintage after vintage this wine showcases what an excellent cuvee style offering made from true Old Vines in the heart of Zin country is all about. After tasting the 2008 I can report that it’s no exception. Blackberry and dark plum aromas are in strong evidence on the nose. The first sip reveals raspberry and cherry characteristics in abundance. Darker fruit characteristics reveal themselves just a moment later and carry through the finish which shows off hints of pencil lead and graphite as well as a veritable avalanche of spices. As it has been over the years this is a classically styled Zinfandel that is an absolutely archetypal example of Dry Creek Valley.

Wilson Winery – 2009 Sydney Vineyard Zinfandel

March 18, 2012

The Facts:

The Wilson Winery 2009 Sydney Vineyard Zinfandel was produced from fruit sourced at the wine’s namesake vineyard. This property which was planted in 1989 sits at an elevation of 1,500 feet. The Sydney Vineyard Zinfandel is a 100% varietal wine. Fruit was hand harvested and fermented in open top vessels with punchdowns three times a day. Aging took place in a combination of French and American oak over a period of 18 months. 540 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $36. Wilson Winery is located at 1960 Dry Creek Road in Healdsburg. They’re open daily from 11 AM until 5 PM. Several tasting options are available (some require a prior appointment). They close on some major holidays so check their website for those specific details or call them at 800-433-4602.

Gabe’s Take:

Wilson Winery has a fairly sizeable portfolio of wines and utilizes many of the grapes Dry Creek Valley is famous for. As it happens, Dry Creek Valley’s best known grape, Zinfandel, is also what Wilson specializes in. I enjoy tasting the various vineyard and style designations they produce each year. The 2009 Sydney’s Vineyard Zinfandel has a deep, dark nose loaded with Blackberries, plums, and blueberries as well as white pepper and vanilla bean. The palate is intense and layered with tons of flavors. Black Cherry, red and black raspberry and a ton of spice characteristics are all present. Rhubarb, pomegranate and lingering kirsch liqueur notes are in evidence throughout the persistent finish which has terrific length. This is a balanced Zinfandel that highlights bold fruit flavors and firm acidity. Without question this wine is made to be paired with some full flavored foods.

Trattore Estate – 2009 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel

October 5, 2011

The Facts:

The Trattore Estate 2009 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel was produced from fruit grown at a hilltop vineyard on the eastern side of Dry Creek Valley. In addition to Zinfandel (88%), this wine also contains a bit of Petite Sirah (12%). Fermentation took place in open top stainless steel tanks with twice daily punch downs performed by hand. Barrel aging took place over 14 months; 25% of the barrels were new. 500 cases of this wine were produced and it has a suggested retail price of $29. Trattore Estate Wines is a pretty new effort in Dry Creek Valley. Owner Tim Bucher purchased the property for the vineyard and winery in 1999 and planted 40 acres to vine. After finding 150 year old Olive Trees on the property he founded the Dry Creek Olive Oil Company. The Trattore wines and the Dry Creek Olive Oils can be tasted 7 days a week at 4791 Dry Creek Road in Healdsburg in a room they share. (707) 431-7200.

Gabe’s Take:

The heart of Dry Creek Valley is the overwhelming preponderance of family owned wineries; this is true of even the largest in the Valley. Trattore Estate Wines is a small, new Winery. I’m always particularly excited to sample wines from producers I haven’t tried yet. When it’s Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel my anticipation level goes up a few notches. Add to that the fact that their winemaker is Kerry Damskey and my expectations were definitely positive.

A dark and brooding nose is loaded with black fruit aromas as well as plum pudding spices. Blackberries, raspberries, and plum characteristics are at the core of this wines palate along with an accompanying blast of fruitcake spice flavors. Toasty oak, as well as black and white peppers join along for the ride. Dark and dusty chocolate tinged with bits of sweetness emerge on the finish along with earth and continued spice.

This is a classically styled Zinfandel that features well balanced fruit and lots of spice. This wine is delicious now but can certainly be held for the next 6-8 years without a problem. Without question the 2009 Zinfandel from Trattore is a wine that is built for enjoying with food.

Dry Creek Vineyard – 2010 Dry Chenin Blanc

September 20, 2011

The Facts:

The Dry Creek Vineyard 2010 Dry Chenin Blanc was produced from fruit sourced at the Wilson Ranch in Clarksburg. This wine is 100% Chenin Blanc. Fermentation took place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks over a period of 35 days.  Just fewer than 10,000 cases of this vintage were produced. This wine is finished in screw cap and has a suggested retail price of $12. Dry Creek Vineyard is located at 3770 Lambert Bridge Road in Healdsburg. They’re open daily from 10:30 AM until 4:30 PM. Private tasting options and tours are available by prior appointment. Check their website for the details or call them at 800-864-9463.

Gabe’s Take:

Quick, name another go to producer for California Chenin Blanc. Stumped you didn’t I? Dry Creek Vineyard has embraced this grape which many others have either ignored or walked away from. There are others making it in small quantities and some blending it. No one that I know of is making pure Chenin Blanc as consistently and at such a budget friendly price as Dry Creek Vineyard. This wine has been amazingly consistent in overall style, quality and value for a very long time. Each year I’m eager to taste the latest vintage to see how it holds up. Every time I shake my head wondering how they do it.

Aromas of apricot and lemon peel fill the nose of this wine along with a hint of lychee fruit. Tons of peach, nectarine, melon and apricot flavors dominate the palate forming a solid code of fleshy white and yellow fruits. Hints of white pepper and lemon ice are present as well. Wisps of honey emerge on the finish which has good length. This is a crisp, juicy, refreshing wine that demands you take another sip.

As I mentioned above this wine has been a remarkably consistent value that delivers quality, vintage after vintage; the 2010 edition is no different. This is a delicious wine that is sure to please any crowd. The screw cap closure also makes it a perfect choice for picnics and other situations where you don’t even want to think about an opener.

Pasterick – 2006 Dry Creek Valley Estate Syrah

September 6, 2011

The Facts:

Pasterick of Dry Creek Valley is a small family run operation that focuses their efforts on Syrah. In addition to their flagship wine they also make a tiny amount of Rosé. Visitors to their winery are welcome by appointment. Check their website for more specific details.

The Pasterick 2006 Dry Creek Valley Estate Syrah was produced from fruit grown on their hillside vineyards in the heart of DCV. This offering is 100% Syrah. After hand harvesting and fermentation this wine was aged in 400 liter French oak puncheons for a period of 3 years. 350 cases of this wine were produced in standard 750 ml bottles as well as an additional 12 cases of magnums. This Syrah sells for $48.

Gabe’s Take:

I’ve long been a believer that Syrah could be a huge varietal for Dry Creek Valley. While there are certainly a handful of producers working with this grape there, it’s really a fringe player these days compared to Zinfandel and the like. A few however have made Syrah a large part of what they’re doing, or in the case of Pasterick, the very essence of who they are. With that in mind I relished the opportunity to taste their current vintage.

Violet, plum and blackberry lead the dark and brooding nose of this 2006 Syrah. A core of spices punctuates the dark fruits providing a counterbalance. Red and black cherry flavors are both dominant throughout the palate along with plum pudding spices. Black raspberry emerges as well. Smoked meats black pepper and cardamom are part of the finish along with a closing wallop of chocolate Bosco syrup that provides a satisfying and sweet finale. This is a big, bold Syrah that opens with intensity and carries it through a multi-layered palate and continues it through a persistent, and impressive finish loaded both power and grace.

This Syrah from Pasterick, is a fine example of what can be achieved in Dry Creek Valley with this classic Rhone varietal. More and more folks seem to be growing some and experimenting with it on some level. It’s good to see a producer that dedicates itself to this grape so fully.

Pedroncelli – 2009 Bushnell Vineyard Zinfandel

August 8, 2011

The Facts:

The Pedroncelli 2009 Bushnell Vineyard Zinfandel was produced from fruit sourced at the vineyard of the same name. This piece of land has been either closely associated with or part of Pedroncelli family for many years. In addition to Zinfandel (96%) this wine has a small amount of Petite Sirah (4%) blended in. The Petite Sirah also comes from the same property making this a true single vineyard effort. Barrel aging occurred over 11 months in American oak; 30% of the barrels were new. 1,700 cases of this wine were made and it has a suggested retail price of $20.

The Pedroncelli Family has been making wine in Dry Creek since 1927. Their current releases can be tasted daily from 10 AM to 4:30 PM at the Pedroncelli Tasting room located at 1220 Canyon Road in Geyserville. Many times when I’ve been in their tasting room they have something older from the library open to taste and purchase. As with their current releases they offer these library selections at very reasonable prices. So keep an eye out for them when you stop in.

Gabe’s Take:

I’ve mentioned it before but it bears repeating that the Pedroncelli wines and specifically their classic Mother Clone Zinfandel is the first Dry Creek wine I knowingly tasted. Years later I still drink it regularly. So I’m always excited when they add other Zinfandels to the mix to see how they compare to that old standby.

Aromas of bramble fill the nose of this 2009 Single Vineyard Zinfandel. An undercurrent of Vanilla bean is present as well. Dark, dry berry fruit is present in droves throughout the palate along with cherry jam fruit and a core of spices. Dark chocolate, earth, and continuing berry flavors are all part of the finish which has serious length.

The Petite Sirah provides a nice backbone to this wine which has really nice structure. It’s a classically styled Zinfandel which is delicious now but will undoubtedly drink well over the next 8 or so years. If the Mother Clone is the workhorse of the Pedroncelli Zins, the Bushnell Vineyard is the Show Horse. For only $20 this is a real bargain in single vineyard Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley, grab it before it’s gone.

Truett Hurst – 2010 Zinfandel Rosé

July 18, 2011

The Facts:

The Truett Hurst 2010 Rosé was produced from Dry Creek Valley fruit. A mere 250 cases of this wine were made and it has a suggested retail price of $15. Truett Hurst in Dry Creek Valley is a partnership between Paul & Heath Dolan as well as Phil & Sylvia Hurst. They’re one of a growing contingent of Dry Creek Valley producers committed to Organic and Biodynamic farming. Their tasting room is located at 5610 Dry Creek Road in Healdsburg. They’re open every day from 11 am to 5 pm.

Gabe’s Take:

Is there anything more enjoyable than a cold, crisp glass of well made Rosé on a hot summer day? We all have things that make us happy and for me drinking Rosé in warm weather is up there. For years Rosé had been given short shrift in the US due in no small part to the boat loads of vapid and uninspired blush wines on the market. Thankfully the tide has been shifting in recent years and many California producers are making lovely Dry Rosé these days. Truett Hurst is amongst them.

This wine starts with a pretty deep pink hue which is apparent the moment you pour it. Aromas of strawberries, red cherries and vanilla burst forth from the nose of this wine. The palate tastes like a bowl of sweet, fresh red fruits that have just been picked for your enjoyment. Flourishes of citrus emerge towards the back of the palate. Bits of rhubarb and wisps of vanilla bean make their presence known on the finish. This wine is crisp and clean with terrific acidity. The 2010 Truett Hurst Rosé is loaded with appealing fruit that brings sweetness to mind, however it’s a dry wine. What this offering represents is another of the handful of well made Rosé offerings that have been popping up in Dry Creek Valley these last few years. It’s  a delicious wine to drink all summer long.

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