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The Old Hill Ranch - Sonoma’s Greatest Vineyard?

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An ancient vine, in there somewhere.
Younger vines for the Bambino
Cabernet vines in rocky soil

Grenache 51%, Syrah 8%, Zin 26%, Carignane 5%, Mourvedre 10%
Incredible floral notes, garrigue, Provençal herbs, orange rind and strawberry all come together on the nose.  There’s a little fruity roundness and a touch of sweetness on entry followed by good acidity, round and fleshy with spicy Grenache red fruit on the palate then some plums and darker berries on the long finish along with a little candied note, but savory candy. A lovely fruity but not frooty wine that is a touch chewy for a rose. 89pts
70% new oak, all French 
Smoky, earthy, and inky on the nose with an attractive black olive and szechuan peppercorn spice accent on the nose. This smells like dirt. In the mouth there is no fat heres. It’s all lean, focused and rich, with a round supple mouthfeel up front, clean, fresh and edgy on the midpalate with lovely blackberry fruit, turning long, mineral and a little chocolatey on the backend and through the nutty finish. This is a bit tart and lean but attractively so and should benefit from 2 or 3 years in the bottle. 90pts
80% new oak, all French
Shows more wood on the nose than the 2011 and this remains tight and relatively unevolved. With lots of wood tannins in the mouth this is rich and firm with a fine core of blueberry and black cherry fruit that leads to a long wood spice supported finish. This is fairly sweet oak, but it’s not shy and leads to a tough chewy finish. There’s a lovely violet floral aromatic note in the mouth a well adding freshness and lift. In abstract a better wne that the 2011 but I’m not sure I prefer it. 91pts
From the website: “130 year old Grenache vines are selectively harvested from the ancient field-blend and then co-fermented with a small amount of Alicante Bouchet, Carignane, and Mourvedre, among several other “mixed black” varieties. The blend is 80% Grenache.“
Huge nose, briary, fennel, pollen, steel, jammy and spicy blackberry and wild strawberry all over nutty base notes. Perhaps a little thick in the mouth but actually fairly energetic considering how rich and deep the fruit, is. Filled with muscular, root beer tinged black cherry fruit supported by supple tannins and integrated acids, this is long and powerful with liquory fruit that gains nuanced dried herb and slight medicinal accents on the long finish. This needs grilled wild boar. 93pts
Very pretty nose is a bit low key but floral and meaty, lighter than the 2010. This is mineral, fresh and clear on the palate with an early little root beer, note followed by a little wild cherry, some clay earth tones, a bit of pencil lead. Fairly tannic both fruit tannins and wood tannin with a lively long sneaky red raspberry finish, there’s a nice core of sweet fruit here, though this is far more restrained than the 2010. 90pts
Lovely natural yeast aromas accent the aromatic and savory briary fruit on the nose and this sort of reminds me of Dashes Les Enfant Terrible. Light, fresh and juicy in the mouth there are angular little tannins and fine acidity supporting briary olive wood and black spice framed black cherry and blackberry fruit that is zesty with excellent black cherry skin character on the backend. This has a natural fruit feel, brambly and dark with a little bit of extract on the moderately long finish. 90pts
Still decidedly fruity on the nose in  briary, way and perhaps  a little woody but still fresh with creamy black cherry fruit, forest floor, licorice, and mineral aromas. Also still a bit tannic in the mouth and nicely bright, with clear black cherry fruit, rich and a little rustic showing some old wood notes and with some alcohol showing but the spiced cherry flavors on the backend and through the finish remain attractive. Shows some weight on the moderately long finish. 91pts
This has another gear, with a nose filled with briar wood, grilled beef, violet pastille, earth, wild flowers, and some white pepper spice all layered over rich earthy berry fruit. Seamless, powerful, deep and chewy on the palate, this gives a fine old viney palate impression filled with mineral infused blackberry flavors, notes of aromatic pipe tobacco, leather, wood spice, blackberry and a touch of RC cola as well. Just packed with masses of fruit and layers of complexity,with an attractive edge of rusticity.  There’s a little heat here and it’s easy to knock the wine for it, but there’s simply too much else going on for that to matter much. 94pts
This smells great filled with precise aromas of black pepper, blue floral notes, high toned spicy accents and rich huckleberry blackberry and wood spice notes. Smooth and polished on entry, then turning dense and chewy and a bit folded in on itself. This is one deep, weird wine, not Zinfandel in many ways but hitting more of my Languedoc buttons, are more like Syrah, all earthy, deep, a little beefy and spicy and rich but not fruity rich. The long finish is more true to type, more briary fruit and finely ripe blackberry fruit driven with a bit of tangy boysenberry on the lightly medicinal and aromatic finish that shows hints of violets and cinnamon. This is so complete and so complex, tannic and chewy but fruit is so bold that one hardly notices. Definitely has great potential to improve but already is just a stunning field blend. 95pts
Very black fruited on the nose with dark spice notes, jammy and yet cool with dried floral base notes and a little oak spice. Smooth, rich and chewy in the mouth, this is fairly easy drinking with  lots of blue and black fruit, a little bitter cherry edge and hints of root beer on the palate. This is a bit shorter in the mouth than the previous wines though it does have a nice tight knit knit structure to it and an innate sweetness tot he fruit that emerges on the finish. 88pts
Only vintage made
Rather rich in the nose and filled with aromas of blackberry pie, India ink, african violets, and white pepper. This is very fleshy on entry, rich, smooth, and powerful though with super balance. It’s filled with blue fruit and bitter cherry notes with a dense and chewy mouthfeel that reminds me of brownies, heck there’s even some brownie flavors here! Palate staining and extracted this will beat your ass with it’s long, deep briary fruit and massive finish. Age it forever. 93pts

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Mentioned in this article


  • My absolute favorite wine in all the world is Rombauer Zin! It's rich, jammy and has a depth I've not expeienced with any other wine, be it a zin or otherwise. Are there other zin's that have similar characteristics? I've tried Klinker and 7 Deadly Zins, among others, but have always been disapointed. Your advice is appreciated.

    Nov 13, 2013 at 4:37 PM

  • Snooth User: DM94523
    77883 104

    There are some fantastic Zins (or Zin-based wines) from DeLoach (Forgotten Vines), A Rafanelli, Buena Vista (Attila's Selection, Legendary Badge blend), and others. My top recommendation is probably Robert Biale in Napa.

    Nov 13, 2013 at 5:16 PM

  • Snooth User: Maddog12
    109388 1

    I echo Blueharmony about Rombauer. It is superb. If you haven't visited their tasting room you owe it to yourself to go. They start each tasting with their reds, and rinse the glass out in between each wine with their outstanding Chardonnay. No they don't use water to rinse. Another excellent zin in the same port style is Sextant 2011 Zin. It is available at Whole Foods.

    Nov 13, 2013 at 5:52 PM

  • Snooth User: gjsliney
    80804 266

    Zinfandel is by far my favorite varietal. I particularly like the field blends as the other grapes add their nuances. So many Zins and so little time. That is why I ama memebr of Zap!

    Nov 13, 2013 at 6:03 PM

  • Snooth User: rmrd0000
    365090 7

    It is possible to set up a simple print function on these articles it would make reading on mobile devices easier

    Nov 13, 2013 at 7:23 PM

  • Snooth User: Jakelast
    1405550 21

    If you like Rombauer zin give Selby Bobcat zin (Sonoma)a try. I have had several vintages and it seems to be on a par and perhaps even better than the Rombauer and of course any of the zins from Ridge. The Ridge wines can be bigger and stronger but still have a lot of the richness you find in the Rombauer

    Nov 13, 2013 at 8:28 PM

  • Snooth User: outthere
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    324443 3,738

    Glad to see you took some time to visit with farmer Will. He's an asset to California viticultural history. Great guy, great wines, great story!

    Nov 13, 2013 at 8:33 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 202,134

    I love seeing such a vibrant discussion regarding Zinfandel. Such a great variety and one that often does not get the respect it deserves. Thanks OT, I've been a fan of the wines for a long time and actually got them brought into the NY market for the first time quite a few years ago. It was a long awaited visit and one that will sick with me!

    Nov 14, 2013 at 3:02 AM

  • Snooth User: outthere
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    324443 3,738

    GDP, I had the pleasure of a tour in 2012. Will is a unique guy and his farming practices are to be admired. One of the more educational wine days of my life.

    Nov 14, 2013 at 10:21 AM

  • Snooth User: EMark
    Hand of Snooth
    847804 5,458

    That vineyard map is awesome. Maps fascinate me. I did a quick internet search and found some other examples(Bien Nacido and Chamisal in the Central Coast). Those, however, had the different varieties planted by blocks. This one is so cool having the the individual plants depicted showing the dispersion throughout the vineyard.

    Nov 14, 2013 at 2:25 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 202,134

    It's an amazing map! So much fun for the casual wine geek, walking the vineyard with Will, who can identify many of the varieties in the vineyard is even better!

    Nov 15, 2013 at 4:39 PM

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