Bottle Notes

Pick My Next Bottle – Ancient Vine Zinfandel

2009 Ancient Vine Zinfandel

The April installment of Pick My Next Bottle focuses on ancient vine Zinfandel from the 2009 vintage. As I mentioned in the July installment, the purpose of this series is to provide insight into specific wines or producers you may currently have in your cellar. I plan on opening the winning bottle on April 28th and publishing an in-depth Bottle Note on April 30th.

The ’09 growing season was long and moderate, with only a handful of modest heat spikes, but the second week of October brought an onslaught of rain and as much as six inches dropped in just a few days. Producers went to work quickly to beat the rain, knowing the thin-skinned Zinfandel crop would not survive.

The vineyards represented are a priceless living link to California’s viticultural past – they’ve survived prohibition, disease and the Great Depression. If California were to ever designate its own “Grand Cru” vineyards, these, along with others like Hayne, Pagani and Moore would certainly be among the first considered.

The Contenders

’09 Bedrock Stellwagen Zinfandel – Morgan Peterson reveals his DNA with the 2009 Zinfandel Stellwagon. A brilliant, irresistibly sexy, full-throttle Zinfandel, it displays abundant pepper, herb, bouquet garni and meaty notes as well as fruit, glycerin and high octane. This classic California Zinfandel can be drunk over the next 5-6 years. 91 points from the Wine Advocate.

Vineyard details: The ancient vines here, planted around 1890, lie less than a half-mile north from Bedrock Vineyard. Like most ancient vineyards of this age, the vineyard is about 10% mixed blacks, with lots of Petite Sirah, Syrah, Carignane, a trace of Semillon, and a “mystery vine” which Morgan Twain-Peterson assures of he will one day identify.

’09 Carlisle Martinelli Road Vineyard Zinfandel – Inky ruby. Vibrant, seductively aromatic nose combines blackberry compote, violet, white pepper, licorice and toasty oak (about 28% of it is new here). Juicy and firmly built, with deeply concentrated black and blue fruit and floral flavors lifted by zesty minerality; red fruit nuances come up with air. Shows lovely purity and no excess weight, finishing long, sappy and floral. 94 points from Steve Tanzer.

Vineyard details: First planted in the early 1870s by the Banfield Family, most of the vines succumbed to Phylloxera within their first decade of life. In 1903, Giuseppe Martinelli purchased the ranch. Shortly after the repeal of Prohibition, Giuseppe split the property amongst his heirs. This portion, the original portion to be planted, was given to Domingo. Two additional generations of Martinellis farmed the vineyard until it was recently sold to the McWilliams Family of Arista Winery. Interestingly, unlike most vineyards of this era, Martinelli Road Vineyard is nearly 100% Zinfandel. Out of the five acres of old vines, there are only two Mourvèdre vines, two Blauer Portugeiser vines, and one unidentified white.

’09 Turley Mead Ranch Zinfandel – From another cool climate, high elevation site on Atlas Peak, the dark-colored 2009 Zinfandel Mead Ranch exhibits abundant aromas of blueberries, blackberries, crushed rocks and flowers. With considerable intensity, a multidimensional mouthfeel as well as a dense, long finish, this is one of Larry Turley’s top 2009 Zinfandels. 92 points from the Wine Advocate.

Vineyard details: Mead Ranch is located in the Atlas Peak Appellation of the Napa Valley. The vineyards at Mead Ranch have been in continuous production since 1916, when the three Mead Brothers, Giles, Charles and Albert, bought the ranch. Souverain produced a “Mountain Zinfandel” from Mead ranch as early as the 60s, Rutherford Hill Produced “Mead Ranch–Atlas Peak” zinfandel and zinfandel port in the 70’s.

Which 2009 ancient vine Zinfandel should I open?

  • Bedrock Stellwagen Zinfandel (39%, 13 Votes)
  • Turley Mead Ranch Zinfandel (36%, 12 Votes)
  • Carlisle Martinelli Road Vineyard Zinfandel (24%, 8 Votes)

Total Voters: 33

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Thanks for voting! I’d love to see a comment below on why you picked one bottle over another. Also, let me know if you have any suggestions for the May installment of Pick My Next Bottle.

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12 thoughts on “Pick My Next Bottle – Ancient Vine Zinfandel

  1. I chose Bedrock because of the likelyhood of obtaining and trying it myself in the near future now that I’m on their list. It would be quite sometime before I’ll be fortunate to be on Carlisle’s and I have enjoyed Turley’s Zinfandels several times.

  2. Bedrock is my choice. I don’t know too much about these candidates, but from what I’ve read Bedrock is usually the earliest drinking of the three wines. Carlisle is probably the second earliest drinking and Turley needs the most time.

    1. One of the great things about zin is that it definitely shows well at a young age. I do agree though that the Turley might benefit most from time in the cellar.

  3. I normally like my Zins the same as Syrah, cool weather fruit, so almost voted for the mountain fruit from Turley (+ I am a big Turley fan), but the Carlisle got my vote because of the use of oak adds a nuance to Zin that I enjoy. Plus the long Sappy Floral finish is a bonus for me. Either way you win! Enjoy, Texas Wineaux

    1. Thanks Terry. I think some wineries like Dashe and Bedrock are even beggining work on cool climate zins. I need to look into that a little further.

  4. Selfish reasons…I have a lot of Turley in my cellar so I am curious. Always look forward to your thoughtful and well written reviews!

  5. I was a bit torn between Bedrock and Carlisle but went with the Carlisle. I’m an Arista buyer/list member — mostly Pinot presently — and am really looking forward to their first Zin release from the Martinelli Road vineyard. There is actually some Chardonnay and Pinot Noir at that location as well. All of Arista’s vineyards including that one are now managed by Ulises Valdez.

  6. I chose Bedrock because I have several of Morgan’s zins (Monte Rosso, Papera Ranch, Saitone Ranch, and Rowe Vineyard), but I don’t have this one. Thanks!

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