I have been a fan of the wines from Old Hill Ranch dating back to the glory days of the Ravenswood Single Vineyard Zin series in the early to mid 1990’s. Somehow though in all my visits to Sonoma over the last 25 years a visit to Old Hill Ranch has always eluded me. This past Saturday I was finally able to visit what has long been one of my favorites sites for old vine Zinfandel. As it turns out I was the first visitor Will Bucklin has had on the property in over two years.
I met Will at 10am Saturday morning outside the barn on Old Hill Ranch. It should be noted that getting to Old Hill Ranch requires some very explicit directions from Will. Just pointing your GPS towards the address on the website isn’t going to work. I learned this the hard way.
After arriving Will and I walked out to the vineyard where Will gave me an oral history of Old Hill Ranch. The vineyard is one of the oldest in Sonoma and dates back to the 1880’s. The vineyard was purchased by Otto and Anne Teller in 1981 and today, Anne’s children, the four Bucklin siblings, produce field-blended wines from the vines on the family ranch. Will is a farmer at heart and his passion for the vineyard is palpable. He is a firm believer in dry farming and makes every effort to preserve the vineyard as it was planted over 140 years ago.
Bucklin was founded in 2000. Bucklin produces Zinfandel, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon and a White Field Blend. The rest of the grapes go to Carlisle, Once & Future and Bedrock Wine Co. Carlisle was the last winery into the fold in 2020 when Will was able to end the relationship with Constellation after they purchased the Ravenswood brand.
Will and I tasted the 2020 Mixed Whites, 2017-2019 Ancient Blend, 2019 Bambino and 2019 Ancient Blend Grenache and 2019 Otto’s Grenache. While we were tasting Will’s wife Lizanne stepped out to the barn. She clearly knows her stuff. For me the highlights were the 18 and 19 Ancient Blend and the 19 Otto’s Grenache. Will was clearly partial to the the 19 Ancient Blend saying it was the “most classic” of the wines we tried with more of that trademark herbal profile he associates with Old Hill. He also referred to 19 as the “vintage of this century” at Old Hill Ranch.
The mailing list at Bucklin still has spots and although I hesitate to suggest more mailing lists most the readers of this blog should really check it out. Will is also going to take visitors moving forward although it will likely be a precious few. Great wines, great people and an iconic vineyard. You really can’t ask for more.