Winery of the Year

A 2012 winner representing every wine geek's dream

Letting a little out of the bag, I have to at least discuss Zinfandel a bit before moving on. Zinfandel, along with Petit Sirah, is America’s vinous jewel, particularly the old vine vineyards that dot the Northern California landscape. We’re losing these treasures to housing tracts and Cabernet. Losing them to bottom line wines. That is more than a shame, it is a disaster.

Cabernet can make some pretty attractive wines in many places, California included, but the wines we have from the old vine vineyards in California cannot be replicated. That alone is not reason enough to defend them and mourn their passing, but the wines can be awesome, too! Amazing! Fantastic, even!

Seriously, I love Zinfandel and there is nothing better than old vines, field blends and the hands of a skilled winemaker for creating characterful, unique and distinctive wines. Make those wines $40 a bottle and you’ve done a service not only to your consumers, but to the growers maintaining the vineyards and to the next generation of wine drinkers that will be able to share in the bounty.

As an aside, if I were to give an award for Person of the Year, it would go to Mike Officer, who was part of the motivating force behind the formation of the Historic Vineyard Society (HVS). Not to drift too far off topic, but the HVS is committed to cataloguing all the great, historic vineyards of California. With Mike Dildine now in the lead, the project team is a gathering of giants: David Gates from Ridge Vineyards, Mike Officer from Carlisle Vineyards, Tegan Passalacqua from Turley Wine Cellars, Morgan Twain-Peterson from Bedrock Vineyards, and Jancis Robinson.

A lot of vineyards are featured on the HVS site, with listings of fascinating information including original planting date, location, distinctive features of the vineyards, composition of the vines planted, and in many cases, photographs. This is admittedly a tool for the Zin geek, but it is also a growing historical document, and I am thrilled to recommend it to other wine lovers. If you love Zin and other less appreciated varieties from California, you should pour yourself a glass and check out the site sometime. Remember to leave yourself some time because it does draw you in!

So, we have a winery that produces a varied set of wines from some of the most historic vineyards in California and they’re offering the wines for sale at great prices. Convincing enough of an argument for Winery of the Year yet? No, of course not, the wines have to be great, too. In the case of Carlisle, they most certainly are.

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  • Snooth User: Richard Foxall
    Hand of Snooth
    262583 2,863

    Well, I am surprised that a primarily Zin maker gets the nod two years running, but you have been a champion of Zin, something that more folks on the East Coast could stand to drink. You may recall that I asked Mike Talty, of last year's winery of the year, what he drank when he didn't drink his own and he said, "Carlisle." Mike Officer's approach is also the approach that Clay Mauritson and Mike Talty take, and all three of them contend, for the same very good reasons, that Zin is among the hardest wines to make at that excellent, balanced level. Big jammy stuff, spoofy stuff, that's easy. But balanced, long lasting Zin that reflects Zin and the places it grows is something indeed. In addition to those guys, Paul Draper at Ridge deserves a nod for taking Zin seriously and Turley, like them or not, has put it in collector's cellars.
    Now I have to get my hands on some Carlisle and figure out where I'm going to put it. One other person deserves some attention for saving old vines, and that's Matt Cline, who is putting out wines from Live Oak and Evangelho, two very old vineyards that do not get attention because they are in Contra Costa County, but both are on sandy soil and pre-phylloxera--own-rootstock Zins and Mourvedre field blends, if you can imagine.

    Nov 06, 2012 at 4:31 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 198,316

    I think Zinfandel often gets overlooked int he world of wine, yet when well made, which is a real challenge, the wines are some of my favorite in California, and therefore to my palate the best of California.

    Factor in the history of the wines and the old vineyards, and the values to be had here and it's a no brainer. People need to be paying attention tot hese wines, though not too much since i want to still be able to buy them!

    If your interested we can pop some Bedrock and Carlisle in November?

    Nov 06, 2012 at 6:03 PM

  • Snooth User: Richard Foxall
    Hand of Snooth
    262583 2,863

    Travel 3000 miles to have wine that was grown in my backyard by a guy who travels in the same circles as other winemakers I have on speed dial?
    You are so on!

    Nov 06, 2012 at 6:29 PM

  • Snooth User: EMark
    Hand of Snooth
    847804 5,284

    I CANNOT BELIEVE MY EYES. The WInery of the Year produces wine that the unwashed masses can actually buy in their local retail store--and without taking a second on their houses. What is this world coming to?


    Excellent selection. And a very interesting article. Thank you very much.

    Nov 06, 2012 at 8:13 PM

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