Blind Tasting 2012 Zinfandel

Checking out the vintage with wines from Carlisle and Bedrock


As you may know, Zinfandel is my favorite American grape variety. The wines produced tend to span a wide range of fascinating styles and can reveal fabulous terroir. I belong to a grand total of three winery lists, two of which are primarily for Zinfandel. From two of the the greatest producers of not only Zinfandel, but the great field blends that are such an integral part of the history of viticulture in California. They are of course Carlisle and Bedrock.

I met recently with one of my regular tasting groups to sample some of the current releases from both, sort of hoping to compare apples to apples ad oranges to oranges by blind tasting pairs of comparable wines from each. Eight wines were chosen and the results were, shall we say both challenging and surprising?
As a group this was a uniformly high quality and distinctive set of wines. A really elegant portfolio of Zinfandel if there ever was one, due both to the respective house styles as well as the vintage itself which was close to perfect with high quality and high yields. Those high yields helped keep the fruit ripe but very well balanced and harmonious. It's looking to be a fabulous vintage and these Zins are just the first examples that I've had to really examine it in detail. 
We tasted the wines blind, and then we each ranked them and scored them by rankings. One fascinating quirk of this system, at least on this go round, was that the group's first place wine did not receive any first place votes and conversely the last place wine was not awarded any last place votes. I think this helps to illustrate how tightly grouped these wines were in a qualitative sense, and in the end how difficult it is to draw clear conclusions from our results. 
It was also somewhat challenging to tell the Bedrock wines from the Carlisle wines, which frankly was a little embarrassing for me, but the quality of neither was ever in doubt so there is that consolation. We may occasionally look like fools, but we do drink well along the way! 
For me at least, and I believe for the group as well, the immediacy of the broader appellation wines was obvious, and responsible for the great showing, in my opinion, for the 2012 Carlisle Zinfandel Sonoma County. A terrific introduction to the Carlisle style and just flat our delicious today. It was my 1st place wine.
This might surprise many, seeing as this is what one might be tempted to call an introductory level wine, but that is exactly why it showed so well. It's ready. Ready to introduce one to the house style and the vintage.. The single vineyard wines on the other hand were less ready. Probably with more complexity and depth, but requiring a year or three to really show at their best. 
With that in mind I present the list in order of my preference  followed by my tasting notes in the order of tasting. By another quirk of fortune on this quirky night, the wines, placed randomly in lettered bags, managed to order themselves into a logical tasting progression. Truly bizarre! 
2012 Carlisle Zinfandel Sonoma County
2012 Bedrock Zinfandel Kirschenmann Vineyard
2012 Bedrock Bedrock Heritage
2012 Carlisle Zinfandel Sodini Vineyard
2012 Carlisle Zinfandel Montafi Vineyard
2012 Bedrock Zinfandel Sodini Vineyard
2012 Bedrock Zinfandel Sonoma Valley
2012 Carlisle Zinfandel Kirschenmann Vineyard

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  • Greg,

    I am also a big fan of Zinfandels and your comments are spot on. What are we talking price wise and are these wines available in the NYC area? Cheers! Mitch

    Jul 23, 2014 at 3:23 PM

  • Snooth User: Jerel1957
    1277811 384

    Hi Greg,
    Have you tasted any Turley or Ridge 2012 Zins?
    Cheers, Jerry

    Jul 23, 2014 at 5:51 PM

  • Snooth User: MrWino101
    1501408 88

    Ya have ta love the Zins! My fave. Recently I opened a bottle of the Ridge 2012 Geyserville Zin. One of the best so far from '12. Another would be Martinelli's 2012 Jackass Vineyard. Nothing short of fantastic from its big brother up "The Hill". Another producer that I've also found outstanding is the juice from Antoine Favero at Mazzocco. Never had a bad bottle in over five years or so. Dry Creek is a ZinHeads paradise. From Mazzocco to Wilson's, to The Ridge and all the way to Martinelli's on the edge of Russian River! Making my second trip this month in a few days!

    Jul 23, 2014 at 6:39 PM

  • Snooth User: vjg6014
    1480272 48

    When it comes to Zinfandels,I greatly enjoy blended ones like Ridge Geyserville.Most Zins don't age very well.However,one time I discovered(in my wine cellar)a Ridge Geyserville that was 8years old.Thinking it might be over the hill and not expecting it too be any good,I was truly surprised how elegant and delicious it was.Has anyone else experienced this as well?I was pleasantly surprised,I generally have a 3-5 year rule w/Zins.This was a first...

    Jul 23, 2014 at 6:52 PM

  • Snooth User: EMark
    Hand of Snooth
    847804 10,334

    Wow. What an outstanding and fun evening for you. It must have been so interesting to be able to taste two wines from a single vineyard produced by two different makers. Excellent.

    I have recently been enticed to try some examples from Endiku. I mention it here because Enkidu seems to have a similar philosophy to Carlisle and Bedrock. They all seem to get the grapes and the vineyards to fully shine. Yesterday, I was able to find 2012 Enkidu E Old Vine Field Blend. Outstanding example and quite a good deal for $18.

    Jerel, I haven't had one yet, but I have been hearing very exciting reports about the Ridge Geyserville and Lytton Springs bottlings.

    Jul 23, 2014 at 6:55 PM

  • Snooth User: jaybird75
    100123 104

    vjg6014, if 3-5 yrs is your rule for Zins, I'm afraid you've missed an awful lot of fun. Zum beispiel, I have a half-bottle leftover 2001 Rancho Zabaco Sonoma Heritage Vines Zin that has for the past couple of years yielded great fruit, broken tannins, that bramble-berry nature I love so much, now smoother and more complex than when new. OK, so I Iove a mature wine more than the kick-you-in-the-teeth youngster. Everyone has their favorite style. I really don't like Zins that overwhelm you, that are so big I wonder if they'll ever be drinkable with any meal. Yes, I do like them without a meal too. But I don't drink any wine just to delight in its harshness, overwhelming tannins and extraction, not to mention hot-ass alcohol levels. It's not for testing my masculinity, it's for drinking & enjoying without a struggle. I've been pleasing my palette for some years now, taking some wines (in all price ranges) and deciding all they need to be outstanding is a little (or a lot of) time, from "little" Zins to 2000 Bordeauxs (still waiting). Play with it yourself, depending on your preference, but I can guarantee you, some Zins, if not most (especially the pricier ones), can stand, no, really need time to be at their best.

    Jul 27, 2014 at 2:57 AM

  • Snooth User: MrWino101
    1501408 88

    Right on jaybird75! That's part of the enjoyment and fun you can have with wine. While I am a "if you liked it when you bought it...drink it" kind of guy, I do enjoy laying down a bottle or two just to see if I missed something, or blew it by not popping the cork earlier. Either way you gain one of the most important things about understanding wines...KNOWLEDGE!!!

    Jul 27, 2014 at 11:51 AM

  • Snooth User: vjg6014
    1480272 48

    Jaybird75,First of all,I enjoy blended Zins(Ridge Geyserville's).My comments had to do w/that particular style.I also said"as a general rule"3-5 years pertaining to the past.Since discovering to my delight an 8 yr.old Ridge Geyserville and enjoying it immensely opened my eyes to the possibilities.I really don't like 100%Zins,its too over the top for me.I enjoy blended Zins.As for your other preference(Bordeaux),they are half as good and cost twice as much as Barolo,Barbaresco,Brunello Di Montalcino,Burgundies,ChateauNeuf du Pape to name a few.I began my fine wine experience nearly 40 years ago w/Bordeaux.I had at one time many,many bottles of Chateau Lafites,Mouton Lafites,Margaux,Latour,Cheval Blanc,and many second growths as well.Years dating from 1970-1990.At the time it opened me up to fine wines.But as I developed and grew in my knowledge and experiences,I found that these wines were not worth the cost.In my wine club,we(other notable wine lovers,including an independent wine journalist),we would blind test these wines w/other lessor wines(third growths,etc...)We concluded these are over priced and not as good as those mentioned above.This past Friday I turned 60,I drank a 2000 Barbaresco made by Bruno Giacosa.Absolutely elegant and delicious.Last night I drank 2000 Aldo Conterno's Gran Bussia(Barolo),spectacular.Each bottle cost me at the time approx.,250 dollars each.Either one is head and shoulders better than any Bordeaux.I'm passing on my experiences,not anything else.The Bordeaux I had,I sold to different people over the years and used that $ to buy what I've grown to love and enjoy.Check it out,don't waste your $ on Bordeaux,its not worth it.

    Jul 27, 2014 at 1:58 PM

  • Snooth User: jaybird75
    100123 104

    vjg6014 and Mr Wino, 'preciate the comments & perspectives. I, too, have been at this a long time, since I was first introduced as a wine store asst-then-manager in 1978. Talk about fun, I had to take home from our shelves, just for education mind you, a '70 Clos Vougeot, a '71 Chass. Montrachet Morgeot, a '74 Ch Figeac, a '71 Bersani Barbaresco, '71-5+6 Mosels and Rhein rieslings, etc. I've been to the Heublein tastings back in the day, so I've sipped and drunk my share of a variety of fine/rare wines too. But I don't lay down $250 bottles, that's out of my league. Sure, I still like Bord, tho white & red Burgs are my faves, and Mosels too. I think I got the 2000s just to see if I could live long enough to drink them! I have to hunt for bargains, and it pays off. In the past year I shared a '95 Barolo Zonchera from Ceretto at a dinner party & it was the star of the evening. Isn't Nebbiolo a fantastic grape? But so is Zin, and I don't care to drink Zin blended with anything but other Zin, with few exceptions. Maybe a little Petite or Syrah, but leave the Bord. varietals out of my "blend". Lach heim!

    Jul 27, 2014 at 3:59 PM

  • Snooth User: vjg6014
    1480272 48

    Jaybird75,Its good you have explored the possibilities and pleasures of the many different varietals out there.I don't drink Barolo/Barbaresco's every day.This was a special occasion,as I stated earlier.I drink mostly wines in the 15-30 dollar range,daily.I still say Bordeaux is over rated,half as good,and over priced.Buyer beware...

    Jul 27, 2014 at 4:20 PM

  • Snooth User: EMark
    Hand of Snooth
    847804 10,334

    Jaybird/vjg, you have provded some very interesting comments. I would like to ask you to come over to the Snooth Forum and add your expertise and opinions there. First of all, it would be nice to have some participants that are almost as old as me, but secondly, that board is dominated by discussions on California wines (and I might be the worst California bigot). It would be nice to see passionate commentary on European wines.

    Jul 28, 2014 at 2:42 PM

  • Snooth User: vjg6014
    1480272 48

    Emark,Thank you for your comments and invitation.I would love to participate in any discussion/sharing of opinions concerning wine.However ,I live in Colorado and am still working for a living.Whenever I am in(or heading to NYC) the vicinity I will contact you...Thank you again...

    Jul 28, 2014 at 9:35 PM

  • Snooth User: EMark
    Hand of Snooth
    847804 10,334

    I live in California, vjg. In my comment, above, I meant that I was very much biased towards California wines. That is the very easy path, here. On the other hand, I do want to learn about everything.

    Jul 29, 2014 at 2:49 PM

  • Snooth User: vjg6014
    1480272 48

    emark,I lived in Calif.(prior to coming to Colo.) for 12 and a half years.I was there when the Calif.,wine boom began in 1976.I was really into Calif.,wines back then.But over the course of time and experimenting,reading,asking questions,and most of all tasting a variety of different wines(taking notes) and having like minded people around to get different opinions and perspectives,I have learned a lot.I'm still learning...My tastes have changed and evolved over the years.Never be afraid of trying different varietals.You will surprise yourself as time goes by.Its all about discovering what you love and why...Become your own expert,only you know what you like...Have fun...

    Jul 29, 2014 at 7:01 PM

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