An American Icon
The Old Hill Ranch - Sonoma’s Greatest Vineyard?
There is no other wine in the US that can offer the average consumer the kind of terroir education that Zinfandel can, especially at it’s relatively modest price point. That is part of what makes Zinfandel special to me. An important wine for me. And then of course there is the fact that I really enjoy the wines as well. I find many to be simply delicious, and when served with the right foods they can work magically at the table.
All this serves simply as a lead in though. Sit down at the wood table that passes for a tasting room in Will Bucklin’s barn and taste the Old Hill Ranch Ancient vines. Taste it in the middle of several days tasting Zinfandel. It says Zinfandel on the label. It is not Zin. Tasting this wine I can’t help but think of two things. First of all this is not Zinfandel. It may be labeled as Zinfandel but I’ve tasted enough Zinfandel to recognize it when I taste it and this simply isn’t Zinfandel.
My second through is bound to be more controversial than my first, though not by much. When tasting the wine, in particular the very young 2011 Old Hill, what comes to mind is Syrah. Northern Rhone Syrah in fact, and from a very good traditional producer at that. Now this wine tastes very little like the wine I am thinking of , and yet as I search my wine memory that is where I end up. I realize later that what I was searching for was another wine with the size of this wine that had such energy and life and inner mouth perfume. A wine rich like this yet with such an array of savory flavors layered over the base of fruit. This is where Old Hill Ranch diverges from so many other Zinfandels.
What you taste when taste Old Hill Ranch Ancients is in part Zinfandel, a large part of course, and a smidgen of Grenache, and Tempranillo, and Grand Noir, and who knows what else, though if you take a look at the vine by vine map of the vineyard you can get a pretty good idea of what goes into each vintage. That helps explain what makes the wine but when you taste the wine you are tasting something special. You are tasting Old Hill Ranch. You are tasting a place and a time. It is one of the great expressions of terroir in this country and in all the world. It is an American Icon.
Strong words perhaps, but I am convinced.